A marvelous World War II exhibit that will open next week at the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown has the simple and direct goal of sharing with us today the wartime experiences of people who lived here at the time through letters, pictures and memorabilia.
It reminded us of an effort by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to explore a much more complicated, much more difficult topic: How police officers and judges in Germany at the time become part of the genocidal Nazi machine that murdered 6 million Jews.
Even many Americans who lived through that era could not understand how the Holocaust could have happened. The passing of time has made it seem remote and more incomprehensible and it becomes easier and easier, almost passe, to reassure ourselves that "never again" is a vow easily kept.
Genocide still occurs, sometimes on a wide scale, of course. But what occurred in Germany and the areas it conquered before and during World War II remains the sickening model for institutionalized slaughter.
This fall the Holocaust Memorial Museum is presenting a program to more than 450 judges in Ohio to address the question of how police and courts could become persecutors instead of protectors. It happened on an enormous scale unimaginable to Americans today. Tens of thousands of German police and judges helped arrest Jews and other "undesirables" and send them to death camps. Millions of Germans were part of the process, in ways small and large.
It happened on a horrendous scale, and that means the only thing preventing it from occurring again is knowledge of how the process of perverting justice occurred in Germany.
We commend members of the Ohio Supreme Court for seeking to understand and for participating in the Holocaust Memorial Museum program.