A blood feud or blood rivalry is a long conflict between two closely situated groups of people, usually involving retaliatory killing. There is some event, real or imagined, then members of one group attack or kill members of the other group in retaliation for harms they suffered in that initial event. This leads to retaliation from the second group and we have a spiral of tit-for-tat. Until fairly recent in human history, the blood feud was quite common and often formalized in ritual and custom.
When people were more tribal, the blood feud worked to keep the peace. This seems counterintuitive, but the practice allowed for agreed upon compensation to the victim in the form of blood or money. The Wergild, in Germanic law, was the compensation paid by a person committing an offense to the injured party. If the victim was killed, then it was the value of his life. In other cultures, the concept of “blood money” was not uncommon, as a way to adjudicate disputes between clans.
This is something to keep in mind when looking at stories like this one. We have a 100-year-old man being charged with crimes that may or may not have happened at a place he worked over seventy years ago. He may have worked at the Sachsenhausen camp in the Second World War. According to the article, it is not all that clear what happened at that facility. His role in the running in the camp is also unclear. Yet, he is being ceremoniously charged with crimes at the age of 100.
This is not a new story. He is being charged because of the long running blood feud between Jews and Europeans over the events of the war. Jews believe they are victims that can never be compensated for the crimes against them perpetrated by the Europeans in the last century. It is not just Germans. They have claims against other European groups, even Americans, who saved them. The blood feud demands blood, even if it is the blood of an old man not long for this world.
These sort of witch hunts are uncivilized and antithetical to the traditions of the modern world, but they persist because Jews have tremendous amount of influence. Much of that influence, it is believed, rests on their victim status. That last part is mostly nonsense, but many people believe it. Anti-Semites think this is the magic key to Jewish influence, so they occupy most of their time trying to prove the Holocaust is fiction created out of whole cloth. Thus is the nature of blood feuds.
To be clear, no reasonable person can claim that Jews were not singled out by the Nazis for special treatment. The record is clear on that point. The Nazis also targeted other groups, like Gypsies and Slavs. There is no question that monstrous things happened in the war at the hands of the Germans and their allies. Much of it was the inevitable consequence of war, which is always a monstrous thing. When war is waged on the industrial scale, the results are horrific.
That should be the lesson of the two great industrial wars. The Great War was a blood feud scaled up and decorated with lofty rhetoric. At anytime, the sides could have accepted the futility of their blood feud and crafted a blood peace. Instead, they fought themselves to exhaustion. The Second World War and the horrors that flowed from it were the result of having learned nothing from the last war. Instead, the blood feud between the people of Europe continued and spread to the world.
The reason European societies evolved ways to mitigate the local blood feud or eliminate it entirely is they tended to spiral into mutual destruction. A blood peace was often stronger than one agreed upon out of convenience, for the simple reason both sides suffered real harm to achieve it. Two tribes that lost members over a feud that was eventually settled to the satisfaction of both, had a shared bond that transcended material concerns or present convenience.
Of course, individualizing crime and disputes was the way we eventually eliminated the blood feud entirely. Holding the individual accountable for his crimes and his crimes alone, regardless of the relationship between his group and that of the victim, settled the matter before it could spiral into a feud. When the Lord hangs the murderer, rather than forcing his people to pay the clan of the victim, it changes the relationship between man and tribe, as well the relationship between tribes.
In a way, the criminal code was a preemptive act. When the sovereign steps in to punish the guilty, he is short circuiting the natural tribal reaction. If the law is clear and the sovereign is even handed in his application of it, then the people not only accept his remedies but will seek his remedy before seeking their own justice. This is how the law is supposed to work in what we think of as civil society. At the heart of it is a sense of justice motivated by a desire to keep the peace.
What we see with the hunt for centenarians whose primary crime is of blood is a perversion of this principle. The reason to arrest this old man for crimes that may or may not have happened is to perpetuate a blood feud. There is no justice to be had in these cases, as the events happened so long ago. It is not as if there is a need for an example to discourage others. This is just a tribal cry for vengeance echoing through the corrupted halls of western justice.
Not to put too fine a point on it but look at the other example in the story. “A 96-year-old woman has also been accused of working as a Nazi, as a secretary to the commandant of the Stutthof concentration camp in Poland.” They are going to put on a trial a woman whose crime was having worked for the Nazis. In this case, the tribe crying out for blood is the Poles, who suffered more from the Nazis than any other group. Even so, much blood was spilled to reach a peace, the Poles should accept it.
In the end, this is the test of civilization. Civilized people understand that you must close the books on the past, in order to avoid reliving them. The present is always a story of the past, but it cannot be a nightmare from which we never awake. Disputes are settled and they become a part of the story of a people and that people’s relationship to other people, as part of the blood peace. When one or both sides cannot accept that blood peace, accept the blood of the other as a sacrifice, the result is more blood.
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