Friday July 24, 2015
Bringing justice in Denmark
Judith Bergman

Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesenthal Center's chief Nazi hunter and head of its Israel office, ‎arrived in Denmark on Tuesday and contacted Danish police, asking them to investigate the 90-‎year-old Dane, Helmuth Leif Rasmussen, over possible involvement in the mass murder of Jews ‎in Belarus during World War II.‎

The request came after former Danish Justice Minister Mette Frederiksen turned down a ‎similar request from Zuroff in 2014, claiming that the Justice Ministry had no ‎knowledge of this case and that it did not wish to get involved in it.

The information about Rasmussen was not, as is usually the case, a result of the ‎investigations of the Simon Wiesenthal Center itself, but came from a groundbreaking book by ‎Danish historians Dennis Larsen and Therkel Stræde, "En skole i vold" (A School of Violence), ‎released in Denmark in the fall of 2014 to much acclaim. According to the book, Danish Nazis ‎participated in the murder of 1,400 Jews at the Babruysk concentration camp, where Rasmussen was a guard.‎

Denmark is known for saving most of its Jews and for the long-lived myth of the ‎Danish king riding his horse through Copenhagen with a yellow Star of David on his chest. What ‎is much less known is that 6,000 Danish volunteers signed up for service with the SS or similar ‎units -- such as the Danish Free Corps, consisting of Danish Nazis.‎

"Denmark boasts of its high profile concerning human rights ... and we have contributed ‎toward the establishment of the International Criminal Court. It seems hollow and self-‎contradictory that we want to teach the rest of the world how you prosecute the perpetrators of ‎genocide. But we are not willing to deal with our own perpetrators," Stræde told the ‎Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende, which interviewed him on the occasion of Zuroff's ‎visit to Denmark.

‎"Many countries have no interest in putting these people on trial. Most governments want to ‎spare themselves the bad publicity and the costs," Zuroff told Berlingske Tidende. "No one in the Nordic countries showed any interest in what the Nordic Nazis did ‎during the war. No one asked the pertinent question back then, whether these people had been ‎involved in war crimes. This case, therefore, could become a difficult one for Denmark, because ‎it could mar the country's otherwise good reputation. But we will see justice done."‎

Stræde and Zuroff could not possibly have put the European hypocrisy more ‎precisely. Little more than half a century after the atrocities of the Shoah, perpetrated by the ‎Europeans, the latter have claimed and continue to claim the supreme moral high ground from ‎which they proceed to preach to the world, though mostly and primarily to Israel.‎

The Europeans have, astoundingly and against all odds, become the world's verbal high priests of ‎human rights, while dragging behind them their bloody pasts. Most European countries largely ‎avoided any serious large-scale legal showdown over the war crimes they committed during the ‎war, yet many Europeans believe that Jews "still talk too much about the Holocaust."

In ‎Denmark, 26% thought so in 2014, according to the Anti-Defamation League's Global ‎‎100 poll from 2014, while in Norway it was 31%, in France 44%, in Germany and ‎Austria 52% and in Greece 60%. In great contrast to these figures, in the U.K. it was ‎only 10%. It would seem that a country's Nazi past would have something to do with the ‎way in which the current generations feel about this question.‎

Zuroff's visit to Denmark might bear fruit, however, as opposed to the last request. ‎According to Danish news outlet The Local, the public prosecutor for serious economic and ‎international crime said that the complaint would be investigated. "This is a case that we take ‎very seriously and we will study the report very closely," prosecutor Morten Niels Jakobsen said.‎

Nevertheless, there were still Danish voices claiming that the advanced age of the still-living Nazi ‎criminal should absolve him from prosecution. This is a well-known argument among those ‎Europeans who take pity on the old surviving Nazis. Zuroff, writing in The Times of ‎Israel in 2013, has a clear answerto that:‎

‎"No doubt, there will be those who are skeptical of the continued pursuit of Nazi war criminals, ‎now all elderly. ... The truth remains, however, that the passage of time does not, in any way, ‎diminish the guilt of the murderers, nor should old age afford protection to those who committed ‎such heinous crimes. ... If the criminals in question had been the ones who murdered the skeptics' ‎grandmother or parent or uncle, I have no doubt that the importance of pursuing these criminals ‎would suddenly be seen in a very different light."‎

There can be no expiration date for the punishment of evil of such magnitude.‎