Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



The Opinionator: Should Former Nazis Be Brought to Justice?

Gedalia Guttentag

German prosecutors are preparing to bring to trial nine people accused of being concentration camp guards. The trials reawaken decades-old questions

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

 Mishpacha image

 

S hould former Nazis be brought to justice? Given their age and the passage of time, perhaps we should leave justice to G-d?

In search of answers, we reached out to a diverse group of people who either had suffered the horrors of the Holocaust themselves, were involved afterward in seeking closure, or are in contact with today’s generation of Germans. The most striking point about their perspectives can’t be conveyed in print: the utter conviction with which they spoke.


Dr. Efraim Zuroff, chief Nazi-hunter for the Simon Wiesenthal Center

So here’s Nazi-hunting 101: This issue isn’t new. Over the 37 years I’ve been involved in Nazi-hunting, we’ve brought to justice elderly Nazis. That’s because the passage of time doesn’t diminish the guilt of a killer. Neither does old age.

Our mentor Simon Wiesenthal stressed to us the obligation that we have to the victims to maximize justice.

Some people say, “Yes, but the people who did it are sorry.” In my experience, no Nazi ever expressed remorse. And sometimes they murdered Jews who were older than they themselves are today.

Another reason we have to bring these people to justice is that it sends a powerful message. After World War II they said, “Never again.” But while those are good intentions, history shows that there have been many subsequent tragedies. Part of the reason that genocide — like ISIS — has recurred is that it was never made clear you will pay the price.

As for the German government, they do a good job of educating the young generation. But until recently, they did a horrible job of going after Nazis. Obviously it’s too little, too late, but now they’re trying to bring them to justice.


Dov Landau, Holocaust survivor and sought-after lecturer

The younger generations of Germans are ashamed and pained that their grandparents killed 6 million people. They feel it as being in their interest, even more than in ours, to bring the remaining Nazis to justice — to save their name, so that it shouldn’t be disgraced forever. Every young person asks me if I am a relative of the Judge Landau who sentenced Eichmann to death.

We, personally, do not need to take revenge. We should leave it to the younger generation of Germans to complete this work; we do not need to be involved in this.

We need to continue our relationship with the current government and the young generation.


Rav Yisrael Meir Lau, chief rabbi emeritus of Israel, Holocaust survivor and president of Yad Vashem

I think there’s a holy obligation to prosecute despite — or perhaps because of — their advanced age. Not for revenge or as punishment, but as a fulfillment of zachor and lo sishkach, as relates to the Amalek of our generation.

In the trial of Rudolf Kasztner, a leader of Hungarian Jewry, the whole State of Israel learned in a living way about the Holocaust. Regardless of his guilt, without the trial, the deaths of a million Hungarian Jews would have been forgotten.

When John Demjanjuk, a naturalized American citizen from Ukraine accused of being Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka, stood trial, he was already an old, ill man. Survivors testified, and through this the world heard about the events of Treblinka, where my father and 13-year old brother Shmuel Hy”d were killed.

Therefore, every trial like this is important, not only for the mitzvas aseh of zachor, but also to preserve until the last generation the kiddush Hashem, the lesson of how to act in the darkest times.

 

Dr. Doron Rubin, president of the Kehal Adath Jisroel community, Berlin

 The importance of these trials is that although 70 years is obviously a long time ago, German society makes clear that they’re still responsible... (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 691)

Related Stories

Inside Israel: The Changing Battlefield of the Golan Heights

Eliezer Shulman

New bullies in Israel’s ’hood as ISIS joins Iran to the north

Metro&Beyond: Trump's New Tax Bill: Good for the Jews?

Jacob Kornbluh

Buy now, pain later? How Trump’s tax bill impacts observant Jews

Face to Face with Emanuele Giaufret

Binyamin Rose

EU Ambassador Emanuele Giaufret: “Everyone recognizes the connection of the Jewish People with Jerus...

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
The Fortunes of War
Rabbi Moshe Grylak We’re still feeling the fallout of the First World War
Some Lessons, But Few Portents
Yonoson Rosenblum What the midterms tell us about 2020
Vote of Confidence
Eyan Kobre Why I tuned in to the liberal radio station
5 out of 10
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Top 5 Moments of the Kinus
Day in the Life
Rachel Bachrach Chaim White of KC Kosher Co-op
When Less is More
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman How a good edit enhances a manuscript
It’s My Job
Jacob L. Freedman “Will you force me to take meds?”
They’re Still Playing My Song?
Riki Goldstein Yitzy Bald’s Yerav Na
Yisroel Werdyger Can’t Stop Singing
Riki Goldstein Ahrele Samet’s Loi Luni
Double Chords of Hope
Riki Goldstein You never know how far your music can go
Will Dedi Have the Last Laugh?
Dovid N. Golding Dedi and Ding go way back
Battle of the Budge
Faigy Peritzman Using stubbornness to grow in ruchniyus
The Challenging Child
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Strategies for raising the difficult child
Bucking the Trend
Sara Eisemann If I skip sem, will I get a good shidduch?
The Musician: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "If she can't read she'll be handicapped for life!"