Got to hand it to the Austrians. They sure love their history. Especially World War II history. They appear rather fond of that. It explains why the Austrian government refuses to prosecute a Nazi war criminal living in their nation.
British historian Guy Walters tracked the former female concentration camp guard, Erna Wallisch, down while doing research for his book Hunting Evil. Not only is she living comfortably by the Danube in Vienna, but her surname — Wallisch — is to be found on the push-button for her residence.
“For too long, the Austrians have been unacceptably lenient with these evil men and women in their midst,” Walters explained after his encounter with Wallisch. “I suspect their reluctance to confront these criminals is because it would only highlight the extent of Austrian complicity with Nazism.”
In other words, the Austrians think it’s better to ignore the monsters in their midst than to come clean with their past.
A surviving prisoner in the Polish death camp remembers Erna Wallisch and how she meted out beatings even when she was with child. “The pregnant Nazi monster woman who went crazy and attacked us did not appear among those tried in Duesseldorf after the war,” says Jadwiga Landowska. “The pregnant one hit a young boy lying on the floor with something harder than a whip. Blood was pouring from his head and he gave no sign of life or reaction. The sweating, breathless face of that monster was something I will never forget.”
Erna Wallisch is number seven on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s list of Nazi war criminals who are still at large. The Center’s head, Dr Efraim Zuroff, was told by Austria’s Justice Ministry that it could not prosecute Wallisch under its statute of limitations with regard to war criminals. Poland, however, has no such statute of limitations, and Dr Zuroff is encouraging Poland to take action against her, as her crimes took place in Poland and against Polish citizens.
It seems certain that justice won’t be served in Austria. One of Wallisch’s neighbors couldn’t understand why anyone would raise a fuss. “It’s all in the past and should be forgotten. People should learn to forgive.
Forgive someone’s complicit participation in the 20th century’s worst case of genocide? Perhaps someone should spread this message of forgiveness to Pol Pot’s surviving victims or those who went through Stalin’s pogroms. It’s all in the past, right? So let’s just throw the concept of justice in the rubbish bin and be done with it.
Honestly, if I had my way, these Nazi war criminals would be tied up and dragged by their feet to jail cells while awaiting their prosecution. And if this treatment proved too much for their fragile, elderly bodies and they died en route to their sentencing, so be it.
Here’s hoping Poland will do what Austria will not and set the wheels of justice in motion for all the people Wallisch ever beat to death.