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Today is my 64th birthday and it’s also a day of remembrance. Today we remember the murder of an estimated 6 million people at the hands of racist extremists. Today is International Remembrance Holocaust Day.
This day has a somewhat special connection for me as well. My father, J.G. Sowler, was a sergeant in the British army and fought in World War 2 as a tank commander. As the war came to an end my father was seconded to a special operations unit in Austria. This unit’s job was to hunt down top ranking Nazis. One such detainee was a man described by historian Michael Allen as “the vilest individual in the vilest organization ever known.” His name was Odilo Globočnik and it is he who is thought to have be been the originator of the idea for the creation of extermination camps to be used to murder millions on an industrial scale.
During World War 2 the Nazi regime in Germany and throughout occupied Europe was responsible for the systematic murder of the Jewish people by whatever means possible. Initially their victims were killed by shooting. Globočnik was an associate of Adolf Eichmann and he had a leading role in Operation Reinhard, which saw the murder of mostly Polish Jews during the Holocaust.
But it was at Globočnik’s suggestion to Himmler that the industialised extermination of human beings was first proposed. In September 1941 Globočnik was visited by Phillip Bouhler and Victor Brack, top officials responsible for the Action T4 “euthanasia” program, which used gas chambers disguised as shower rooms to execute many of its victims. In October 1941 Globočnik wrote a memo to Himmler in which he outlined proposals for action “of a security policy nature” against the Jews. At a two-hour meeting with Himmler on 13 October 1941, Globočnik received verbal approval to start construction work on the Belzec extermination camp.
What happened at the end of the war when men and women such as Globočnik were rounded up for the trials in Nuremberg is not so well known. In Gobocnik’s case he was captured in Austria and my father was the Provost Sergeant in the unit that apprehended him and his group, high up in the mountains. It was here that he was to meet his fate at his own hands.
My father spoke often about what he did in the war, but he rarely spoke about this particular incident. It wasn’t long after Globočnik ‘s capture that my father was shot in the arm by a Nazi sniper and was repatriated to England.
Tom Kane © 2019