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June 01, 1979 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1979-06-01

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

2 Friday, June 1, 1919


Purely Commentary

Remarkable NYTimes Editorial:
On Capital Punishment Issue

On the morning when there were to be two electrocu-
tions in Florida, on May 23, before the death penalties were
ordered stayed by two judges, the New York Times pub-
lished the following as its leading editorial, under the head-
ing "Who Gets the Chair?"
"There will be less brutality in our society if it is
made clear we value human life." So said Gover-
nor Graham of Florida as he decreed that John
Spenkelink, a drifter who murdered a fellow drif-
ter, and Willie Jasper Darden Jr., who killed a
merchant during a holdup, should be executed
this morning.
Whether one or both in fact die, the Governor's
dictum is not supportable. No one can say with
certainty that killing deters killing. Even in sym-
bolic terms, the Governor's words are a kind of
gallows humor. What else can "less brutality"
mean when used to describe the reactivation of
the electric chair after a 15-year lapse? What else
can "value human life" mean when a state with
132 people on Death Row, more than any other,
starts to clear out the inventory? And as for
"made clear," the only thing being clarified is that
society values some lives more than others.
It would be easier to defend capital punishment
if at least it were applied consistently — if the rich
or the notable went to the chair. But that rarely
happens, as in newly evident from the violence on
the streets of San Francisco. A jury has found Dan
White guilty only of manslaughter for gunning
down a jmayor and a city supervisor. Drifters,
even those who get religion, get fried; former
county officials, "filled with remorse," get seven
years, eight months.
Why is there not more remorse about this "sys-
tem" cif capital punishment? One reason'is that all
its faces are hooded. There is a division of labor
and no person or agency — be it prosecutor, jury,
judge, governor, state, nation or hangman — need
accept responsibility. And from all this diversity
of laws, juries and defendants emeges a pattern of
who among guilty murderers is condemned: they
are all poor.
We abhor capital punishment because we be-
lieve it is wrong for the state so to take life; be-
cause it is applied capriciously even among the
clearly guilty; because even juries make mistakes;
and because we think that, far from deterring, it
creates a tolerance for killing. But no argument
against capital punishment is more damning than
to find out who is condemned.
The way to value human life, Governor
Graham, is to do
This is too powerful a message to be addressed only to
the readers of the NYTimes.
Was it a lack of judicial courage that failed to prevent
the execution of one of the convicted in Florida last Friday?
Perhaps murder by the state — this is how an execution
must be judged — will revive concern sufficiently to pre-
vent continued exacting of the death penalty for crime
anywhere in this land that is steeped in human ideals.
Murder in any form must be declared impermissible.
Sentiment in support of the death penalty is growing.
It is understandable. Crimes are horrendous. The inhuman
acts are multiplying so rapidly that it is easy to understand
why many people believe that the extremest punishment
for crimes will deter others from re-enacting them.
But even if the criminals were really to experience fear
and if some were to be deterred from committing crimes, it
is yet to be proven that capital punishment is the answer to
the inhumanities that have become universal. On the con-
trary, the social scientists lean toward contrary conclusions
from their studies on the subject
There remains the human factor, the question whether
the state is suddenly to become the criminal. Jewish law,
the Hebraic tradition, militates against the death penalty.
It remains at the center of the arguments relating to crime:
The NYTimes excellently defined it editorially. The quoted
editorial merits a Pulitzer Prize. It has the Human Prize.


West Germany at 30:
The Guilt and the Atonement

Observing the 30th anniversary of the West German
Republic, historians delving into the past observe that the
West German state is now so solidly established that it has
outlived the Weimar Republic, Hitler's rule and the
prophets of doom Who may have doubted the solidity that
had been planned for the Germans in the post-Hitler era.
A year younger than the state of Israel, West Germany
commenced with a sense of guilt. Under the leadership of
Konrad Adenauer, there were negotiations for reparations,
Adenauer leaning for decisions upon Dr. Nahum
Goldmann. The compensations included the personal repa-
rations to tens of thousands and the assistance that was

Capital Punishment and the Impermissible Crime of Resorting
to the Death Penalty . . . West Germany's 30th Anniversary
and Memory of Genocide . . . Horrors Emanating from Argentina

provided for Israel's industrial needs.
The Adenauer role in the German atonement for guilt
has gained a significant place in Jewish and world history.
He was his nation's leader in the years when the undeni-
able guilt hung heavy on every German. Chancellor
Adenauer utilized every occasion to express his feelings to
the Jews of Germany and the Jews of the world. He sought
in every possible way to correct the errors of his people
under Nazism, to repair the damage wherever he could.
The accompanying photograph shows him speaking at a
synagogue that was being consecrated in Germany in the
early 1950s, replacing one that was destroyed in Cologne.







