Getting Away With Murder(s)

Getting Away With Murder(s) asks the question why were the people who carried out the holocaust not brought to justice? Less than 1% of the people who participated in this mass murder were ever brought to trial. Of those, fewer were convicted, and even fewer adequately sentenced. It takes thousands of people to commit a genocide, why were they allowed to go free?

The TLDR of the film is lots of reasons, but primarily indifference. Whether antisemitism because it was Jews, or simply because it wasn’t *me*, the living were more concerned with their lives than the dead. Plus, history is always marching forward, and in the century of infinite war, the next one started almost before the old ended, with the Cold War absorbing everyone’s attention. And because the dead can do nothing for you, whereas the living can still be made useful. So those with power are not only able to kill their victims, and attempt to erase their crimes, but also benefit from the knowledge and skills they acquired doing so, to make themselves attractive to future employers and benefactors. Plus also, the state will always be very reticent to prosecute people for carrying out the orders of the state, no matter which state it is.

After watching this absolutely fascinating and utterly horrifying film, you are almost more impressed that they even prosecuted the ones they did. Because it was all uphill, with only surface-level shows of support, and resisted at every level of civil and political society. And it was seemingly mostly driven by pressure groups, activists, and a few well-placed firebrands like Fritz Bauer, Simon Wiesenthal, and Benjamin Ferencz. Literally without those pushing, absolutely nothing would have been done at all.

Politicians, civil servants, and police don’t like the idea that they might be prosecuted for the actions they carry out. Americans resisted the notion of prosecuting based on the violation of human rights, because they knew it might open themselves up for prosecution for the mistreatment and lynching of African-Americans. Ditto Britain for the many of its own subjects it had massacred and abused. There was a fear that by holding Nazis accountable, they were picking at a thread which might undo themselves.

But also, this is about widespread public outrage, and how the public appetite for justice is instrumental in seeing it done. Nothing gets done without it. This film shows how it takes thousands of people to make a genocide with their own hands, and how it takes thousands afterward to raise up to demand justice. No on does either alone.

The filmmaker notes that some occupied territories did try mass-resistance to extermination attempts, such as in Denmark where every gentile wore a yellow star so as to make Jews indistinguishable on the streets, and evacuated almost all Danish Jewry to Sweden, or in Albania where the predominately Muslim population hid and protected almost all the country’s Jews. But equally, there were places where antisemitism ran so strong that there was willing, and even enthusiastic participation in the genocide, such as in Slovakia, which actually paid the Germans to take Jews off their hands, and in Lithuania, which saw massacres of Jewish communities ahead of the Nazi invading front, in anticipation for what would become permissible under their reign.

The truth was, it would take money to prosecute thousands of war criminals appropriately, and there was not the inclination in many countries to do it at all, and a squeeze for resources even when public support would permit it. Europe was in ruins after the war, and everyone wanted to think about a brighter tomorrow, rather than dwell on the darkness of the past.

But justice delayed is justice denied. It has been often said, but is never truer here. Because Jewish calls for prosecution were told to quiet while the country rebuilt. Then quiet while the Cold War enemy was at the door. Then quiet when they were told it was too long ago to be tried now. All the while slowly waiting for them to die off, and become as quiet as the dead they defend. And now the last remaining Nazis and their prosecutors are reaching 100. And time silences the issue once and for all. Justice delayed is justice denied.

All throughout the film, the warning rings clear, if people get away with murder, it shows everyone you can get away with murder; and if people get away with mass murder, it shows everyone you can get away with mass murder. Most people who carried out the killing of 6 million Jews died old, comfortable, and surrounded by their loved ones. What fear has anyone of carrying out the next genocide?