(CNN) -- For thirty-two years I have been actively involved in the ongoing efforts
to help bring Nazi war criminals to justice -- and the most common
question I am asked concerns the age of the perpetrators.
Is it still worthwhile to prosecute elderly Holocaust perpetrators?
Personally, I never doubted the validity of these efforts, but because
the question is understandable and deserves a serious answer, I want
to present the case for continued prosecution.
Firstly, the passage of time in no way diminishes the guilt of those
who participated in the Holocaust.
Had these criminals been prosecuted decades ago, when they were far younger,
the importance of the effort to bring them to justice would not have
been questioned. They are just as guilty today as the day they committed
their crime -- and they do not deserve a prize for eluding justice
for so long.
Second, old age should not grant protection to murderers. Reaching
the age of 85 or 90 does not turn a mass murderer into a Righteous
Gentile. The only issue of concern is a person's mental and physical
health. There is no reason to ignore someone's crimes simply because
they were born in 1915 -- as was Laszlo Csatary, who at least until
recently was still driving his car.
Third, every victim of the Nazis deserves that an effort be made
to find the person(s) who turned them -- innocent men, women
and children -- into victims, simply because they were classified
of the Third Reich." Ignoring any of the perpetrators simply because of age would be a betrayal of
The continuing pursuit of Nazi war criminals sends a powerful
message about the importance of holding genocidists accountable.
want to prevent future crimes of the scope of the Holocaust,
it has to
be crystal-clear that persons who commit such crimes will almost
certainly be caught and punished.
Unfortunately, that has not been the case for all those who committed
Holocaust crimes -- a reality which made tragedies like Cambodia,
Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur much more possible.
Lastly, the trials of Nazi war criminals and collaborators
are a very powerful tool in the ongoing fight against Holocaust
and distortion. They are an important addition to the existing
of the mass murders and emphasize the necessity of identifying
In that respect, the significance of the Shoa, or the Holocaust,
and the reason its lessons are so crucial for mankind is
that it was not an earthquake, tsunami or volcano, but
manmade tragedy carried out by human beings against their
There are two other elements that often surface in discussing
the continued prosecution of Nazi war criminals. The
first concerns the issue of "superior
orders" and the second relates to the question of regret.
Ever since the Nuremberg trials, international law --
created in the wake of World War II and the Holocaust
-- has rejected
alibi of superior orders and emphasized individual
criminal responsibility, that every individual is responsible
for his or her deeds, and
bear the consequences, even if they were ordered to
so by a person with a higher rank.
Thus, Ivan (John) Demjanjuk for example, was convicted
to murder" in a German court in May 2011, for his service as an armed SS guard in the Sobibor
death camp, where he was part of the group which carried out the
murders under the orders of their superiors.
What of the mindset of the accused? Many people have
suggested that since many years have passed since
the crimes were
perpetrators probably regret their misdeeds, a
factor which would ostensibly weaken the rationale for prosecution.
While there may have been a few such cases of this,
I have never encountered a single regretful or
in decades of
dealing with dozens of Nazi murderers of many
different nationalities, religions,
occupations and walks of life.
If anything my experience has taught me just
the opposite. Even 50 and 60 years after the
and with so
much information easily
available on the Holocaust in their countries
of origin and/or residence, they remain proud
so many innocent
Jews and other
enemies of the Third Reich.