Professor helps hunt down Nazis
By KATE SCHOTT / La Crosse Tribune
The document that haunts Frank Buscher describes the killing of an eight-member Gypsy family that included a 4-month-old.
Another is the execution of two people who climbed out of a mass grave after being shot, were caught and shot again. “This time the job was done right,” said a footnote at the end of the written report.
Both are reports Buscher, a history professor at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tenn., has looked at while working as a historian for the Canadian government. He gathers evidence against accused Nazi war criminals who fled to Canada after the end of World War II.
Buscher shared his research as part of his talk, “Explaining the Holocaust: The Historian as Teacher and War Crimes Investigator,” on Monday night at Viterbo University.
He noted about 200,000 Germans were involved in carrying out the systematic extermination of 6 million people, most of them Jewish, during World War II. Only about 6,500 have been convicted by German courts, he said; of those, only about 100 were convicted of murder.
Buscher said while many believe the Holocaust was carried out solely by Germans, historical documents show people from other countries also took part. Countries like France, Hungary and Romania “went out of their way to help,” and people from occupied areas joined security forces that killed many, Buscher said.
“There would have been a Holocaust even if these men and countries had not taken part,” Buscher said. “However, the scope and brutal destruction of life would have been more limited if the Germans had found fewer collaborators.”
When assigned a case, Buscher visits archives in various countries to look for documentation and hear witness testimony that might show the accused did commit a crime. Both can be hard to come by, especially as that generation dies out.
Another challenge is the lack of information and understanding some jurists have about the Holocaust, and combating those who insist the Holocaust deniers.
Buscher’s presentation was part of the D.B. Reinhart Institute for Ethics in Leadership 2005-06 lecture series, “Perspectives on the Holocaust.” Buscher was asked to speak after the Wisconsin Humanities Council, which is in part sponsoring the series, asked that a historian be included among the presenters.
Kate Schott can be reached at Kate.Schott@lacrossetribune.com or (608) 791-8226.
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