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In Holocaust lecture, Rubenstein examines Nuremburg trials

Published: March 19, 2010
Section: News

Joshua Rubenstein, Northeast Regional Director of Amnesty International USA, discussed the often-neglected stories of Soviet territories occupied by the Nazis during World War II and the Nuremburg trials during a lecture Wednesday in Hassenfeld Conference Center.

Rubenstein, the author of “The Unknown Black Book,” which examines the stories of Jews who survived German attacks on Soviet occupied territories, explained there is often “not adequate attention or recognition of Soviet-occupied territories [in World War II] post-1941.”

During the lecture titled, “There Were Many Babi Yars,” Rubenstein handed out a list containing well-known killing camps in German-occupied Soviet territories, including Babi Yar and Odessa, the two largest massacres of Jews in the Soviet Union during World War II.

“This is just a very short list,” Rubenstein said. “There were thousands of such sites.”

He explained that typically people thinking about the Holocaust think about the story of Anne Frank’s family and other families who were transported to concentration camps.

Often not knowing about the massacres in the Soviet occupied territories, “The other image is of course the terrible image of Aushwitz and of the killing centers in Poland where the Jews were killed in gas chambers,” he said. The first thoughts that we have of the Holocaust are that “the victims were brought to the places where they would be killed. This is not generally what happened when the Germans invaded Soviet territory during 1941,” Rubenstein said.

“Between June of 1941 and January of 1942 … the Germans had already murdered a million Jews in occupied Soviet territories,” he added.

Rubenstein said the killings differed from those in countries such as Poland because rather than being transported, the Jews were killed close to their homes and neighborhoods.

After addressing the specific incidents in Soviet territories Rubenstein spoke about the trials at Nuremburg, explaining that in the Einsatzgruppen trial, many of the defendants originally facing the harshest punishment of death saw their sentences revoked and they were granted an eventual release in the 1950s.

Rubenstein also explained that when The New York Times reported on the release of some of the Nazi war criminals, “The Times said they were convicted of murdering hundreds of Jews,” when in fact the number was exponentially greater.

“There was a sense of fatigue that set in over time that we don’t hear about very often … And it was really only the initial trials that led to true justice,” said Michael Appell, Executive Director of Development and External Affairs and an adjunct professor at the International Business School.

Yet despite the faults of the Nuremburg trials, the international community has made much progress since the 1950s, Rubenstein said.

“Between tribunals, trials, truth commissions … this is an astonishing development and should not be ignored,” Rubenstein said in an interview with The Hoot. “It is adequate? No, but it’s more than just a beginning, and I hope that the U.S. will then join this effort.”