Genocide and Accountability: Three Public Lectures by Simone Veil, Geoffrey Nice, Alex Boraine

Genocide and Accountability: Three Public Lectures by Simone Veil, Geoffrey Nice, Alex Boraine

Genocide and Accountability: Three Public Lectures by Simone Veil, Geoffrey Nice, Alex Boraine

Genocide and Accountability: Three Public Lectures by Simone Veil, Geoffrey Nice, Alex Boraine

Excerpt

In her opening statements at the inaugural ceremony of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Simone Veil, survivor of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, and now president of the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah, asserts that the “Shoah was not supposed to leave a single witness, nor be a part of History”. Nevertheless these pages in history have been recorded, and told and retold by survivors and others. Knowledge of the facts led to acknowledgement, and Auschwitz became synonymous with absolute evil. In the aftermath of the Nuremberg Trials, the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was approved. The words `never again' came into universal usage. The words did not translate into deeds; they did not stand for prevention, as is generally known.

There remain many lessons to be learned by continued and intensive study of the Shoah, and material is still being gathered. The newly opened archives in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union will offer insight into the operation of the death camps. They will also surely raise new questions on the functioning of the Nazi (and Soviet) terror mechanism, since Jews were sometimes simply massacred in public view, rather than behind barbed wire or closed doors. Among the key issues addressed so poignantly by Simone Veil are not only how the Holocaust could come about and gain support, and how one act led to another, but how mankind could possibly come to the `Final Solution'. Madame Veil implores historians and others to treat the Holocaust as a unique phenomenon, because “the history of the Shoah suffices unto itself”.

As we recoil from the enormity and savagery of the Shoah, we are forced to acknowledge that it was not only committed by demons, but by many ordinary people. Under some circumstances, their inhumane behavior is all too human. One constraint on inhumane behavior is to increase the risk, a remedy that may be provided by the legal system.

Geoffrey Nice, Principal Trial Attorney of the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), grappled with some of these issues on a daily basis as he stood across from Slobodan Milošević, once president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, now prisoner in a United Nations detention unit in Scheveningen, the Netherlands.

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