. . . The truth can be a terrible thing, sometimes too terrible to live with.
Conservative calculations indicate that more than 800,000 people--mostly Jews but also Gypsies and other non-Jews--were gassed at Treblinka. Another 250,000 victims were murdered at Sobibor. Franz Stangl was sentenced to life imprisonment by a West German court on December 22, 1970, because he had served as commandant at both of those Nazi death camps on Polish soil.
At the end of World War II, Stangl had fled from Europe with the help of Bishop Alois Hudal, one of a number of highly placed Roman Catholic clergymen who enabled ex-Nazis to elude justice. Stangl went to Syria, then to Brazil. There he worked at a Volkswagen plant and reestablished his family life until he was arrested in 1967 and extradited to Germany for trial.
A journalist and Holocaust scholar, Gitta Sereny reported Stangl's trial. Judging him to be "an individual of some intelligence," she wanted to speak with him personally, too. Sereny met Stangl for the first time on April 2, 1971. The result was a memorable series of interviews not only with Stangl but also with his wife, family, and many of his associates. These ingredients formed the basis for Sereny 1974 book Into That Darkness: An Examination of Conscience. It remains among the most instructive studies about the Holocaust.
In the excerpt that follows, the emphasis is not so much on Franz Stangl as it is on his wife, Theresa. So unlike the resisting women discussed by Vera Laska, Frau Stangl mirrors what the Nazis expected of their women and their wives in particular: loyalty, submissiveness, and comfort. True, she did confront her husband: "I