Poll: Should old concentration camp guards be prosecuted for crimes long ago?
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View poll results: Should old concentration camp guards be prosecuted for crimes long ago?
Yes
15 33%
No
30 67%
Voters: 45.
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#1
Is it fair and right to prosecute those involved with concentration camps and the holocaust in the 1940s?

I just saw some stuff on a 93 year old man being prosecuted for working in a concentration camp back in the day, as an accoountant. This comes off the back of a Lord in the UK not being put on trial because he is old and has dementia for child sex crimes.

I am split on this issue. Whilst I believe criminals should be brought to justice, I find it very hard to justify putting someone at the very end of their lives through the hell of a court trial, especially if mentally they're not there, with the case of dementia and Alzheimer's being ever more common.

That's in addition to the sketchy nature of the holocaust in general, where the people above you are evil and it's your life vs another human beings, where not carrying out your orders might get you and your family shot. It just doesn't sit right to me.

I believe that in cases like this there should be an inquest to determine guilt for the peace of mind of the victims, but we shouldn't be chucking 90 year olds with dementia into prison for "crimes" they committed 70 years ago. It's also tough because prison is supposed to be rehabilitory, and how can you rehabilitate someone who is so old and is probably going to die very soon?

What is your opinion?

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Last edited by EndTheRapture51 at Apr 23, 2015,
#2
Honestly I don't think it's a yes or no. Participating in such activities (crimes) is certainly an enabling of the system, and often involves a degree of complicity with it, but it wasn't unheard of for low-level dissidents to disappear. The line between trying to survive on a wage, wilfully enabling out of spite, etc is a very, very blurry one, and should probably be a case-by-case thing.

Many German soldiers were uninformed and/or taken by propaganda and/or just trying to support their families.
#3
No. You said it yourself. They were merely doing what they were ordered to do and the consequences of refusing orders were being shot. They cannot be reprimanded for just trying to survive in a situation outside of their control, even if that means they're enabling the injustice.
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#4
It would be pointless. Prison is for rehabilitation, or if someone is a danger to society. A 93 year old man isn't going to be a danger to society, and probably won't even remember his actions entirely. If they were just an accountant or cook or something of that nature, they wouldn't need to be rehabilitated at all.
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#5
If they can be than anyone in the US army who's ever killed someone needs to be as well.
#6
yeah we should probably spend more money arresting literally every single living nazi because a lot of them were just following orders
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#7
They just followed orders breh.
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#8
The banality of evil. Eichmann himself used it in his trial.
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#9
I've always felt like the "They were just following orders" defense lost a lot of impact when virtually everyone, even high-ranking Nazi officials who were very clearly giving the orders, used that as their explanation during the Nuremberg trials.

It's a case-by-case thing as far as I'm concerned. In certain cases I'm fine with it; for example, if Josef Mengele was still alive, I'd be okay with him being put on trial even though he would be over a hundred years old because of how vile what he did was. But an accountant for a concentration camp is a bit far for me.
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#10
They should be acknowledged as taking part and all of that, but prosecuting someone when they're 90 just seems like a waste of everyone's time. Court's could be doing much better things, like going after neo-nazis/other shitheads like that
#11
I read an article about that 93 year old man as well (very well could have been the same one OP did, it has been shared around Facebook for a few days now), and I think that there is absolutely no reason he should be placed in jail. Even if he got a light sentence of, say, 5 years, he'd still be nearly 100 when released (assuming he lives that long).

If he is found guilty by a fair trial, alright that is fine, but jail time is just ridiculous.

To be honest, his options were probably along the lines of "do this or die/have your family killed etc."
#12
Of course they should be prosecuted. You don't take part in an extermination of a race and get away with it.
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#13
If I get someone to coherse me into making me kill someone, then I'm not guilty at all and shouldn't be punished. Good to know.
#14
Quote by I.O.T.M
Of course they should be prosecuted. You don't take part in an extermination of a race and get away with it.


If a gun is held to your head you do

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#15
Quote by EndTheRapture51
If a gun is held to your head you do

I think the 'they were just following orders, they had to do it!' defence is overstated and evades the reality that anti-semitism was a widespread sentiment in German culture.
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#16
I'll tentatively say yes, but I wanna know where Neo stands on this so I can be on the opposite side.

