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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > June 2016 > Crimes and punishment

Crimes and punishment

What is the difference between atrocities committed in war and outright genocide?

I always wanted to know exactly how my father had managed to escape from Nazi-occupied Poland and survive the Holocaust that killed almost his entire family.

Palace of Justice, Nuremberg, 20th November 1945

Like so many other refugees trying to build a new life in a foreign land, he didn’t want to talk about the past he’d lost for ever. When my father reached his early seventies, though, he seemed more willing to open up. Thinking he’d find it easier to talk to a stranger, I arranged for a fellow journalist to interview him. There seemed no particular hurry. And then my father suddenly died. Even though I used to carry a BBC tape recorder on my shoulder for a living, I found I didn’t even have a recording of his voice—let alone an account of his life.

When my son was two, his grandfather died. So, after university, he set off for Poland to find out about the grandfather he never knew. To my amazement, he was able to trace the Rozenbergs of Izbica as far back as the 18th century. He also discovered that my father had been deported to the Soviet Union before enlisting in the Polish forces under British command in Iran. That was followed by the British Army, naturalisation and a return to his pre-war occupation as a tailor.

Researching and publishing our family histories allows European Jews to demonstrate—in a way that readers can readily comprehend—the ultimate failure of Adolf Hitler’s attempt to wipe us all out. It is a well-trodden path. In his new memoir My Dear Ones: One Family and the Final Solution (William Collins), Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg consults the German Holocaust researcher Götz Aly. “Many people come to see me with their enquiries,” Aly tells him. “They almost all have one thing in common: they’re over 50, mostly over 60, and those from whom they could once have enquired are dead.”

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s June issue: Bronwen Maddox lays out the case for Britain to stay in Europe—the position taken by the magazine. Mikhail Gorbachev explains his hopes for Russia, suggesting that the claim democracy is bad for Russia is “balderdash.” Rachel Sylvester looks at the Conservative Party and explores what might happen to the Tories after the EU referendum. Also in this issue: Nicholas Shaxson and Alex Cobham unpick the world of hidden money and what Britain can do about tax havens. Neil Kinnock argues that Labour isn’t making progress under Jeremy Corbyn and Jason Burke examines Islamic State and the networks that underpin their attacks. Plus Stephen Bayley asks was BritArt any good?