MI5 whistleblower Annie Machon - Gestapo Past and Present

Tony Gosling tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Tue Aug 10 22:44:35 BST 2010

10 August 2010
Gestapo Past and Present

Last week I was on holiday with my lovely Dutchman in Cologne on the 
Rhine in Germany, a city steeped in history and now chiefly famous 
for its Gothic cathedral, widely reputed to be pretty much the last 
building left standing in the city at the end of WW2.  Easily 
resisting both this religious hotspot and, with slightly more 
difficulty, the  siren calls of the brauerei, we decided on a bit of 
culture, some museums and a stroll along the river.

However, it turns out that not one but two buildings had survived WW2 
in their entirety.  Tucked away on a backstreet, we found the second 
survivor: the Gestapo HQ, which had been preserved as it was found at 
the end of the war to serve as a ghastly warning to history.

Well, as someone who regularly speaks at conferences across the world 
about human rights, totalitarianism and encroaching police states, I 
felt I had to have a look.  The building is a nondescript office 
block that looks perfectly innocent from the outside.  Three floors 
are open to the public.  On the first is the museum, with the history 
of the rise to power of the Nazis.  It was hideously fascinating to 
read how freedoms and rights were incrementally eroded as the state 
slipped ever more from democracy.  The majority of the German people 
went sleep-walking into national socialism.  As soon as Hitler had 
any sort of political power his attack-dogs, the SS, used 
disproportionate, sudden, and shocking violence against Germany's own 
citizens to crush any nascent resistance.  So from 1933 onwards the 
population was terrorised, as "undesirables" were routinely snatched 
from their homes for questioning, torture and imprisonment.

And the propaganda in the media that was on display.....  Shall I 
just say, even more unsubtle than that which is used against us 
today.  I suppose these dark arts have developed over the intervening years.

But it was the lower floors that packed the strongest punch.  The 
basement, just below street level, held the cells - tiny, dank spaces 
where as many as 30 people had been herded together.  And the walls 
are covered in graffiti in all the languages of Europe - sad, 
desperate messages to the future from people who were "disappeared". 
They seemed to want to leave a record of the fact simply that they 
had existed: they had loved, they missed their families, they were 
trying to hold their heads high despite the agonies inflicted daily, 
they were innocent, they were about to die......

There was one more level - the reinforced rat hole deep underground, 
which served both as the air-raid shelter for the Gestapo officers 
(the prisoners were left upstairs in their cells during the raids), 
and as the torture rooms.  Considerately, the Gestapo carried out 
their most brutal interrogations underground, so that the screams 
could not be heard at street level.

As we emerged, somewhat silent, from this museum, I noticed that we, 
and many other visitors, all turned to stare at this building: it 
looked so bland and innocuous from the outside.  But then people 
would inspect the basement windows that hid the cells.  The smokers 
in the group all sparked up as soon as they were outside, dragging 
hard on their cigarettes.  Others just stood silently.

So the museum does its job.  It is a powerful warning from the 
grave.  Homo homini lupus: man is wolf to man, ever has been and ever 
will be, absent adequate legal restraint.  This is why the Universal 
Declaration of Human Rights was put in place in 1948, to prevent such 
atrocities from happening again.

Yet, at the risk of sounding sententious, such abuse is going on 
around the world right now, particularly in the cause of the endless, 
nebulous "war on terror".  We have been lazy, blind and foolish, 
letting our basic rights slide away.  People are disappeared, 
extraordinarily rendered, to foreign prisons and tortured for 
years.  Assassination lists have been drawn up by US intelligence 
agencies; suspects face kangaroo, military-style courtrooms, where 
they face the death penalty but are not allowed to know the full case 
against them; our governments aggressively, illegally, invade other 
countries, and yet the politicians who lie to take us into these 
wars, thereby causing the needless death, poisoning, maiming and 
displacement of millions of people, are not called to account for 
their crimes, as they should be under the Nuremberg Principles, the 
Rome Statute, and the International Criminal Court.

We, the citizens of still just-about-functioning democracies, should 
be ashamed.  We need to re-remember our history and take a stand - 
before it's too late.


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