Had this headline “Lou Lenart, pilot hailed as ‘man who saved Tel Aviv,’ dies at 94” (Los Angeles Times, July 24, 2015) not included the numeral “94”, this writer would probably have missed an opportunity to write the following story as a companion piece to an earlier one posted here at atombash.com entitled “Congratulations Oskar Groening on reaching your ninety-fourth year”-a review of the trial of nonogenarian criminal defendant Oskar Groening-known to the German authorities since the “70s” as the “accountant (or bookkeeper) of Auschwitz”-as well as some of the inherent difficulties of what has become a sub-speciality of war criminal prosecutions: the prosecution of very advanced-age suspected war criminals.
Oskar Groening or, for that matter, anyone who has reached such an advanced age, is at a time in his life when he should be at home warming himself by a glowing fireplace and reading a Dr. Seuss book to his great grandchildren. Instead, a German criminal court has found Groening guilty on charges of having served as an accessory to the murder of 300,000 Hungarian Jews who arrived at Auschwitz in the summer of 1944 and were upon arrival, almost immediately gassed.
Not deemed a flight risk, Groening will remain free until the court can rule on his lawyer’s motion to appeal the sentence of four years handed down by Judge Franz Kompisch.
Defendant Groening admits to not only having served at Auschwitz in a role this writer has dubbed the “chief armed robber”-responsible for dispossessing the incoming Jews of all monies they had brought on their forced journey to an unknown destination but has accepted moral responsibility for crimes which he claims to have witnessed but not committed.
Controversy surrounds the prosecution of these individuals due to their advanced age. “What is the point of sending an old man to prison?” Others are simply incredulous: “That kindhearted little old man, a war criminal! You’re kidding, right?” Defense attorneys play on the public’s understandable but often uninformed sympathies.
However, Jewish voices of condemnation and protestation have made themselves heard; the sentence of four years handed down by Judge Kompisch, they claim, is nothing less than an outrageous assault upon the memory of those who were terrorized, humiliated and dehumanized before being murdered in cold blood.
One news report remarked “Finally, at last, Groening is going to pay the costs of his misdeeds,” a remark so ridiculously understated that the only credible response is one of incredulity.
By converting 1460, the number of days in four years into its equivalent number of hours (multiply 1460 by 24=35,040 hours in four years; multiply 35,040 by 60 (minutes per hour)=2,102, 400 minutes in four years. Divide 2,102,400 by 300,000=7.008, rounded back to 7. In other words,Groening would pay a “price” of seven minutes of his own life for each of the 300,000 Jewish lives he helped to end.
Groening has spent his years within an intellectual ghetto wherein young people, such as he, learned that although “Jewish children are harmless when they are yet youngsters, it is, however, in their blood (this writer’s emphasis) so that when they come of age as Jewish adults, it is then they become a problem for the state. This is why Jewish children were included (in the Final Solution).” That is the anti-intellectual essence of Oskar Groening which by itself explains why he cannot in truth be regarded as that “nice, little old man down the street” because he isn’t.
What another man did with his ninety-four years …
It is simply remarkable how two men, both born in 1921, but forever unknown to each other could live their lives so dramatically and diametrically different from each other.
Coincident with the conclusion of the Groning trial, a second man who had also reached his 94th year came to this writer’s attention. Born Layos Lenovitz, the son of Jewish farmers, in a small Hungarian village near the Czech border, Louis Lenart passed away on Shabbat, this past Saturday, July 21, 2015.
His funeral this past Sunday (July 22) corresponded to the tenth of Av. Louis Lenart apparently died on Saturday (Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, a day on which burials are not permitted. Additionally, this past Shabbat fell out on the 9th of Av (Tisha B’ Av), ordinarily a day of fasting in remembrance of the calamities which have befallen the Jewish People throughout history.
His burial in Kefar Nachman Cemetery in Raanana was attended by high-ranking officers of the U.S. Marine Corps and Israeli Air Force, according to Lenart’s wife, Rachel Nir.
A connection to this writer’s past …
There were a number of movies which influenced this writer’s value system, one of which was a lovely old-fashioned story, set in pre-World War 2 Scotland, entitled “Wee Geordie” (pronounced ‘Jordy’) the story of a schoolboy who endured a great deal of teasing from his schoolmates due to his diminunative stature. Determined to do something about it, Geordie, a smart lad, took notice one day of his father’s newspaper which featured an advertisement by Henry Samson (a name borrowed from the real-life bodybuilder Charles Atlas) who described himself as “the strongest man in the world” and the author of a series of instructional books about “physical culture”-what Americans might call “physical education and training.”
Intrigued by Samson’s claims that he could take the smallest and weakest boy and turn him into another Henry Samson, Wee Geordie sent away for the books and, over the coarse of several years, became what Henry Samson called “his most successful pupil ever.”
Like Wee Geordie, Louis (Lou) Lenart also sent away for a Charles Atlas Bodybuilding Kit be cause he grew weary of the beatings local bullies inflicted upon him because he was a Jew in the Pennsylvania mining town of Wilkes Barre to which his family had emigrated when Louis was nine years old.
Faithfully adhering to the Atlas instructional course, he transformed himself into a fine physical specimen through discipline and diligence.
Lou Lenart was the kind of hero Americans love. Following his service as a combat pilot with the United States Marine Corps in the Pacific Theater of the Second World War, Captain Lenart learned of Jewish efforts to establish an independent state of Israel. He traveled to Israel and volunteered his services as a combat fighter pilot, becoming one of the founders of the new Israeli Air Force.
Credited with saving Tel Aviv from an advancing ten thousand man Egyptian Army during the 1948 War of Independence, Captain Lenart, together with his fellow air warriors, strafed and bombed the Egyptians into withdrawing from a bridge which, had they crossed it succesfully, would have put them in Tel Aviv by the next day.
Interestingly, this writer conducted an informal survey of Israelis. Much to my disappointment, not even one recognized or had ever heard about Captain Louis Lenart, Jewish American and Israeli Air Force (IAF) hero.