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Beyond Justice: The Auschwitz Trial [Excerpt]

By Rebecca Wittmann (Harvard University Press, 2005)

July 28, 2006

Beyond Justice: The Auschwitz Trial

Jeffrey K. Olick, reviewer

What is the proper role for courts of law in confronting mass crimes? On the one hand, a justice system impotent to confront genocide and historical atrocities is hardly worth the name. On the other hand, the ‘‘rule of law’’ is valuable precisely because it restricts our desire for vengeance, even when it is well founded; democratic law can hold individuals accountable only for their acts, not for the system of which their acts are a part. There has been a long discourse on these issues over the years, and there have been legitimate arguments on both sides. Nevertheless, the exercise is never purely theoretical, and it is important to take into account who is making the argument, in what context, and for what reasons. Rebecca Wittmann’s monograph, Beyond Justice, is a detailed analysis of one of the most complex and consequential such legal confrontations with the perpetrators of genocide…

 

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