Escaping Justice

David Nicholas Wilkinson (THE FIRST FILM) was kind enough to let us see his new documentary, GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER(S), which is an impressive piece indeed. Yes, it’s another Holocaust documentary, but the areas it probes and the questions it asks seem both fresh and urgent — even if there’s very little we can do about Nazis who escaped justice now. It’s more about making sure it never happens again.

I think I had vaguely assumed that the high-up Nazis mostly got what was coming to them, and that a bunch of technical experts escaped punishment due to Operation Paperclip and the like poaching them for the US space program, defence, etc. I understood that many lower-down officers got away Scot-free because there wasn’t an appetite for charging that many war criminals. What emerges horribly is that thousands of mass-killers evaded prosecution or conviction despite compelling evidence, due to a whole array of systemic problems — issues of jurisdiction, time limits, fine print and red tape — but these problems could all have been overcome had there been the will to do it. There were failures everywhere — it’s infuriating that Brazil and Argentina sheltered fugitive Nazis, but Mengele for instance was able to openly visit his home town in Germany without anyone notifying the police. Britain didn’t vet refugees coming in after the war, and thus absorbed a large but uncertain number of Nazis and then never bothered to investigate them afterwards — it was deemed simply to expensive. Both East and West Germany were disastrous. In West Germany the judiciary were often sympathetic to the killers they were trying. Austria had so little luck prosecuting war crimes that they found it less embarrassing to simply stop doing it.

Wilkinson travels about, listening to legal experts, visiting the sites of atrocities and memorials, and every few minutes another case history of grotesque crimes is read into the record, with no legal repercussions for the perpetrators. In some cases, the argument that genocide was legal at the time of the Third Reich was accepted as an excuse.

Over the film’s brisk three-hour running time the jaw hits the floor with sufficient regularity to wear a hole in the carpet. With certain historic crimes it’s necessary to regularly replenish one’s outrage: David’s film is an excellent way of doing that.

The doc has screenings scheduled up and down the UK which you can check out here; annoyingly, there’s no way for the public to stream it yet — if you have the power to do something about that, please contact Guerrilla Docs.

3 Responses to “Escaping Justice”

  1. architekturadapter Says:

    It took me a while to find the time to watch the Hannah Arenth feature. Thank you very much DE for the link !!

    I hope to be able to see “Getting away with murder(s)” soon. The argument in Germany always was : if we judge all the people involved, (nearly) no one will remain to get the country going. A questionable argument not to judge war/nazi criminals.
    Left wing terrorism in Germany (Baader-Meinhof) was partly born out of the fact that too many nazis escaped from justice …

  2. David Wilkinson’s documentary makes it clear that though there were certainly thousands of mass-murderers who could and should have been prosecuted, most of them were not essential to the functioning of the country/countries, and they were nowhere near numerous enough to have created serious social problems through their arrest and prosecution. The time to have done it would have been right away…

    Reading the history it’s quite clear that Germany’s tragedy was getting the desperate social conditions that made Hitler’s power-grab possible. The prejudice he exploited existed everywhere, and had Britain suffered a similar economic collapse a Hitler would have been quite possible here.

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