Guilt of genocide is ineradicable, Germany schools Israel on Gaza

Germany’s criminal law has for long now forbidden public denial of the Holocaust and disseminating Nazi propaganda, both off- and on-line. 

This now has ramifications for the exercise of certain rights. All this has emerged from the guilt Germany feels in respect of the killing of six million Jewish persons, during the Second World War (1939-1945). This is called the Holocaust.

What Germany is really telling Israel is: “We, Germany, have carried the guilt for the Holocaust for eighty years from 1945 onwards. We have given you, Israel, financial reparations, we have supported you unquestioningly even when you may be doing things which may be contrary to international humanitarian law, we shield you with our vote when others condemn you. But still our guilt remains.

“It cannot be expiated by any of these steps we have taken for eighty years. So, we are imposing these ramifications to show you ‘we are you’, (a variant you may say of “Ich bin eine Tel Aviver.”

This guilt is unbearable. We too thought it was enough to believe you were animals: see our political party posters brought about by Herr Joseph Goebbels, and Himmler’s descriptions (Nuremberg Documents). On the strength of this belief and descriptions, we too thought it was enough to seek the most desirable ‘solution’ to protect ourselves. Only to end up with this unbearable guilt. We have also learnt that the guilt for attempted genocide is ineradicable. It may be there even after another eighty years. Just as the killing of even only one of any people to further genocide is genocide, so too the survival of even one person is the failure of any Final Solution.

And it is a historical fact over many intentional genocides, that there will be survivors. The convictions in the Nuremberg Trials were as often founded on the evidence of survivors as on incriminating documents of the Nazis themselves: see the convictions on the Lidice Massacre in Czechoslovakia, meant to be total, but leaving three survivors who were able to testify. And based on these witnesses’ tested evidence, sound convictions followed.

It is also a moot point now whether gas or air attacks are the more efficient methods if such aims become state policy.  The methods are in service of the breach of the same principle of the faiths of both policies.

We Christians, shattered the Commandment, Thou Shalt Not Kill (Exodus 20:13), which commandments are shared by you through Moses, who brought them down from the mountain top near you.  If you go to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC in the US, you will find the same prohibition put up in the following words: “Thou Shalt Not Be A Victim, Thou Shalt Not Be A Perpetrator; Above All, Thou Shalt Not Be A By-Stander.”  

One day, possibly thirteen years from now, (like 1945 from 1933), there may be trials of persons, in similar symbolism, to echo the sites where the decisions on Gaza were taken. Because Nuremberg also underlined the continued futility of the lust for killing by anybody.

We also look back in Germany, as there were such Germans at home or in exile, and ask ourselves why we did not listen within ourselves to others than those in power.

And why you are unable to understand why your own nominee as Ad Hoc Judge on the International Court of Justice hearing of South Africa’s Application voted against Israel on one of the issues.

There are still many honourable Israelis, filled not with convenient hatred of Palestinians, but still filled instead 74 years later, with the ideals of the founding of Israel.

And who understand that the call of ‘Never Again’ protects not only one people, but all peoples, any peoples, anywhere. 

If we listen carefully to this Ad Hoc Judge nominee, the great jurist, Ahron Barak, Israel’s former Chief Justice, who showed the world in January, and long before, how to be patriotic as well as honourable.

Then together we may expiate such guilt, by defending and quickly saving any peoples who find themselves as Jews were in 1945 or Palestinians are in 2024. 

Or we may soon be together for another reason –  the start of sharing the same unbearable and ineradicable guilt, though about different victims, for eighty more years and so on, and so on …” This is what Germany is really saying. 

The writer is senior counsel