Published On: Mon, Oct 29th, 2018

The Real Gestapo Tactics

Hilbert Haar

By Hilbert Haar

What exactly are Gestapo tactics? That question becomes relevant now that members of parliament have seen fit to take Minister Perry Geerlings to task for his attempt to pacify the Dutch over the use of this term by MP Theo Heyliger.

How did this term get a new lease on life in St. Maarten again? Oh, yeah, the decision by the Common Court of Justice to give the prosecutor’s office the green light to prosecute MP Theo Heyliger over alleged bribery attempts. Suddenly, it was Gestapo tactics here, there and everywhere. It’s a popular term among local politicians with little historical awareness.

Minister Geerlings did the right thing when he visited the Netherlands and called the latest Gestapo-blooper – as expressed by United Democrats leader MP Theo Heyliger – unfortunate.

MPs went all out for him, as usual not focusing on the heart of the matter – that is: the stupidity to use that term in the first place – but on the messenger. Geerlings’ intention is clear to me: he wants to keep the relationship with the Netherlands on an even keel.

Because MPs like Christophe Emmanuel and Theo Heyliger apparently are unaware of what Gestapo tactics really are, let alone that they would understand the sensitivity of such a remark, here is a little history lesson.

Hermann Gӧring is credited with establishing the Gestapo in Hitler’s Germany back in 1933. This Geheime Staatspolizei was above the law. The Gestapo was entitled to make “preventive arrests” and if you happened to fall into their hands you were screwed. It was not possible to appeal a Gestapo-arrest in a court of law.

The Gestapo is responsible for the death of thousands of Jews, unionists, homosexuals and intellectuals by sending them to concentration camps.

The Gestapo also had a political branch. These guys had the power to kill, torture or release prisoners. They had a strong preference for killing and torturing.

I think that the term death squad fits the Gestapo pretty well.

A report about interrogation methods the Gestapo used in Norway in 1941 – documented in the British National Archives – offers a candid insight into the real Gestapo tactics.

“When a rumor is connected to an individual they look up his history and shadow him,” the report states. “They do not wait to produce a case against him before taking action; they are satisfied that suspicions may be founded. They will make a domiciliary visit (meaning that they will go to his house), examine all his rooms and effects and remove him at once.”

The report goes on to describe in 1940s stilted language what happens next. They don’t disclose where they take their prisoner, they confiscate all his money and keep him behind bars for weeks, sometimes months, to instill fear and weaken resistance.

Gestapo interrogators worked in shifts, depriving prisoners of sleep; they arrest all his contacts. They play prisoners and their contacts against the middle, and then tell them that they are both lying – a reason to keep them even longer in captivity.

If MP Heyliger thinks that this is what is waiting for him, if any member of parliament claims that these are the Gestapo-tactics the prosecutor’s office deploys to bring poor local politicians to their knees, they are delusional.

The worst thing that could happen to a politician who gets in the crosshairs of justice is a trip to court where an independent judge will assess their case.

Politicians who criticize the justice system (for instance for being too Dutch, or as Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin has done, warn the prosecutor’s office against frivolous investigations) forget that our constitutional state is based on the trias politica – the separation of the executive, legislative and judicial powers. One has no business meddling in the affairs of the others. They also forget that they have sworn to uphold the constitution.

Remarkably, Marlin-Romeo’s comment on the scandal surrounding Minister Stuart Johnson was in a recent press briefing that the legal process will have to take its course. It was a lame comment on a sensitive #MeToo-like situation, but nevertheless correct.

Als je geschoren wordt moet je still zitten (Don’t move a muscle when somebody is shaving you) is an apt Dutch expression. Stuart Johnson is doing just that, while others prefer to scream blue murder and accuse the judicial system of Gestapo tactics.

This is not only tasteless but it also says a lot about the people who use such an expression. Minister Geerlings seems to be one of the few people in government who understands this.