|Healing-Killing Conflict: Eduard
| uniform"; and in summing up what Wirths did in Auschwitz,
Langbein declared, All I can say is that for us it was good, for him it
was probably bad. He told me that he believed Wirths killed himself
because he had a conscience. In public commentaries, Langbein
stopped short of definitive moral evaluation, saying on one occasion, Who
wants to be the judge? Who wants to condemn? Not me. Unlike Langbein,
Lill was unqualified in his favorable judgment of Wirths, sought to locate him
in 1945 in order to help him, and wrote to his wife the following year praising
Wirthss courage and great astuteness in helping prisoners.
Lill called Wirths our best ally and declared, Your husband
fought the good battle and he was alone.76* That would have been Wirthss own
idealized version of his personal crusade.
Other prisoners were
considerably less complimentary. Dr. Tadeusz S. told me that Langbein
said he would defend Wirths, and I like Langbein but I said I would testify
against Wirths. Dr. Marie L. spoke of Wirths with something. approaching
disdain. Dr. Jan W., who appreciated Wirthss help but insisted he be
included among the mass murderers, said that Wirths killed himself
not as an act of conscience but because he couldn't face the
responsibility [of what he had done]. And Dr. Wanda J., grateful for his
help but judging him a criminal, summed up her view by saying,
Anyhow, he did the decent thing. He killed himself.
doctors I spoke to considered him an SS bureaucrat. One described him as
correct and under the control of the camp commandant.
The other considered him a man without much imagination, rather sterile.
And an additional judgment was expressed
during a television documentary, by a childhood friend of Wirths trained in law
and theology, who was a bitter anti-Nazi. He spoke warmly of Wirths as
among us the most good-natured, softhearted, most capable of pity,
but had broken early with him because of their radically different response to
the Nazis. In judging father and son, the old friend, who had left the law for
theology under National Socialism, put the matter sadly but clearly: To
defend his father I would be the right lawyer. To defend Eduard I would have
family members have had to make the most troubled evaluations of all.
His widow tried to cling to a sense of his virtue, avoided any
discussions about Auschwitz with the children, and told them only about
personal things. As it became necessary to speak about the subject, she
emphasized that Wirths could do a lot of good, and that they would not
* In the same correspondence
with the family, Lill spoke of Wirths as a man of rare nobility;
and in one extraordinary letter to Wirthss wife in 1976, Lill, as a
dedicated Communist, imagined ideal human beings of the future as
possessing the courage, the astuteness, and the self-control of
Wirths, whom Lili half-jocular[ly] characterized as an
a comrade Albert