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Walter Manoschek, 'If that's so then I'm a Murderer': Film and Discussion
Date: 21 February 2013 Time: 16:00-18:30
Venue: Fylde, Lecture Theatre 1 (LT 1 A15)
On 29 March 1945, in Burgenland, three SS men shot 60 Hungarian Jewish forced labourers. One of the alleged killers was SS Sergeant Adolf Storms. Storms was never held to account for this act. 63 years later Walter Manoschek succeeded in interviewing Storms. In conversations with him, together with leaders of the Hitler Youth and Jewish survi-vors of the massacre, Manoscheck reconstructed this almost forgotten crime, addressing questions about the displacement of responsibility.
On 29 March 1945, in Burgenland, three SS men shot 60 Hungarian Jewish forced labourers.
One of the alleged killers was SS Sergeant Adolf Storms. Storms was never held to account for this act.
63 years later Walter Manoschek succeeded in interviewing Storms.
In conversations with him, together with leaders of the Hitler Youth and Jewish survi-vors of the massacre, Manoscheck reconstructed this almost forgotten crime, addressing questions about the displacement of responsibility.
It wasn't hard to locate Adolf Storms. His number was in the telephone book. A call to Duisburg confirmed that he was the former SS-Unterscharführer who, according to trial transcripts and witness testimony, had been involved in a nearly forgotten Nazi massacre of Jewish slave labourers committed on what is now Austrian territory.
In summer 2008, I asked Adolf Storms to allow me to conduct a filmed interview with him and, to my surprise, he agreed. Although he was 89 years old, Adolf Storms came across as alert and highly focused. His powers of recollection turned out to be excellent. In March 1945, he had become separated from his unit and pressed on alone until he reached Deutsch Schützen, a town on the Austrian-Hungarian border, where he met up with two fellow SS men and spent a "very enjoyable night" boozing it up with his comrades and the local Hitler Youth Bannführer Alfred Weber. The next day, he moved on, and linked up with his SS unit soon thereafter. He made no mention of Jews in Deutsch Schützen.
In several interviews with a total length of 15 hours, I confronted him with the 1946 trial of former Hitler Youth members in which witnesses testified that he and his two fellow SS men murdered at least 57 Jews in Deutsch Schützen. Early in the day, Hitler Youth members took charge of some Jewish slave labourers there and brought them to a church on the outskirts of town. There, they were turned over to three members of the Waffen-SS, taken out into the woods and shot. All the evidence indicates that the original plan had been to murder all of the approximately 500 Jews then in the town. That would have been the largest such execution of Jews in Austria. But the massacre was aborted, probably due to a lack of time since Red Army units had advanced to only a few kilometres from town. The approximately 450 surviving Jews—guarded by three SS men and a dozen members of the Hitler Youth—were then sent on a two-day forced march to Hartberg, where they were turned over to another detail of guards who escorted them to the Mauthausen concentration camp.
Storms did not deny having been in Deutsch Schützen at the time of the massacre. But when it came to talking about his participation in the shooting, he repeated the standard line over and over again:"I have no re- collection of that."
Afterwards, I filed a statement of facts with the Dortmund Public Prosecutor's Office, on the basis of which Storms was indicted for murder in November 2009.This was reported in the media worldwide. Shortly before the trial was to have begun in June 2010, Adolf Storms died at the age of 91.
Walter Manoschek was born in 1957. He studied political science and history at the University of Vienna, which awarded him a Ph. D. in 1991. After his habilitation, he was appointed Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Vienna. His research focuses on National Socialism, holocaust studies and the politics of remembrance. From 1995 to 1999, he was one of the designers and organizers of the exhibition "War of Annihilation. Crimes of the Wehrmacht 1941-1944" (Vernichtungskrieg. Verbrechen der Wehrmacht 1941-1944) produced by the Hamburg Institut für Sozialforschung.
Further details available at: www.waltermanoschek.wordpress.com
Who can attend: Anyone
Associated staff: Mercedes Camino (History), Agata Fijalkowski, Patrick Hagopian (History), Corinna Peniston-Bird (History), Thomas Rohkrämer (History), John Strachan (History), David Sugarman, John Welshman (History), Ruth Wodak (Linguistics and English Language)
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