I've often wondered what happened to the men who perpetrated mass murders during WW2. I'm not talking about the Hitlers, the Eichmanns, or the Hans Franks. I'm referring to the men with the guns who murdered Jews and other undesirables in the killing pits of Eastern Europe. And the men who dropped the Zyklon B tablets in the gas chambers, and those who drove the sealed gas trucks, killing the people inside. These men who did the actual hands-on killing. It takes a certain mentality and amorality to kill others, and as many historians have pointed out, a lot of alcohol releases the inhibitions. How did these men function when they returned to civilian life? So many were never caught or prosecuted after the war; they slipped through the cracks of justice and went unpunished for their deeds.
American author Rita Gabis explores this subject - personal to her - in her ambitious book, "A Guest at the Shooters Banquet: My Grandfather's SS Past, My Jewish Family, A Search for the Truth". The "Shooters' Banquet" referred to in the title was an actual dinner with music and alcohol served in celebration of the murder of the thousands of Jews of a small Lithuanian town in the killing pits of Poligon. The murderers were local Lithuanian Catholics who ate and drank in honor of their great deeds. (They also shot to death two local musicians who were performing for them because they spoke Polish!)
This topic is personal for Rita Gabis because her maternal grandfather was a police chief in the Lithuanian city of Svencionys. He fled with his family after WW2 and ended up in the United States, where he lived until his death. Rita's mother married a Jewish man; I can't imagine her family approved. As Rita grew up, nothing was said in the family about her grandfather's duties in Svencionys. It was not a topic anyone felt comfortable bringing up. The grandfather was known as a loving family man, and Rita's mother and aunts loved him. But Rita began to wonder what her grandfather did in the war and whether he participated in the killings at Poligon and other murders during his tenure under the Nazis in their occupation of Lithuania. About 15 years ago she started to look into his life and traveled to Lithuania and Israel and Poland in search of answers. Answers she might not want to learn.
Rita Gabis's book is a look at both the Catholic and Jewish life during WW2. Lithuania had had an uneasy past as the two religious groups coexisted in the same villages and cities. In addition to tracing her mother's family, she also follows three Lithuanian Jews who had survived the war. Their stories of the casual cruelties and killings they were subjected to in both the ghettos and the camps were, of course, horrifying. Their own random choices - like jumping off a train going to another ghetto - often saved their lives.
You'll have to read Gabis's book to see if she found the answers to her questions about her family and their past in Lithuania. It's an ambitious work, but extremely well-written. It doesn't quite answer my original question about whether these killers carry their deeds into the rest of their lives, but it gives a hint.