Nazi Germany’s genocidal crimes against the Jews of Europe bother me. They bother me because, taken in isolation from the countless other atrocities and genocidal crimes of the Holocaust, they have been used in recent decades to legitimise the State of Israel’s genocidal crimes against the people of Palestine. Still, the fact remains that not a single Israeli was murdered by the Nazis or their accomplices. It is true that the Holocaust or Shoah was primarily a crime against the Jewish people, but, as Hannah Arendt points out, it was a crime against humanity; millions of other vulnerable minorities were victims of German National Socialist ideology, and Jews too are human beings. Regardless of the proportional suffering of any particular group, this was a crime against millions of individual human beings, and it is as such that we must consider it the greatest and most despicable crime committed in history. Murder has no statute of limitations, and so today, seventy years after the defeat of Nazi Germany, Oskar Gröning – a 94 year old man – was sentenced to four years imprisonment for being an accessory to murder in KZ Auschwitz-Birkenau. It is right that we should feel some pity for him. We are human after all, but we must never allow this natural sympathy to stand in the way of justice.
Herald Scotland (@heraldscotland) July 15, 2015
Had the Nuremberg trials, the creation of the United Nations, and numerous other instruments, like the International Court of Justice, brought about an end to the systematic murder of civilians and genocide then clemency in the case of SS-Unterscharführer Gröning might have been conceivable, but we do not live in that world – and, sadly, we may never do. In fact mass murder, rape, torture, human rights violations, and genocide have very much become implements of war in the modern world, and not only in those parts of the world we consider barbaric or savage. During the Balkans War the whistle was blown on the United Nations; whose officers were routinely raping and trafficking women for the purposes of sex slavery abroad. Great Britain, the United States, Russia, and Israel have all been guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity since the end of the Second World War. As atrocious as the actions of Slobodan Milošević were in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo, he was only ever a diversionary tactic from the bigger war criminals in the civilised world. So long as we live in a world where the weak and the innocent are victimised and murdered by the powerful then we must ensure that the guilty know that even in their golden years justice still stalks them.