It was a rainy day in Cologne, and we had time to kill before catching our train back to Brussels. And there it was on the map, just a couple of blocks away. A museum in what had been the city's Gestapo HQ.
The "EL DE" House (taking the initials of its builder, Leopold Dahmen) is the home of NSDOK, the National Socialist Documentation Center. This is definitely a place to visit, especially now that torture is no longer a subject about which Americans can experience schadenfreude or gloating about those bad Nazis.
Deep down in the dungeons of the EL DE house, where prisoners' graffiti has been preserved, your audio guide informs you that the Gestapo joked about the "intensified interrogation" it inflicted on its helpless prisoners. Already in 2007, The Atlantic documented how the Bush administration's "enhanced interrogation techniques" not only sounded like the Nazis' original Verschärfte Vernehmung, but also matched them in their application.
It helps bring home what this means down there in the claustrophobic cells, where there was no hope of escape for the unfortunate Germans, Russians, Poles and others who were rounded up. Elsewhere in the EL DE House, the birth and rise of the Nazi movement, and its diabolical work to exterminate Jews, Gypsies, and others is painstakingly documented.
All too often, the exhibits show how the torturers were able to pick up with normal life after the war... but what kind of dreams did they have at night?
I share former CIA agent Philip Giraldi's disgust (writing in the American Conservative) with the apologists for "EIT" who will not pronounce the word "torture," and yet who continue to justify the same thing that Nazis did in those dark places.
Apparently we are in a minority; according to a recent poll, some 2/3 of Americans feel that torture was justified. Former US diplomat Peter Van Buren, in "Torture and the Company We Keep," urges Americans to "Look around at the company you keep. The people who support torture, six out of ten, are your neighbors, your co-workers, the people on the bus with you..."
In 1945, American soldiers liberated Cologne and freed the prisoners who survived those Nazi torturers in the EL DE house. What would they have thought if they knew that their fellow citizens, a half century later, would perform similar horrors?