Tuesday, 19 June 2012

RIP Gitta Sereny CBE

Sereny's book on the extermination camp at Treblinka, based on many hours of interviews with ex-Commandant Franz Stangl (often misnamed as Franz Strangl, even by a R4 newsreader this morning) is amongst the select list of books that have changed my life. 

With merciless dissection and intellectual rigour, as befitted the stepdaughter of Ludwig von Mises, she searched every micron of Stangl for some extra organ of evil, for some extraordinary badness, some distinguishing flaw that separated him from humanity, gave him some extraordinary capability to organise the killing and burning of up to 20,000 people a day. What she found was just a very ordinary man, a middle-manager loyal to his firm, desirous for the praise of his bosses, a good motivator and manager to his staff, implementing the decisions of the Board with full commitment, never sadistic and actually proud of the way in which he managed mass-death with as little trauma to the 'cargo' as possible, like an exemplary abattoir manager. The dreadful pathos of Into that Darkness is that Sereny needed to, was driven to, finding and exposing an evil man, and the pain of her own realisation that Stangl was no more inherently evil than she was herself was almost as wounding as reading of Stangl's pain as he eventually realised the enormity of his actions. He died of a heart attack some sixteen hours after their final interview. 

7 comments:

right_writes said...

interesting that you mention the efficiency of Herr Stangl Raedwald…

The same sort of people are very efficiently running the EU, and making value judgements about us as we speak.

Almost universally, we admire people like Gitta Sereny and we hate the Stangl type… And yet we are being governed (ruled) by the same sort of people, as they busily deny us some of our income and instead take it for themselves.

It's a pity that we won't be able to see that for a while yet.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

What right_writes said.

Good point.

Anonymous said...

Yes to the previous two comments. But this "What she found was just a very ordinary man, a middle-manager loyal to his firm, desirous for the praise of his bosses, a good motivator and manager to his staff, implementing the decisions of the Board with full commitment," are exactly the same people beavering away in the multinational banks these last fifteen years.

Always doing what they were told to do, never arguing with the boss.

Next thing, poof! Bear Stearns, Lehmans, RBS, HBOS, Rabobank et al.

Anonymous said...

You are only mentioning the failures.
Penty of 'beavering away' resounded to the common good.

Edward Spalton said...

JAN MYRDAL, the Swedish author, said of his experiences growing up in neutral, wartime Sweden, that the really frightening thing about the Nazis was that they were nothing like their portrayal in warm films.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: "You are only mentioning the failures"

To avoid serious contraction the 'successes' needed to go cap in hand to the Oil Sheiks or middle east sovereign funds.

HSBC is only thought to be fit because there is still a *perception* that China is a growth economy in the face of Western contraction.

Of course, bread and butter for China is Western markets, when they contract, poof! China's export market goes bye bye.

Then the question is, have they managed to build their own affluent middle class.

My guess is no!

Edward Spalton said...

Anonymous,

A neighbour is married to a Chinese lady and they make regular trips back to her family in the Shanghai area.

After their last visit, he told me that prices had risen considerably but wages had not. He had also been to look at a number of property developments of the "gated community" type. They were all beautifully maintained, lawns mown, flower beds blooming - but nobody was living in them. So it looks as if a property bubble burst is on its way.

This seems a bit off topic but im thought it might be of interest.