Yom Hashoah, a time to consider double meaning of Nuremberg

Letter from: Auschwitz


March of the Living, the annual, 3km Holocaust memorial trek in Poland, is a vast human chain that snakes its way along a tarmac path between the Auschwitz and Birkenau death camps.

The march, taking place on Thursday with a crowd estimated to be around 10,000, is deliberately inclusive - schoolchildren, local Poles, Jews and non-Jews from all over the world take part - and it is not uncommon to hear songs celebrating Jewish freedom among the mixed crowd.

But speaking in Krakow the day before the march, Lord Dyson, head of Civil Justice in England and Wales, voiced his sense of "foreboding".

It was understandable. His great-uncle and his great-uncle's wife died in Auschwitz, and relatives on his father's side were also murdered during the Holocaust. "I have no idea how many members of his family perished, I'm sure many did," he said. His wife's uncle was deported to Auschwitz from France.

Lord Dyson's grandmother, who was from Budapest, spent six months at Bergen-Belsen and survived.

He said: "I'm apprehensive about how I can respond to [the march]. I felt for ages and ages that I should go and I never got around to it. I rather hope I do get emotional.

"I've been to many of these Holocaust museums. They always make me feel incredibly angry. You can never cease to be shocked by that."

On Wednesday, the organisers of March of the Living held a special conference, the Nuremberg Symposium, at Krakow's Jagiellonian University. The event, which commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials and the 80th anniversary of the creation of the Nuremberg Laws, gathered senior lawmakers, jurists and campaigners against antisemitism to analyse the Holocaust and extract lessons for the future.

The full title of the event was "The Double Entendre of Nuremberg: The Nuremberg of Hate, The Nuremberg of Justice", and discussions reflected the fact that while the Nuremberg Laws were a precursor to the Shoah, the trials served as a foundation for contemporary humanitarian law.

But despite the association of the Nuremberg trials with justice, they "only convicted the leaders and a relatively small number of people," retired Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz told newswire "Even for the trials that occurred thereafter, we're talking about just hundreds of people…and for years they were protected. And there's no statute of limitations on genocide and war crimes. So it's very important that everybody in the world who is contemplating committing genocide understand that they will never be able to live out their life without being held legally accountable."

In her speech, Israeli Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked questioned whether Europe has really learned lessons from the Holocaust.

Former Canadian attorney general Irwin Cotler expressed hope that the symposium would encourage parliamentarians from around the world to follow Canada's lead in officially recognising the link between anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

Mr Dershowitz, similarly, said it would be a step forward if more nations adopted the US State Department's definition of antisemitism, which acknowledges that antisemitism can include the demonisation of Israel, delegitimisation of Israel, and application of double standards to the Jewish state.

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