Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Short Takes on Mass Graves in Ukraine and Prison Rape in America

Why does this not surprise me? Mendel Teichman, Chief Rabbi of the City of Uzhgorod near the border with Slovakia has discovered a part of the local cemetery with no headstones.It has been found to be a mass grave for Jews of the city who were massacred during the war. Its use as a mass burial ground was verified from official documents. The Jewish Telegraphic agency reports as follows.

Rabbi Mendel Teichman, the chief rabbi for the city of Uzhhorod, on the country’s border with Slovakia, and the region, in recent weeks had come across an open area with no fence and no headstones in the local Jewish cemetery.

The rabbi then found decades-old historical documents stating that the grave site was the resting place for more than 200 Jews killed by the Nazis in World War II.

I get the the uncomfortable feeling that people in Uzhgorod knew what happened and where the bodies were buried. The Nazis did not swoop down in the dark of night and act in secret. The used local "talent" to implement the Final Solution. In some cases in Poland, local people used to dig for gold fillings, jewelry and other things from which extra cash could be made. The people who are beating up Jews today and burning synagogues have probably heard talk in town from some of the old timers.


Last week's New Yorker magazine had an article on the effects of solitary confinement upon prisoners. It is well documented and widely discussed. American prisons use it a lot. It is a powerful tool that breaks prisoners down psychologically. It can arguably be defined as torture.

I am puzzled at two issues that get too little attention. One is the de facto delegation of authority in prisons to gangs. The other is the tacit and sometimes less than tacit approval given to rape in prison. Conservatives all too often write it off in the hope of making prison as punitive as possible. Liberals want to focus on abuses by authorities. They do not consider the abuse by prisoners(who are supposed to be oppressed) to be politically useful. Common sense would prompt most people to realise that most prisoners will be getting out eventually . How many regular criminals became violent in response to abuse in prison? What about AIDS among prisoners? Prison should be an austere place. It should also be a safe place where civilised behavior and values are taught, where problems such as illiteracy and learning disabilities are addressed. The New Yorker has made legitimate points about solitary confinement. But there needs to be a grater focus on prison violence. The price for neglect of this issue will ultimately be paid on the street.

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1 comment:

Conrad said...

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