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The Mark of CainGuilt and Denial in the Post-War Lives of Nazi Perpetrators$
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Katharina von Kellenbach

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199937455

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199937455.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 04 August 2021

Cleansed by Suffering?

Cleansed by Suffering?

the ss general and the human beast

(p.87) 4 Cleansed by Suffering?
The Mark of Cain

Katharina von Kellenbach

Oxford University Press

This chapter contrasts the professional ethos of SS General Oswald Pohl, former chief of the SS Economic and Administrative Main Office in Berlin with the criminal reputation of Klara Pförtsch, a former concentration camp inmate who was sentenced to death for beating fellow inmates in her role as a prisoner functionary. Oswald Pohl described his experience in Landsberg in the classic language of penitential suffering and asserted that he had been “purified …in the purgatory of extreme abandonment.” By contrast, Pförtsch was considered a vraie bête humaine (true human beast) and was denied assistance by the responsible church official. While Pohl invoked the concept of purgatory to speak of his transformation from sinner into saint, Pförtsch never quite left the hell of Auschwitz, which had changed her from a political activist into a subhuman beast. This chapter questions the role of punitive suffering in the purification and transformation of guilt.

Keywords:   purgatory, hell, kapos, function prisoners, ravensbrück, oswald pohl, gray zone, complicity

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