• valvAlLva

Adenauer, like most of his associates, was anti-Nazi.
He was in hiding from the Hitler persecutors whose fate
was sealed in their recdrds from 1933 until the end of
Nazism. He credited Jews with having saved his life. He
had faith that the Hitler poison could not germinate again.
It became evident in recent years that he was over-
confident. The neo-Nazis, no matter how few in number,
are in evidence and are a problem to the German govern-
The election of Karl Carstens as president of West
Germany marked a setback in the remorse over the Nazi
crimes. Carstens will be able to justify his having been
de-Nazified only with most serious efforts to stem whatever
tides of neo-Nazism may continue to emerge in the country
of_which he will be the nominal head.
The aim of German officials to keep the Nazi spirit at a
low ebb is apparent. While the Nazi virus cannot be totally
eliminated, every effort is made to prevent its spread, as
evidenced in the ban on eight books and recordings for
glorifying the Nazi regime. It included Nazi propaganda
photographs found in candy boxes. According to the New
York Times:
The books prohibited for sale to minors in-
cluded "The Fraud of the Century," which implies
that reports of the Nazi genocide were fabricated,
and "Dictatorship, War, Destroyed Homeland
tographs produced by
1933-1945," which has pho
the Nazi Propaganda Ministry. Among the re-
cords banned were speeches by Hitler and by
Joseph Goebbels, the Propaganda Minister.
The West German restriction on sale to minors
does not prevent the sale to adults, but it prohibits
manufacturers and others from advertising or
displaying the material, thus achieving the same
On the 30th anniversary of West Germany the record
of barbarism under NaZism is not forgotten and will not be
erased. The pragmatic Germans know better than to hide
the facts and to ask either total_ forgiveness or forgetful-
ness. The aim of advancing the results of the atonement
remains uppermost and those who strive for it gain respect
for,,,sincerity when they strive to eliminate every vestige of
hatred. In that spirit the good will sought by the Germans
of the post-Hitler era becomes a major factor in the Jewish
— Israel — West German and' global relations.

The Argentinian Horrors:
Is There Hope for Solution?

If ever there was doubt abouTt the reported persecution
of political minorities who differ with the existing govern-
ment in Argentina, they vanished with the publication of
the two articles by John B. Oakes, former senior editor of
the New York Times, analyzing the Argentinian situation.
His articles on the NYTimes Op-Ed pages shock the imagi-
nation. They create a chill in the mind of anyone who has a
human spark and they puzzle the reader. Why would any-
one seeking to protect his powers over a great country
resort to the cruelties described?
Oakes' accumulated facts about the existing horrors in
a great South American country may have been sum-
marized in the opening paragraphs of his second article in
which he stated:
BUENOS AIRES — As he left his apartment on a

By Philip

recent morning, the young man told his wife that
he was going down the street on a brief errand
and would soon return. When he failed to reap-
pear after several hours, his wife went to the local
police station to see if there had been an accident.
Neither she nor her husband has been seen or
heard from since. This is life in Argentina today.
This young couple may yet turn up — after the
usual questioning under torture — among the
nearly 3,000 political prisoner's suspected by the
secret police of "ideological subversion" and
known to be held without charges, without trial,
without hope of release except at discretion of the
But, more likely, they will have already joined
the lengthening lists of the "disappeared." These
are the victims — now mostly presumed dead — of
that secret and savage war of terror against ter-
rorism that has already cost the lives of 5,000 to
15,000 people and has poisoned Argentine politi-
cal life for at least the past three years.
Having beaten the urban and rural guerrillas at
their own game and virtually destroyed them by
their methods, the army's clandestine forces
gradually widened their counter-terrorist net in
ever-increasing circles.
Oakes enumerated the various categories of
endangered professionals and merchants who are subject to
arrest on the slightest suspicions and he comments: "These
are the labor leaders, lawyers, doctors, social workers, in-
tellectuals, students suspected of any leanings — or poten-
tial leanings — towards the left. And if they happen to be
Jewish so much the worse for them."
This explains everything. The entire procedure is not
anti-Semitic. It is anti-human. Anyone suspected of bef-
riending a radical, of entertaining views that are contra-
government may as well bid goodbye to his freedom.
The New York Times, after publishing these articles,
commented upon them editorially under the heading "The
Mad Doctors of Argentina,"- and stated:

The Argentine tragedy exposes again the to-
talitarian delusion that a society can be made bet-
ter by reshaping from above. Disgusted by the
tendency of the people to elect Peronist govern-
ments and trade union leaders, the military de-
cided on an "operation" to cut the Peronist dis-
ease out of the body politic. Once started, they
have not known how to stop. To insure that the
cancer won't recur, they now seek, like mad doc-
tors, to cut out all politics and to eliminate all who
doubt that the operation is necessary.
And so, month by month, a society so rich in
productive capacity and human creativity pro-
ceeds with its own destruction. Listen again to the
mother of a "disappeared" couple, quoted by
John Oakes: "The most capable and most re-
nowned people become used to keeping quiet.
And while they do so, the most unscrupulous,
arrogant, bloodthirsty and cowardly become .. .
the masters."
There is horror in many places. The barbarism that -
rules Iran can be equated only with the extremest cases of
religious fanaticism in the Middle Ages. In Argentina, it is
politics of the right, akin to the leftism of the Soviet Union.
Whence cometh help?
Even time does not resolve some of the world ills, if the
inhuman terror could embrace Argentina in an age of

Yeshiva University Event:
Impressive Cast of Personae

A fund-raising project often brings to the fore interest-
ing personalities. This is the case this year with the annual
Yeshiva University dinner.
Since Sadie and Irwin Cohn are to be the honorees, the
initial objective already attains special interest. This is
couple with an enviable background for services to the loci,
community and assistance to the national and overseas
causes. They are not newcomers in the ranks of Yeshiva
University. They have been on the important school's led-
gers as generous givers for many years.
The chairmanship of Bill Berman adds merit to the
event. He is a national figure in the ranks of the Council of
Jewish Federations, the American Association for Jewish
Education and other movements. As a past president of the
Detroit Jewish Welfare Federation and as an active leader
in the United Hebrew Schobls, his role is well known.
It is the guest speaker who adds glory to an annual
event here. Morris Abram is a former president of the
American Jewish Committee. He is one of the best known
lawyers in the country. As a native Georgian he had been
close to the important families in that state and became an
ally of President Jimmy Carter. He has shown courage
when he needed to differ with the President. He is an
admired leader whose appearance here adds importance to
the cause of Yeshiva University.

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