Franz Stangl, Commandant of Sobibor and Treblinka, probably no more anti-Semitic than most Austrian provincials of the time, became entirely conditioned to violence and disastrously corrupted by it.
Toward the end of our long conversations in Düsseldorf prison in 1971, I asked Stangl whether it would be true to say that he got used to the liquidations.
“To tell the truth, one did become used to it” he said slowly.
“Would it be true to say that you finally felt they weren’t really human beings?” I asked.
He answered, “When I was on a trip once years later in Brazil, my train stopped next to a slaughter house. The cattle in the pens trotted up to the fence and stared at the steaming, hissing train. They were very close to my window, one crowding the other, looking at me through that fence. I thought then: Look at this. This reminds me of Poland. That’s just how the people looked, trustingly, before they went into the tins.”
I interrupted. “You said ‘tins’. What do you mean?”
But he went on without hearing or answering me.
“I couldn’t eat tinned meat after that” was his only response.
“So you didn’t feel they were human beings?” I asked again.
He said tonelessly, “Cargo. They were cargo.”
Gitta Sereny, recounting her conversations with Stangl while conducting research for her book, “Into That Darkness: An Examination Of Conscience”