"They were just following orders" always seems like apologist BS to me.
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#17
also idc about this conversation cause all the surviving nazis are like a billion years old now, so whatever
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#18
An accountant? probably not

Guards, soldiers, etc? probably yea
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#19
Quote by I.O.T.M
I think the 'they were just following orders, they had to do it!' defence is overstated and evades the reality that anti-semitism was a widespread sentiment in German culture.


Germany wasn't anti-semitic as a whole though. The Jews were normal members of society in Germany before Hitler got in and started discriminating against them. You could also argue that his huge use of propaganda and false rhetoric meant that ordinary Germans were brainwashed.

But really, if you think about it, if you were put in the shoes of someone working at a concentration camp, what could you do? You could request a transfer out okay, but what else can you do? The system you're working in is effectively mass murdering millions without a conscience. What can one person do against that?

It would require incredible resolve. Most people would simply put their head down out of their own self-preservation instinct. Most people aren't Schindler.

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#20
Just leave them be. IMO it would be a waste of resources otherwise.
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#21
Quote by ErikLensherr
I'll tentatively say yes, but I wanna know where Neo stands on this so I can be on the opposite side.

"They were just following orders" always seems like apologist BS to me.

I think he should be put in jail ofcourse.
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#23
Quote by I.O.T.M
I think the 'they were just following orders, they had to do it!' defence is overstated and evades the reality that anti-semitism was a widespread sentiment in German culture.

It's obvious that you can't trial every german citizen and even then, it couldn't really be a subject for a trial, but most german people at the time were responsible for what happened because they simply let it happen. It's easier to say "Hitler and his gang were the only ones responsible for everything and the nation itself was just following orders", but Hitler wouldn't even rise to power if it wasn't for the german people. Hitler alone couldn't do shit if the entire nation wasn't backing him.

And don't give me that "the germans didn't know what was really going down in the camps" crap. Maybe most of the regular citizens didn't know that they were gassing prisioners straight off the trains, but they surely knew something dark was happening. Rumours spread like flies on a shitfarm.
Last edited by little_boy at Apr 23, 2015,
#24
yes if they were the ones doing the ordering
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#27
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I think he should be put in jail ofcourse.

Now I don't know

Actually yeah stick him in jail.
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#28
Quote by little_boy
It's obvious that you can't trial every german citizen and even then, it couldn't really be a subject for a trial, but most german people at the time were responsible for what happened because they simply let it happen. It's easier to say "Hitler and his gang were the only ones responsible for everything and the nation itself was just following orders", but Hitler wouldn't even rise to power if it wasn't for the german people. Hitler alone couldn't do shit if the entire nation wasn't backing him.

And don't give me that "the germans didn't know what was really going down" crap. Maybe most of the regular citizens didn't know that they were gassing prisioners straight off the trains, but they surely knew something dark was happening. Rumours spread like flies on a shitfarm.

No one stopped them from stripping Jews of their jobs and sending the jews to live in ghettos in the first place. The "we don't know they were moved to concentration camps". Don't believe that shit at all, but even if they didn't, there were multiple times in the 30s that people could have stood up for the jews but no one did. Hitler was elected TWICE.
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#29
I think there's a big difference between moral culpability and legal culpability and I think it sets a dangerous precedent to allow people to retrospectively apply new laws to times in which those laws did not exist.

What he did was legal under the legal system he was in. It's horrible, but that doesn't mean that he is a criminal.
#30
Quote by EndTheRapture51
Germany wasn't anti-semitic as a whole though. The Jews were normal members of society in Germany before Hitler got in and started discriminating against them. You could also argue that his huge use of propaganda and false rhetoric meant that ordinary Germans were brainwashed.

Of course not everyone in Germany was anti-semitic, but anti-semitism was rife in Germany pre-Nazism. Obviously it got worse under Hitler, but there needed to be that pre-existing anti-semitic feeling in order for him to exploit it.

Quote by EndTheRapture51
But really, if you think about it, if you were put in the shoes of someone working at a concentration camp, what could you do? You could request a transfer out okay, but what else can you do? The system you're working in is effectively mass murdering millions without a conscience. What can one person do against that?

