The news this week that Radovan Karadzic was finally arrested on eleven charges of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and other atrocities made me recall an article that I had read about a month ago about why Karadzic and Mladic were still at large. The BBC's Nick Thorpe wrote about a Dutch journalist who spotted Karadzic at a cafe in Bosnia in 2005. The journalist reported the sighting to the authorities, but nothing was done. He wanted to write a story about the lack of progress in the case. He interviewed a person from the Dutch military intelligence who advised him not to write the story, if he valued his life. Dutch agents had pursued Karadzic and visited the restaurant, and needed protection from the Serbian mafia when they returned to the Netherlands. Other fascinating details about the power and ruthlessness of the network of Serbian nationalists intent on shielding their heroes can be found in the article.
The stories of alleged war criminals living out ordinary lives also reminded me of the long search for Josef Mengele. After the Nazis were defeated, Mengele was actually in custody in an American POW Camp. However, he was discharged using papers belonging to an accomplice, Fritz Hollman. He worked for five years as a farm hand in the German country side. He eventually escaped to Argentina, with the help of more Nazis. He lived out his life in South America until 1979, when he died at the age of 67, from drowning.
I read up on Mengele after hearing about Marianne Grant's quest to have paintings returned to her from the Holocaust Museum in Auschwitz. Grant was a trained artist who was asked by Mengele to paint portraits of the people who he was studying, such as the gypsies, dwarves, and twins. A collection of her personal art has been displayed in her adopted homeland, Scotland.She passed away in 2007, aged 86, without getting her portraits back.
This collection of articles is chilling and amazing. War is just awful. It turns ordinary people into killers. It turns civilians into victims. And through it all, there is the will to survive.