Michael White, writing on the Guardian’s website, argues that John Demjanjuk, currently on trial in Munich, should not be. Demjanjuk is accused of involvement in the murder of thousands at the Sobibor death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland during the war; Michael White’s argument is that it was all a long time ago, there’s nothing more to learn about the death camps, that Demjanjuk was at most a small cog in the murderous Nazi machine, and that he’s already been acquitted in Israel.

They’re fair enough arguments. In other circumstances, I might agree with him. What makes my view different is the fact that this trial is taking place in Germany. Can you imagine the reaction of liberal writers elsewhere had Germany decided it should not seek Demjanjuk’s extradition or prosecute him? People in Britain are in my experience very ready to point the finger at Germany and Austria if they show any apparent laxity in dealing with the Nazi past. I’m not troubled by that. But we can’t have it both ways, and also insist they go easy on the likes of Demjanjuk or David Irving when their severity troubles our liberal consciences. We must make up our minds whether or not we want Germany to compromise on this kind of thing.

I back any German measures aimed at tackling the Nazi past or neo-Nazism, and I am pleased this trial is taking place. As is clear from the DW World report I linked to earlier, Demjanjuk will be robustly defended and arguments based on his health and double jeopardy will be considered by the court. Michael White can also rest assured that, whatever else happens, Germany will not “string up” Demjanjuk.

2009-12-02T17:17:08+00:00Tags: , , |