It would require incredible resolve. Most people would simply put their head down out of their own self-preservation instinct. Most people aren't Schindler.

Whilst I'd obviously like to think that I'd do the right thing in the circumstances and refuse to be complicit, practically, it is more difficult. Even so, I think that, for war crimes, coercion should not be available as a defence as it is so grave. Any complicity in the murder of 6 million people is unforgivable. At most, it should be a mitigating factor in sentencing. This is assuming, of course, that he was in fact forced to do it against his will.
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#31
Quote by captainsnazz
tfw rapture refers to concentration camps as " "crimes" "


They were crimes but see the above post. Technically under German law at the time a lot of what was going on was "legal".

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#32
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What he did was legal under the legal system he was in. It's horrible, but that doesn't mean that he is a criminal.

Wow.
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#34
Quote by ErikLensherr
Wow.

turns out that although Mao could be considered bad or evil, what he did was within the legal bounds of China at that time

same with stalin, lenin, franco, kony, etc etc
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#35
Hitler got so many votes that I can't even believe how you can argue that anti-semitism wasn't a problem in that time. Do you think they just realized after he got in power what he was going to do?
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#36
Quote by EndTheRapture51
Another point to be made is that technically everything those involved in camps were doing to an extent was legal due to the existence of the Nuremberg Laws. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuremberg_Laws

Genocide is a violation of international law. As far as I'm aware, arguing that what you did was right by national laws is not a defence.
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#37
Quote by Neo Evil11
Hitler got so many votes that I can't even believe how you can argue that anti-semitism wasn't a problem in that time. Do you think they just realized after he got in power what he was going to do?

Most people seem to ignore that he was democratically elected. And that after the death of the Kaiser he just named himself the almighty Führer and no one did a thing.
#38
Quote by I.O.T.M
Of course not everyone in Germany was anti-semitic, but anti-semitism was rife in Germany pre-Nazism. Obviously it got worse under Hitler, but there needed to be that pre-existing anti-semitic feeling in order for him to exploit it.


Whilst I'd obviously like to think that I'd do the right thing in the circumstances and refuse to be complicit, practically, it is more difficult. Even so, I think that, for war crimes, coercion should not be available as a defence as it is so grave. Any complicity in the murder of 6 million people is unforgivable. At most, it should be a mitigating factor in sentencing. This is assuming, of course, that he was in fact forced to do it against his will.


I think it is a fairly complex moral issue as to what "forcing" is. This is Nazi Germany so whilst guards may have not been told "We'll shoot you and your family if you don't help us out", stuff like the SA, SS and Gestapo were a thing so it's not like there was no pressure . You were dealing with the Nazis here so it wasn't simply the case of "Oh, you don't wanna do this job okay that's fine". I would imagine it was a very scary time for a lot of people due to there being a war going on in addition. People would just do what they had to do to survive. Iraq for example was also a terrible thing and was an illegal war, but should ever member of the army be prosecuted for war crimes?

My main point is here is primarily justice related. I'm obviously no advocate of the holocaust as much as CaptainSnazz would like you to believe, but I believe in a justice system that rehabilitates criminals rather than punishes them. After 70 years, would a guard have come to terms and realised what he did was wrong? Yes, that's entirely possibly, he may even be haunted by the things he did. Is he a functioning member to society? Probably, yes. Is he in a position to let crimes like this be carried out again? No, probably not. Is there any benefit in throwing a 90 year old man, possibly losing his mind in jail? No, I don't think that is what the justice system should be about.

Carry out an inquiry into the situation, determine the guilt of the party, and if they are not likely to cause a risk to others, then say the person is guilty and let them live out the rest of their lives.

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#39
Quote by I.O.T.M
Genocide is a violation of international law. As far as I'm aware, arguing that what you did was right by national laws is not a defence.


Genocide was only made illegal in 1948. Can one prosecute for a law that did not exist at the time? Legally that's very sketchy and extremely open to abuse.

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#40
I think rehabilitation is an important part of prison for those who committed crimes that are not bad enough to warrant life in prison. A guy that was part of the death camps does not deserve to be let free in my opinion. So I couldn't care less about his rehabilitation.

^For ****s sake. I don't care if there was or was not a law against genocide. Anyone that commits it should be punished anyway.
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