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Why we should care about the last Nazis

This week, Facebook finally banned Holocaust denial material on its platforms, a move described as ‘long overdue’. Here, Miranda Levy examines why the dreadful legacy of National Socialism is still relevant today.

Antisemitism – which has never really gone away – seems to have returned to current discourse, particularly among some nationalist European populations…

Summer 1941, and the German invasion of Lithuania is progressing apace. ‘K’, an 18-year old local from the town of Raseiniai, is enthusiastically doing some dirty work in the name of the Nazis.

From her hiding place in the hay, a Jewish woman called Dina Flum watches K’s activities in horror. At the end of the War, she will tell a researcher: ‘I saw very clearly two women at the pit murdering Jewish babies by smashing their heads with a rock. One of them was the student, K.’ The other was unidentified.

‘K’ would be 97 years old now. And according to ‘Nazi hunter’ Efraim Zuroff (yep, we still have a Nazi hunter), ‘K’ is possibly alive and well in Canada. Zuroff just needs to put together some pieces of the puzzle before he can set justice in motion.

In his storied 42-year Nazi-hunting career, Zuroff has investigated 3,000 suspected war criminals, and brought 40 of those cases to trial. In my piece for the Telegraph Magazine today you can read more about Efraim Zuroff, the race to find ‘K’ before she dies, and the other perpetrators of genocide that he’s spent a lifetime chasing.

But here, from my article, some important points. Some readers may ask: is there really any point in prosecuting such a very old woman, who committed her crimes literally a lifetime ago? On this point, Zuroff was forceful. He has no time for what he calls ‘misplaced sympathy syndrome.’ ’One’, he says: ‘the passage of time does not diminish guilt. Don’t think of a frail, old man or woman, but a young person in their physical prime, killing kids.’ And also of their friends and children who are currently protecting them.

There is no statute of limitations of genocide. And Zuroff insists he owes it to the victims to bring whoever is left to justice. ‘These monsters had no sympathy for their victims, some of whom were older than they are now,’ he says. According to Zuroff the defence of: ‘I was just obeying orders’ has only ever once been accepted by a court – right back in the earliest trials, never to be repeated.

Most alarmingly, he insists that no Nazi war criminal has ever said they were sorry. What, no remorse, ever? ‘Two Germans expressed regret, one just before he was sentenced,’ says Zuroff. ‘A Croatian camp commandant laughed when receiving his conviction and said: “I would do it again: let’s finish the job.” I know this is hard to believe, but the War created a set of geopolitical circumstances that allowed normal people to become killers. And the reason there are so many left is because people without a conscience don’t feel stress, and they tend to live longer.

‘I am the only Jew in the world who prays for the good health of Nazis.’

As the last Nazis die out, Jews – and their friends around the world – are fighting to preserve the memory of these horrific crimes. ‘Never again,’ we vow. But antisemitism – which has never really gone away – seems to have returned to current discourse, particularly among some nationalist European populations.

Even in the moderate, tolerant Western World, there are murmurs around antisemitism. It was referenced repeatedly in the Labour party’s Corbyn years, and also in elements of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Left-wingers don’t deny the Holocaust, exactly. They actively question how many Jews died, and say that Jews are no better than the Nazis, because of what they are doing to the Palestinians. They also think that we Jews talk about it too much, and that the genocide of six million Jewish people was no worse than any other historical forms of racism – which of course were also inexcusable. And, some left-leaning antisemites do share sympathies with this particular form of fascism – they just dress them up as being anti-Israel.

But this is a big subject, for another day. (If you are interested, here is a brilliant essay about it by my friend, the journalist and activist Nicole Lampert).

No-one honestly fears another mechanised slaughter of millions of people.

But antisemitism – which reached its vile zenith with National Socialism, is still with us, and probably always will be.

Not for nothing is it known as the ‘oldest hatred.’

Photo credit: Erna Wallisch was allegedly a female guard in two Nazi concentration camps, but despite several trials was never convicted

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Miranda Levy

Miranda Levy is a journalist and author of more than 25 years’ experience. Starting out on magazines including Cosmopolitan and New Woman (RIP), Miranda then hacked it at the Daily Mail and Sunday Mirror before heading back to glossies and the launches of GLAMOUR and Grazia. She had two babies, wrote the Rough Guide to Babies in 2006, and became editor of Mother & Baby, where she was twice nominated for a British Society of Magazine Editors award. Now a freelance writer, Miranda covers many topics - but particularly health – mainly for the Daily Telegraph. She has written for many titles including the Spectator, the Jewish Chronicle and the New York Post. Miranda’s new book, The Insomnia Diaries: How I Learned To Sleep Again, is out on June 10th.

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