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What is the right thing to do?

and should the Nazi war criminals who were convicted had not
disobeyed any law of their country be subject to penalties under criminal law? what law had they

„An unjust law is no law at all. Unjust laws are not real laws. Therefore, they do not oblige one’s
conscience.” – St. Augustin.

Who is to say what real law is? Is there any universal criterium for such conclusion? Would it be
naïve to believe that one’s conscience is necessarily pure in its essence and to go even further – to
consider described conscience universal for each and every one of us? In my opinion, it would be
unwise to come to this conclusion.

Morality makes the distinction between right and wrong, good and bad behavior. Since the beginning
of time, some values have been above all others. Thus, it is not moral to kill, steal, abuse, etc. On the
other hand, it is good for example to help others, to tell the truth. However, history has shown us that
there is always room for exceptions, and that is the point where ideologies tend to step in and turn
into monsters who eat and spit people’s minds.

Looking back in time, I find myself coming to the conclusion that occasionally, ideals can be more
real than facts. Even looking at the situation from the Nazi’s perspective, I could not imagine a world
in which one war officer, while killing its victims, does not feel the burden of his deeds. But I can
imagine a world in which that same officer replaces that feeling with a thought that he is acting in the
name of the greater good and that, among other things, killing is the cost for it. Unfortunately for that
officer, but luckily for mankind – ideals are not immutable and eternal. They are products of
history and they must endure history’s verdict.

The question whether Nazi war criminals should be subject to criminal law is one that opens up a field
for debate.

Looking through the eyes of those who think that the answer to this question should be no, one could
use arguments such as: penalties and criminal responsibility could be applied only in relation to
behavior which was incriminated in the moment in which it was committed. During the time of Hitler’s
Germany, it was not only allowed, but it was desirable to act in ways that are now considered to be
criminal behaviors. Therefore, without analyzing the subject deeper, we cannot conclude that Hitler’s
followers did anything wrong. Even further, such behavior was considered a patriotic act and also the
only way for them to protect the interests of their nation. This however does not excuse their
inhuman acts and heinous sins which history will never forget.

That is why the international tribunal of judges convened in Nuremberg defined the criminal act to
be „an act universally accepted as criminal, which is considered to have importance of international
interest and due to a just reason cannot be in the exclusive jurisdiction of the state that would have
control over it under normal circumstances”. Therefore, harmful behavior should be punished
regardless of the time in which it was committed, or the existence of materialized laws which would
incriminate it. This type of ruling is thought to be an investment into the future, as it prevents
inhuman acts going unpunished.
Saint Augustine also said that a man must listen to his superior only to the extent to which justice
seeks it. Thus, if those superiors do not rule in accordance with justice, but usurp, their subjects are
not obligated to follow. This brings us to the conclusion that disobedience is not only a possibility, but
also a duty.

War is the core evil and its consequences affect the world. The Nazis may not have broken the laws
of their country, but their actions broke the rules of natural law and ethics. The knowledge that we live
in a world which recognizes true values is important, even if this recognition comes after a period of
time. Every once in a while, lawmakers make a mistake, and it is up to the world and the international
community to rectify it. This community represents the voice of mankind and one can only hope that
this voice is pro life oriented.