How Perpetrators of the Holocaust Cheated Justice and Truth
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Review by Gerhard L. Weinberg
At a session during the January 2011 meeting of the American Historical Association, one of the speakers distributed to those in attendance Xerox copies of the fake identification paper provided by a Roman Catholic bishop to Franz Stangl, former head of the Treblinka extermination center, so that he could escape to South America. Stangl was eventually extradited to West Germany, tried and jailed, but how and why did this take so long? In this book, readers have the opportunity to follow the developments in the years after World War II that made it possible for most of those who had played active roles in the systematic murder of Jews to evade trial and punishment altogether or to suffer delayed and slight justice. The author also shows by reference to those trials that were held how the perpetrators originated in their own defense many of the arguments that would become a part of the stock in trade of those who deny or minimize the Holocaust.
By first describing the careers of Holocaust perpetrators—whether famous, like Hermann Goering, or known primarily to specialists, like Werner Best—and then recounting their fate in the postwar years, McKale provides the reader with an opportunity to follow their lives and the real or non-existent pursuit of justice. The context of German and Austrian societies largely eager to forget, judiciaries reluctant to take horrendous crimes seriously, and Cold War shifts on both sides toward leniency and even employment of perpetrators is thoughtfully described. The initial interest of the Americans and the reluctance of the British to conduct trials, the early and the routinized trials by the Soviets, the contrast between a few trials in Poland and the pogroms there against Jews trying to return to their homes, and the lengthy efforts by a tiny number of concerned individuals to find and bring to trial those like Eichmann and Mengele, who had escaped to Syria and South America, are all covered here on the basis of comprehensive research.
The author makes a point of showing that essentially all who had played an active part in the killing of vast numbers whose only crime had been their birth never expressed the slightest degree of regret or remorse. They had done what they were supposed to do, and they thought it either entirely proper or of no moral significance. McKale also suggests that the general indifference to the issue at the time contributes to the maintenance and revival of virulent anti-Semitism into the present time. Anyone interested in a major horror of the 20th century and how so many who played significant roles in it came to live out their lives in a way they had denied to their victims will find an enlightening but sobering account here.
Hardcover Book : 448 pages
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Pub Group ( January 16, 2012 )
Item #: 13-545663
Product Dimensions: 6.0 x 9.0 x 1.12inches
Product Weight: 22.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
This book is an interesting read about horrible individuals and the criminal state they served...and sadly, how most escaped justice for their horrendous deeds. That being said, I found it distracting that the author constantly (seemed like every couple paragraphs) felt it necessary interject his person sentiments on the subjects on which he is writing and the state they served. I think we can all agree the men and women chronicled in this narrative are the worst that humanity has to offer. I don't need to be constantly told that very fact by the author.
Let the facts and narrative speak for themselves. If you want to write an opinion piece, write an opinion piece. A 5 star story with a 2 star execution.