The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Volume I Chapter IX
Opening Address for the United Kingdom
(Part 17 of 17)

It is no use having a leader unless there are also people willing and ready to serve their personal greed and ambition by helping and following him. The dictator who is set up in control of the destinies of his country does not depend upon himself alone either in acquiring power or in maintaining it. He depends upon the support and backing which lesser men, themselves lusting to share in dictatorial power, anxious to bask in the adulation of their leader, are prepared to give. In the Criminal Courts, where men are put upon their trial for breaches of the municipal laws, it not infrequently happens that of a gang indicted together in the Dock, one has the master mind, the leading personality. But it is no excuse for the common thief to say "I stole because I was told to steal"; for the murderer to plead "I killed because I was asked to kill".

These men are in no different position for all that it was nations they sought to rob, whole peoples they tried to kill. "The warrant of no man excuseth the doing of an illegal act." Political loyalty, military obedience are excellent things. But they neither require nor do they justify the commission of patently wicked acts. There comes a point where a man must refuse to answer to his leader if he is also to answer to his conscience. Even the common soldier, serving in the ranks of his Army is not called upon to obey illegal orders. But these men were no common soldiers: they were the men whose skill, and cunning, whose labour and activity made it possible for the German Reich to tear up existing treaties, to enter into new ones and to flout them, to reduce international negotiations and diplomacy to a hollow mockery, to destroy all respect for and effect in International Law and finally to march against the peoples of the world to secure that domination in which as arrogant members of their self-styled master race they professed their belief. If the crimes were in one sense the crimes of Nazi Germany, they also are guilty as the individuals who aided, abetted, counselled, procured and made possible the commission of what was done.

[Page 644]

The sum total of the crime these men have committed -- so awful in its comprehension -- has many aspects. Their lust and sadism, their deliberate slaughter and the degradation of so many millions of their fellow creatures that the imagination reels incomprehensively, are but one side only of this matter. Now that an end has been put to this nightmare and we come to consider how the future is to be lived, perhaps their guilt as murderers and robbers is of less importance and of less effect to future generations of mankind than their crime of fraud -- the fraud by which they placed themselves in a position to do their murder and their robbery. This is the other aspect of their guilt. The story of their "diplomacy", founded upon cunning, hypocrisy and bad faith, is a story less gruesome but no less evil and deliberate. And should it be taken as a precedent of behaviour in the conduct of international relations, its consequences to mankind will no less certainly lead to the end of civilized society. Without trust and confidence between Nations, without the faith that what is said is meant and what is undertaken will be observed, all hope of peace and of security is dead. The Governments of the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth, of the USA, of the USSR, and of France, backed by and on behalf of every other peace-loving Nation of the world, have therefore joined to bring the inventors and perpetrators of this Nazi conception of international relationship before the bar of this Tribunal.

They do so that these Defendants may be punished for their crimes. They do so also that their conduct may be exposed in its naked wickedness. And they do so in the hope that the conscience and good sense of all the world will see the consequences of such conduct and the end to which inevitably it must always lead. Let us once again restore sanity and with it also the sanctity of our obligations towards each other.

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