John Waters : Leslie Van Houten : A Friendship, Part 1 of 5
I have a really good friend who was convicted of killing two innocent people when she was nineteen years old on a horrible night of 1969 cult madness. Her name is Leslie Van Houten and I think you would like her as much as I do. She was one of those notorious “Manson girls” who shaved their heads, carved X’s in their foreheads and laughed, joked, and sang their way through the courthouse straight to death row without the slightest trace of remorse forty years ago. Leslie is hardly a “Manson girl” today. Sixty years old, she looks back from prison on her involvement in the La Bianca murders (the night after the Tate massacre) in utter horror, shame, and guilt and takes full responsibility for her part in the crimes. I think it’s time to parole her.
Leslie Van Houten has served more time than any Nazi war criminal who was not sentenced to death at Nuremberg. She has served more time that any of the Nazi defendants who were sentenced to life in prison except for Hitler’s deputy, Rudolph Hess, who died in his fortieth year in prison (the exact amount of time Leslie has now served). She’s served more time than Lt. #William_Calley who was originally sentenced to life in prison for the #My_Lai massacre of hundreds of Vietnamese civilians. She has served longer than the surviving female member of the Baader Meinhoff Gang, a German terrorist group who murdered thirty-four people for left-wing “politics” and “revolution.” This group began with the student protest movement in 1968, the same year Charles Manson was recruiting his hippy army of LSD soldiers. Brigitte Mahnhaupt was convicted of nine political murders and sentenced to five life sentences, but served just twenty-four years. Another member, Irmgard Molle, convicted of a 1972 bomb attack in Heidelberg that killed three American soldiers, was released in 1994 after serving twenty-four years. Courts ruled that “the decision for probation was reached based on the determination that no security risks exist today.” And none of these radicals even said they were sorry!
But how sorry is sorry enough? Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect and armaments minister, and one of the few Nazi defendants to take responsibility for Nazi war crimes, even though he denied knowing of the Holocaust, struggled with this question. When Gitta Sereny interviewed him for her amazing book Albert Speer; His Battle with Truth, after he had been released after serving all twenty years of his sentence in Spandau prison, she asked the same kind of question about responsibility for the crime that the parole board asks Leslie. While Leslie participated in a much tinier version of a fascist regime, there are definite similarities in the issue of degrees of guilt. Was there something “inherently evil” inside Leslie, as Stephen Kay has charged? Was there a “lack of morality” underneath Speer’s initial attraction to “the cause,” wondered Ms. Sereny? “If I just answer that question with a ’yes,’” a free Speer honestly responded after decades of reflection, “it would be too simple. For of course now I think it was immoral. But what does that mean? Nothing. How can it help our understanding of these terms which is what you and I are trying to do here, I presume, for me to say, ’Yes, yes mea culpa.’ Yes, of course, mea culpa, but the whole point is that I didn’t feel this and why didn’t I? Was it Hitler, only Hitler, because of whom I didn’t understand? Or was it a deficiency in me? Or was it both?”
#Fritz_Lang #Peter-Lorre #Ulrike_Meinhof #Hitler #Roman_Polanski #Rosemaries_Baby