October 18, 2006, - 2:26 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
Earlier today, I wrote about Johann Leprich, the SS Waffen guard at Mathausen Concentration Camp, who was set free, yesterday, to live with his family, which actively helped him elude authorities.
I didn’t put it in the column for the purposes of brevity, but one of the survivors of Mathausen is Sam Offen–a friend of my late grandfather, Isaac. Mr. Offen and my grandfather, both Holocaust survivors, came to the Detroit area to try to rebuild their lives.
I tried but couldn’t reach Sam at home, today, since I know he followed the case, and we’ve discussed it. From the Detroit Free Press, here’s what Sam said about Leprich, when Leprich was captured in 2003:
Death camp survivor Sam Offen of West Bloomfield says the arrest is the closest he will feel to personal justice. He was 22 years old when he was held captive at Mauthausen, staying there for nine months until he was liberated in 1945 by the U.S. forces.
Offen has followed Leprich’s story from the begining and remembers many of the details of the case. He said his arrest had an impact on him.
“I am a very lucky survivor,” Offen said.
Right after Leprich was captured in July 2003, I discussed it on my Detroit radio show. I tried, unsuccessfully, to get some of Leprich’s neighbors on the air to discuss their comments to the Free Press. Imagine your neighbors saying this about Mohammed Atta (at least 150,000 were murdered at Mathausen):
In 1997, Leprich was profiled on the television program “America’s Most Wanted.”
Some of his neighbors of the Clinton Township home said they did not understand why the authorities were pursuing him. They said it was common knowledge that he lived in Canada and was eluding authorities. But no one said they ever saw him.
“Why don’t they just leave him alone. He’s an old man,” said neighbor Mary Bombassei, 65. “I know what he did was wrong, but they seemed like real nice people.”
He lived in a brick home with an immaculately kept yard. [DS: What does it matter what a Nazi's lawn was like?]
One neighbor, who asked to not be identified, felt Leprich was being treated unfairly. . . .
“They make him out to be a butcher, but he’s not,” the neighbor said. “He was a hell of a neighbor.”
Incredible. Incredibly obtuse. Similar outrageous comments in the Detroit Newsistan, also from 2003:
Neighbors said . . . . The man they remember was soft-spoken, gentle and neighborly.
Leprich would stop over unannounced, neighbors said. He chatted easily about the weather or his children, never leaving without saying goodbye in his faint German accent. At home, he spent hours in the back yard of his tidy ranch in Clinton Township tending to his vegetable garden.
“He grew everything in that garden and he shared his vegetables with everyone — that’s just the way he was,” neighbor Clarence Sonntag, 73, said Monday across the street from the home where Leprich’s wife and son still live.
Here’s what survivor Sam Offen told the Detroit Newsistan in 2003:
“His neighbors were not there — other prisoners and I can attest to the fact that guards like Mr. Leprich performed brutal tasks,” said Sam Offen, 81, of West Bloomfield, who was at the Mauthausen Concentration Camp in the mid-1940s, when Leprich was stationed there.
Stupid Neighbors and the Nazi Murderers Who Love Them, Volume II. (Volume I is here.)
Tags: America, Butcher, Camp Death, Canada, Clarence Sonntag, Clinton Township, Detroit, Detroit Free Press, Isaac, Johann Leprich, Mary Bombassei, Mathausen Concentration Camp, Mauthausen Concentration Camp, Mohammed Atta, Sam Offen, SS Waffen guard, the Detroit Free Press, the Free Press, United States