The Nazi Hunters exchange, part 2: ‘Individual dissent in the fight for justice is always needed’

Andrew Moravcsik, Foreign Affairs
Refers to Book

The last former Nazis are dying out, and so, too, are those whose life’s work was to hunt them down. Nagorski tells their stories evenhandedly, uncovering a fascinating cast of characters from all over the world and placing their efforts in a broader perspective. He describes how Nazi hunters first aimed to exact revenge without trials, how early court cases were exploited to present dubious hearsay that convicted former Nazis in the court of public opinion, and how Germany and other countries eventually lost interest in prosecuting former Nazis. Later, however, authorities established proper judicial proceedings, in Nuremberg and elsewhere, that made it impossible to credibly deny the crimes of the Holocaust. Out of this experience, moreover, came greater public awareness of genocide as a global problem and new norms of international justice to combat it—including the clear principle that “following orders” is not a valid excuse for committing crimes of this type, which has since been applied in places as far afield as Cambodia, Chile, and Rwanda. In the end, Nagorski concludes, some good can come out of even the greatest evil.