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During the years after the Second World War, the nations of the victors and the vanquished concentrated on rebuilding their economic and political infrastructures. They did too little to bring the Nazi perpetrators of the Holocaust and their accomplices to account. In large part, regrets for the murder of some six million Jews were crocodile tears. Europe continues to suffer today from this failure to rebuild the moral foundations of our civilisation.

Lodz ghetto, 1942: Toepfer profited from trade with Nazi administrators, seen here tormenting a Jewish victim (BPK)

This failure is a tragedy for the survivors, who now are in the final years of their lives and see a world and a European continent in which anti-Semitism is very much alive. According to a poll published in March 2011 by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, 49 per cent of respondents in Germany agreed with the statement that "Jews try to take advantage of having been victims during the Nazi era." In Hungary, Poland and Portugal, the percentage was even higher.

All the peoples of the Continent, especially the communities of the perpetrators, are the losers from such feelings. Without justice for the victims of the Holocaust there is little hope for a sustainable ethical and legal order. Declarations such as the European Convention on Human Rights will mean very little if they are a facade for the reality that political, economic and religious leaders of the European Continent connived at allowing most of the mass murderers of the Jews to escape scot free.

On May 5, 1949, the British authorities put their signatures to the Statute of the Council of Europe with its public commitment to justice and the rule of law. At that very time, they were privately protecting high-level Nazis because they were useful as anti-Soviet spies.

 The price for bringing West Germany into the family of democratic nations was to grant an early release to those convicted of butchery. The election of Konrad Adenauer as Chancellor depended on his success in persuading the US and the UK to agree to the large-scale rehabilitation of generals, senior functionaries, businessmen, bankers, academics and doctors who had been active in the service of Hitler.

So the war crimes trials of Nazis were effectively abandoned under the pressures of the Cold War. Tom Bower has documented this in his devastating book Blind Eye to Murder.

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September 1st, 2011
5:09 PM
Nothing has changed. Germany just went quiet for a while.

Frank Adam
August 21st, 2011
10:08 AM
I was a teenager in the 50's and remember all this for real as well as the Americans in Reader's Digest etc trying to persuade us the Germans had been hard done to by the Russians when there were still bomb sites across my patch of London. Also becaus eof the Cold War and to act up to the Arabs the Eisenhower Admin refused to move its embassy to Jerusalem nor did it lean on the Arabs to fulfil their UN Charter obligations to recognise Israel and lay off harrassment. We are still paying the price for that short term blinkered policy in tha the Arabs think that for the oil and UN votes they can get away with political guttersnipe behaviour.

Roy Weston
August 19th, 2011
4:08 PM
It was once suggested that 16 million Germans could have been charged with involvement in the Holocaust. Of course, it was never suggested how 16 million people could be put on trial, but that was never the point. The point was that if a large enough figure could be established, that would guarantee that justice could never be done, then it could always be claimed that justice never was done and could be used as a reminder every time interest in the Holocaust was in decline. This article seems to be just a variation of that theme.

August 15th, 2011
3:08 PM
Michael Pinto-Duschinsky is to be congratulated on his perseverance, although starting-off with a summary of the case might have been useful. Entrenched financial interest and the passage of time are two powerful forces of inertia to overcome, and there are, surely, numerous Toepfers out there in Europe, Asia and Africa. There have been too many instances of mass murder, and there are lessons to be learned for humanity's sake. But it gets progressively harder to learn them. There are two parts to making it happen. 1. is extracting the evidence. 2. is making it count. 1. is of limited value without 2., and I wonder whether there might be a way of leveraging the effect of work such as Michael's. For instance, adapting the Fairtrade playbook, one might consider creating a seal of approval for organisations which have had the courage to discuss their roles openly and a seal of disapproval for those which have not and publicising them both. The act of burdening a corporate brand with a seal of disapproval widens the circle of those who perceive the corporation as having a case to answer, and it creates a focus for discussing the issues which, in these times of corporate social responsibility, can be difficult to ignore. Anyway, this Walm Lane kid welcomes the Teignmouth Road kid's work.

Ian Mordant
August 8th, 2011
7:08 PM
No I don't agree with Ken Wilsher. Sure we brits are highly imperfect in our own record. of course we do not only have differences with the Germans; we have many similarities too. nevertheless the attempt to get at the truth in all its complexity and perplexity should always be pursued, especially in matters of mass murder. Should we, because say our involvement with slavery, also take no interest in the escape of mass murderers from Rwanda? I think not. I want them pursued, to the ends of the earth and back again. And increase our taxes by a penny in the pound if thats what it takes to pursue them. Ian Mordant

Ken Wilsher
July 6th, 2011
7:07 PM
Well it was rather hard to beat the Germans. In that war, Britain, where I was a child, killed hundreds of thousands of Germans - mostly civilians - in the attempt. When the war finished I think the British just wanted to forget the whole nasty, morally dubious mess. It was not a time for moral posturing. 60 years after, hard though it may be - move on - please!

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