In a world in which the Holocaust denial has become an ideological banner of not just few people, and where anti-Semitic expressions have returned to the public sphere to the point where it has become normalized and acceptable in certain circles, the justice system needs to serve as a historical memory in the fight against anti-Semitism.
Last month, the German police arrested three suspects (one already confessed) of having served as SS guards at Auschwitz extermination camp and while working in that capacity, participated in the murder of countless human beings. According to the special commission for crimes of the Nazi era, the case of Zentrale Stelle could be similar to other investigations against at least another thirty people.
Auschwitz was liberated on January 27, 1945 (date designated by the UN to remember the victims of the Holocaust), and the arrested are aged at 88, 92 and 94 years old. In this context, a question arises: is it worth at this point, that the German authorities continue to investigate these crimes as the people involved are in advanced age?
The answer is yes, it is essential that these crimes are pursued, and that those responsible are brought to justice, no matter how much time has passed. The reasons for this are varied, but there are two main reasons why: (1) one turns to the past in search of justice, and (2) due to the resurgence of anti-Semitic sentiment.
On the first reason, is better explained by Dr. Efraim Zuroff , director of Simon Wiesenthal Center. According to him, the passage of time does not diminish in any way the guilt of the murderers. In addition, reaching an advanced age should not be a reason to protect those who collaborated in the largest genocide in the history of mankind. And also each of the Nazi victims deserves that an effort be made to bring their perpetrators to justice.
On the second reason on why they should be prosecuted, there are a lot of new data every day that anti-Semitism is becoming more prominent in the world. According to the report of Anti-Semitism Worldwide 2012 by Tel Aviv University (TAU ), the number of attacks against Jews, ranging from threats, unarmed attacks, vandalism, fires and even attacks by weapons, has shown a fluctuating pattern but clearly upward in the past 25 years, reaching a climax in 2009.
As been stressed in Fight Hatred, it should be noted that the greatest increase in these incidents occurred in especially developed European countries (France, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Ukraine), and the Anglo-Saxon world (USA, UK, Canada and Australia). In a survey by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights held in late 2013, for example, two thirds of respondents (Jews from eight European countries that account for 90% of the community) confirmed that anti-Semitism is a problem in their country, 76 % perceives that this situation has worsened in recent years and will continue to do, 46 % said there was a concern about the possibility of being harassed verbally in public, and one-third suffer some kind of physical attacks, while 57 % reported having seen or heard anyone deny or minimize the reality of the Holocaust during the last year.
All this, in a continent that less than seven decades ago witnessed the murder of six million Jews, and again today, in 2014, many fearing for their lives, as the number of French Jews who have decided to do aliyah has recently increased by 58% (from 2011 to 2012) motivated by anti-Semitic attacks in their country. However, the problem is global. The Anti -Defamation League, in line with the TAU data systematically reported incidents in Latin American countries such as Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, Chile, Peru , and Mexico, and even in such seemingly unlikely places like Japan, where in January and February of this year some 200 books about Anne Frank ( including copies of her famous diary ) have been vandalized in various libraries.
It is in this scenario that the prosecution of Nazi war criminals should proceed, even 69 years later. It is also a moral debt to the victims, so justice can be done. But above that is the needed reminder of the horrors of the Holocaust as people seem to forget rapidly the lessons of the past. The act itself is an essential testimony about the Holocaust, and that, unlike those SS guards, anti-Semitism has not aged, nor seems likely to die soon.
By Aramis Kinciño, summarized and translated by Carla Hamoy