As we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Nuremberg trials, at which selected Nazi leaders were placed in the dock, we must ask some disturbing questions about those who were never tried for their complicity in the world’s worst genocide. It would have been impossible to carry out the mass murder of so many people without the complicity of so many governments, groups, and individuals. Perhaps there were too many guilty parties to put them all on trial, but it is not too late to hold the guilty morally accountable for what they did and failed to do.
To be sure, the guiltiest individuals were the Nazi leaders who directly planned and implemented the final solution. Their goal was to in gather Jews from all over the world in order to kill them and to destroy what they regarded as the “Jewish race”. They came very close to succeeding, wiping out nearly all of Europe’s Jews in a relatively brief period of time. These Nazi leaders had the help of many “willing executioners,” both in Germany and in the countries under its control. Among the worst culprits were individual Lithuanians, Latvians, Hungarians, Slovaks, Poles, Ukrainians, and others. There were some heroes among these groups and they are justly remembered and honored. But the number of villains far exceeded the number of heroes.
Then there were the guilty governments that cooperated and helped facilitate the deportations and round-ups. The French government deported more Jews than the Nazis demanded. Other governments, including those of Norway, Holland and Hungary, also helped the Nazis achieve their genocidal goal. Bulgaria and Denmark, on the other hand, declined to cooperate with the Nazi genocide, and their small Jewish populations were saved.
There were also the countries that refused to accept Jews who might have escaped the Nazis had they been permitted to enter. These countries include the United States, Canada, and many other potential places of asylum that shut their doors. In the United States and Canada too, there were heroes who pressed their leaders to do more, but for the most part they failed.
Many Arab and Muslim leaders also played ignoble roles, siding with the Nazis and conducting their own pogroms against local Jews. The leading villain in this regard was the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who joined Hitler in Berlin and played a hands-on role in sending Jews to their deaths and in keeping the doors of Palestine closed to Jewish refugees.
Could more have been done by Britain and the United States to end the genocide? Could they have bombed the rail line to Auschwitz and other death camps? These are complex questions that have been asked but not satisfactorily answered since 1945.
Read the Remainder at Gate Stone Institute