We learned this week in lectures and reading that transitional justice is the process whereby governments and non-government members address the history of mass human rights abuses within a region. These process include criminal prosecution, truth commissions , reparation programs, and institutional reform and normally happen when a new government comes to power at the end of an authoritarian government rule or a period of political repression and also at the end of civil war. We also learned that while the intentions of governments and international agencies may be to help fix the damage left behind by these events, the feeling and culture of the actual citizens in the situation are not fully taken into account, much like universal civil rights, making some people wonder if these process actually help the victims they are supposed to.
After World War Two the mass abuse and execution of select races, mainly Jewish, by Hitler’s Nazi forces was termed the Holocaust and certainly without a doubt required some form of transitional justice within Germany and their allies. Germany specifically was split into four different regions, with each put under the control of a different country that had fought against Germany in the war (Cohen, 1). Each country was allowed to run their region any way they pleased, enacting their own ideas of transitional justice. The way in which crimes were pursued also varied between regions making matters even more complicated. France, Britian, the Soviet Union, and the United States used prosecution in the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, national military war crimes tribunals, and domestic German criminal courts to pursue war criminals and provide survivors with some form of closure.
Currently in today’s world there are many memorials all over the world dedicated to the the tragedy that was the Holocaust. In Poland you can visit the Auschwitz memorial museum and tour the concentration camp and there are many Holocaust museums and memorial centers in the United States too. Memorials like those are constructed both for the surviving victims of the horrible event and the public. It is the idea that being open about and encouraging people to talk about what happened to them will help the victims cope with what has happened to them and help them find closure from the abuse they endured. People who support this kind of transitional justice also believe it will help prevent an even like that from happening again by keeping the public educated and never letting the world forget what happened. There are others, though, who believe memorials like these can traumatize survivors who are forced to relive the events when they tell their story or visit the memorial. Although remembering extreme abuse like what was experienced by the survivors of the Holocaust can be too painful for some victims, it is also empowering for others and I believe the memorials built after the tragedy helped many of the people who were affected by the Holocaust.
Cohen D. Transitional Justice in Divided Germany After 1945. U.C. Berkeley, War Crimes Studies Center.