Thursday 24th of November 2005
Germany is holding a series of events this month marking the 60th anniversary of the Nuremberg trials, where its Nazi leaders were convicted of crimes against humanity.
The media is currently awash with news stories, plays and articles about the end of the Second World War and the War Crimes trial which exposed Germany’s leaders at their worst. Children are taught about the Holocaust at schools, religious and political leaders remind the world about the evils of Nazism, the dangers of being a passive bystander on the sidelines of evil and the perils of the new right in Europe. And yet. And yet . . .
And yet, there remain those who question the need to remember the past – specifically, the destruction of European Jewry. We’ve heard it all before, they opine. We all know about it. Why do you need to keep reminding us?
It looks like a fair comment, indeed; are we in Holocaust remembrance overkill? After all, it did happen a very long time ago, most of the people concerned are dead and we really do have to look to the future. Why do we need the Lord Janners of the world telling us about their part in the Nuremberg trials? We are sure he is a first class chap, but that’s the past – there’s a new generation, isn’t there?
Yes, there is a new generation – nearly two, in fact – which has grown up in the shadow of Germany’s Nazi past.
It is precisely because of men like David Irving that people like Lord Janner and the late Simon Wiesenthal continued to fight to keep it in the public memory. For when a revisionist and proven Holocaust-denier like Irving continues to pursue his own fantasy agenda, in the very country of Austria that was arguably the birthplace of Nazism, we know we must continue to remember.
As Lord Janner writes: “What then have we learned from the Nazi crimes and the Nuremberg trials? Not enough. From the former Yugoslavia to Rwanda, from Sierra Leone to Darfur, mass murders have continued. We must remember the evil past, both to recognise it in the present and to strive to prevent it in the future. At least the Nuremberg trials brought justice for a few – and lessons to be learnt by us all.”