Through research, I came to find the INTERNATIONAL MILITARY TRIBUNAL OF NUREMBERG, the documents outlining the rulings of the Nuremberg Trials held to prosecute war criminals after WWII. If the evidence had been available during this time, all war criminals would have been prosecuted during these trials. However, this was often not the case. Thus, today we must continue to seek the justice extended by these trials, as the elapsed time is no legal defence for the atrocities committed. We owe it to all the victims of war crimes to prosecute those responsible for the tremendous suffering they caused. Moreover, it is imperative to continue to prosecute war criminals to send a universal message to potential perpetrators that crime will never be tolerated or excused, and that with their actions will come severe repercussions. Exceptions are few and far between, and no get-out-of-jail-free card will be offered simply as a result of old age. Otherwise, individuals may continue to follow such policies, believing themselves safe from all retribution. Finally, by continuing to prosecute war criminals, we are bringing these events back into the spectrum of the public eye, reasserting how the appalling crimes of WWII were not the product of extraordinarily cruel individuals, but rather sometimes the ordinary actions of ordinary people. These war criminals may now be approaching 90 years old, but unlike the 11 million victims who were also confined to a cell for their last breaths, the trials of these war criminals are justified.
“I want to say that it disturbs me deeply that I was part of such a criminal organization. I am ashamed that I saw injustice and never did anything about it, and I apologize for my actions. I am very, very sorry.” Reinhold Hanning, convicted war criminal of WWII. Those condemned as war criminals, such as Hanning, were very young and of low rank during WWII, and often had no choice in committing war crimes. Either resist and be killed, or perform these acts under duress. Major figures responsible for the atrocities were sentenced in the Nuremberg Trials, thus justice today is nearly obsolete. To this degree, shouldn’t the townspeople who lived near the Holocaust camps and knew of their existence also be convicted for committing the same crimes of inaction? Little good will come from attempting to prosecute these individuals, almost equally entitled victims, after the great efforts they sought to move on and start anew. Now with new identities and unknowing grandchildren, great lengths must be taken today to prove that one is guilty of war crimes, as much hard evidence from WWII has been destroyed, and it is thus often very difficult to prove these war criminals either guilty or innocent. But these people are no longer of threat to our society; today there are higher priorities, greater perpetrator threats that our tax money should be spent on. So why dwell and rally for sympathy when Remembrance Day exists? One thing we have learned is that atrocities are driven by fanatical hatred, not common sense. “I just want him to hear from me […] what the consequences were of what he did at a young age, and let him reflect on it.” – Irene Weiss, victim of WWII war crime testifying at Hanning’s trial. It is time, at long last, to remember, lest we forget, and move on.
Where do you stand?