(New York) - Several blogs and others critical of Human Rights Watch have suggested that Marc Garlasco, Human Rights Watch's senior military advisor, is a Nazi sympathizer because he collects German (as well as American) military memorabilia. This accusation is demonstrably false and fits into a campaign to deflect attention from Human Rights Watch's rigorous and detailed reporting on violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by the Israeli government. Garlasco has co-authored several Human Rights Watch reports on violations of the laws of war, including in Afghanistan, Georgia and Iraq, as well as by Israel, Hamas and Hezbollah.
Garlasco has never held or expressed Nazi or anti-Semitic views. He prefaced his monograph on military memorabilia by giving thanks that Germany was defeated in the Second World War.
Garlasco's grandfather was conscripted into the German armed forces during the Second World War, like virtually all young German men at the time, and served as a radar operator on an anti-aircraft battery. He never joined the Nazi Party, and later became a dedicated pacifist. Meanwhile, Garlasco's great-uncle was an American B-17 crewman, who survived many attacks by German anti-aircraft gunners.
Garlasco's own family experience on both sides of the Second World War has led him to collect military items related to both sides, including American 8th Air Force memorabilia and German Air Force medals and other objects (not from the Nazi Party or the SS, as falsely alleged). Many military historians, and others with an academic interest in the Second World War, including former and active-duty US service members, collect memorabilia from that era.
Some bloggers have picked up comments Garlasco made on a memorabilia website in 2005, and a photo of him wearing a sweatshirt with a picture of the Iron Cross and the words in German: "The Iron Cross, 1813, 1870, 1914, 1939 and 1957." The comments reflect the enthusiasm of a keen collector. They are not in any way indicative of support for Nazis, as has been alleged, and have no bearing on Garlasco's work for Human Rights Watch.
Garlasco is the author of a monograph on the history of German Air Force and Army anti-aircraft medals and a contributor to websites that promote serious historical research into the Second World War (and which forbid hate speech). In the foreword he writes of telling his daughters that "the war was horrible and cruel, that Germany lost and for that we should be thankful."
To imply that Garlasco's collection is evidence of Nazi sympathies is not only absurd but an attempt to deflect attention from his deeply felt efforts to uphold the laws of war and minimize civilian suffering in wartime. These falsehoods are an affront to Garlasco and thousands of other serious military historians.
Videos featuring Marc Garlasco:
Media profiles of Marc Garlasco
The Washington Post - "The Man on Both Sides of Air War Debate"
Fresh Air - "Assessing the Human Cost of Air Strikes in Iraq"
CBS News - "Bombing Afghanistan"
Spiegel International - "The Pentagon Official Who Came in From the Cold"
Reports Co-Authored by Marc Garlasco:
A Dying Practice
Use of Cluster Munitions by Russian and Georgia in August 2008
Rain of Fire
Israel's Unlawful Use of White Phosphorus in Gaza
Troops in Contact
Airstrikes and Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan
Flooding South Lebanon
Israel's Use of Cluster Munitions in Lebanon in July and August 2006
"No Blood No Foul"
Soldier's Accounts of Detainee Abuse in Iraq
First Hand Accounts of Torture of Iraqi Detainees by the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division
Mass Home Demolitions in the Gaza Strip
The Conduct of the War and Civilian Casualties in Iraq