In the Shadow of Germany’s Legacy

Nuremberg rounded out the backdrop of Nazi history. Having previously watched the clips of the Nuremberg trial, sitting in the actual courtroom was bittersweet. Coming from Dachau, I was left with the “kill’em all” perspective. Then, the decorum of courtroom 600 reminded me of the need for the rule of law and that lawlessness and vigilantism is what allowed places like Dachau to prosper in the first place. It was bittersweet because no Nazi could convince me that they didn’t know what they were doing was wrong. Again, I found myself incensed with anger and hatred toward those who participated.

The number of the leadership that were actually sentenced to death didn’t even seem just. Even with the application of due process extended to such monsters and given the severest penalty, still did not compare to the absolute horrors that they directed. How could justice be applied? To be honest, if all participating Nazis who helped exterminate the innocent were hanged, I think justice would still fall short. I mean to say that even with death sentences, it can’t undo crimes.

When the allies initially began discussing how they should proceed with the Nazi leadership, I believe that Connecticut Senator Thomas J. Dodd’s plan on providing a fair and legal trial for the Nazi’s was the best route. What it symbolized was that the world community would not stoop to the level of the inhuman, evil policies of the Nazis. By providing a fair trial it demonstrated that regardless of who the defendants were, the necessity and submission to the rule of law was how the civilized world must act; even in the face of evil. I believe it set a tone as to how we, as world community, must conduct ourselves. This dark chapter in human history truly facilitated the construction of the international court systems. Understanding that atrocities like this can never be tolerated again and, at the very least, hold those accountable who may try, helps facilitate the continued establishment of the rule of law.

The Hague demonstrated the continued work to ensure a law abiding global community as well as a system to hold those accountable for engaging in international criminal activity. The ICC was evidently quite engaged in holding violators of war crimes accountable. Its mission is to ensure that mistakes of Germany’s past aren’t repeated. Although ICC’s mission statement may not highlight Germany’s dark history as the precedent for instituting an “ICC,” the cases that they undertake have a direct similarity of those we saw in Nazi Germany.

While analyzing the big picture, I was saddened at the reminder of how quickly the U.S. and NATO responded to places like Kosovo and Serbia but how the world community was slow in intervening in places like Rwanda. It’s a reminder that crimes against humanity continue to occur, but we don’t always jump to intervene.

In the 21st century, you would think that we have become more civilized. But looking at events like the attempt of the twin towers in 1994, 9/11, the Iraqi war, ISIS, etc. it’s unnerving to think that in the shadow of Germany’s legacy, we still have a long way to go.

– JMS

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