Arbeit Macht Frei

The Casa Padre internment camp for child migrants.

A photo in a handout given by the management of the Casa Padre detention centre in Brownsville, Texas, to MSNBC reporter Jacob Soboroff. The centre houses child migrants separated from their parents by officials acting in the name of the United States. Twitter source.

Trump mural at Casa Padre

It reminds you of something else, doesn’t it.

Gate at Sachsenhausen

Unfair? Soboroff saw no evidence of abuse by the Casa Padre staff – beyond the inherent cruelty of separation.  The analogy is the sickening bad faith and institutionalised in-your-face lying to cover up horrific policies. Oh, and mass incarceration outside the rule of law.

Footnote: I deliberately took Sachsenhausen not the better-known Auschwitz gate. Konzentrazionslager – KZ – was a broad Nazi term for a variety of civilian camps, including pure extermination camps like Treblinka, slave labour camps like Sachsenhausen, political prisons like Dachau and Flossenburg, and of course Auschwitz, an unusual combination of an extermination and labour camp, giving rise to the infamous selections. The slogan was common but not universal; it was up to the camp commandant.


Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web

6 thoughts on “Arbeit Macht Frei”

  1. In addition to the unutterable cruelty of this separation, I'm sure it's a great idea to remind everyone held for being undocumented that they're at war with the United States and its current president.

  2. The New Republic explains how, "Effectively, these kids are incarcerated."

    Congress is to blame. It could enact legislation today that would prevent Trump from kidnapping these children. If they had to vote, then I suspect that enough Republicans could be shamed into supporting it for it to be enacted. Or, if not shamed, made to realize that opposing it would cost them in November,

  3. The slogan itself is an act of cruelty. It's hard to see how Trump could have in mind encouraging the children to bear with their present ills because, by losing a little now, they'll win more significantly later. On the other hand, it's true of Trump: he's been losing on the wall and losing on his various attempted immigration bans in the court, but by separating the children from their parents he's "find[ing] a new way to win the war," by discouraging even asylum seekers from trying to enter the U.S.

    The image itself speaks volumes. The viewer is looking up at him and his smile is not the customary friendly, welcoming smile one sees on pictures of politicians and other public people but a closed-lip smile (note also the slitted eyes) that is consistent with smugness rather than any positive emotion. I'd like very much to know what the artist's conscious intent was as s/he was creating that image.

  4. Note that that camp right now is mainly housing actually unaccompanied minors; it will soon hold kidnapped children. IIRC, one of the reporters said that staff members expressed panic great concern about the change. They'll be dealing with even more severely traumatized children.

  5. The government can't get the lights back on in Puerto Rico, but they sure can get concentration camps up and running lickety-split. A real head-scratcher.

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