The accused “were the cruel hangmen whose terror wrote the blackest page of human history. Death was their tool and life their toy.”
With these words Chief Prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz opened his address 75 years ago, to be precise on the 20th November 1945 at the main trial against the 22 major war criminals of World War II, which ended on the 1st October 1946. In a recent interview for German TV , Ferencz, today 100 years old, the only surviving Chief Prosecutor, stated that none showed any remorse.
With three exceptions, the accused were all found guilty. Twelve were sentenced to death, one in absentia, the rest to prison sentences from ten years to life.
The trial was indeed a break-through, as were the 12 following trials against doctors, lawyers, industrialists, government representatives, SS, police and the military, which ended on the 14th April 1949. They changed international law, so that even heads of state or so-called ‚desk perpetrators‘ are no longer immune. It enabled the creation of the International Court of Justice in the Hague. Human Rights and their violation became legal concepts.
It is a good thing that in this era, when the extreme right is in the ascendancy that these trials are called to mind. After all, the defence claimed at the time that the law was amended after the acts had taken place. Another defence argument was that the trial was nothing but the victors‘ revenge. In addition a Memorandum was compiled which created the legend that the army was pure. It had opposed Hitler’s party, the SS, had been against all his important decisions and had not permitted war crimes…
Such arguments had no doubt persisted in the minds of people in the course of time.
In the 1920s there was a Jewish joke that ‘Jews and cyclists are to blame for everything’. After the Shoah – the Holocaust – this joke was buried. And now the cyclists seem to have been forgotten, but the opinion that the Jews are to blame for everything is emerging again – you have got used to it well over 2000 years. So it was easy for conspiracy theorists to combine their rampant theories on Covid-19 with anti-Semitism: the Jews, Israel, the Rotschilds, the philanthropist George Soros are certainly behind this pandemic!
It is hard to fight. Logical argument as in all conspiracy beliefs, falls on barren ground.