Simon Kunz, 88, will be tried as a minor for abetting the deaths of over 430,000 people, mostly Polish Jews, while serving as a camp guard at Belzec in Poland. The reason why he will tried as a minor is because he was below the age of 21 at the time of the event. Simultaneously, the trial of 90 year old John Demjanjuk is also going on. Demjanjuk was at Sobibor also in Poland. (Poland had some of the deadliest extermination camps – Treblinka, Auschwitz, Trawinki besides Sobibor and Belzac. They were all set up as part of Operation Reinhard, the purpose being to exterminate all Polish Jews).
What this means is that Nazi hunting continues. Even if they are octogenarian or nonagenarian, these buggers are going to be picked up by the different Nazi hunters around the world (Simon Wisenthal Centre for one). There is even a list of most wanted Nazis still in circulation (Demjanjuk is no 1).
The shadow of Nazism and the Holocaust was revisited earlier this month with Oliver Stone and his statement on the need to contextualise Hitler. Rabbi Cooper of the Simon Wisenthal Centre writes a typically indignant response. Somewhere, one is rankled by the response by Cooper.
Ultimately, Stone’s “contextualizing” of Hitler and Stalin as not-such-terrible-guys with whom we could empathize not only casts an ugly revisionist shadow on the past, it could also disable our future resolve against mega-evil.
I don’t think there is anybody who is denying the atrocity of the Holocaust. Obviously there are a few nutcases like Ahmadinejad and the like but if you leave them aside, the average liberal person aware of history is by and large usually shocked and disgusted by the events.
However, this embargo on revisionism is something one must question. Revisiting history will have no effect on the notoriety of Hitler and Stalin and Mussolini and Franco and Salazar and Idi Amin and etc etc as they are all people whose demonic images will remain for ever because the weight of historical evidence that points it in that direction. Any “creative liberties” will remain purely a piece of fiction.
But there are many people, the citizens of the respective countries, who were herded by the force of the regimes to follow procedures and live in a particular way of life. It was a matter of survival. Their being treated as silent conspirators en masse is questionable. There are many like Max Planck who deserve to be remembered and against whom the tag “silent conspirator” cannot apply. But to be able to identify such folk, one must be allowed to revisit the old facts again.