The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice: At 96, a former death-camp secretary has just been arrested and charged.

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Auschwitz, Poland. (Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash.)

The word “Nazi” gets thrown around more often today than ever before. People disputing the outcome of the 2020 election are “Nazis”; people disputing the outcome of the 2016 election are “Nazis”.

People who support border control and voter ID are “Nazis”; People who support vaccine mandates and health-status passports are “Nazis.”

Those who oppose abortion are “Nazis”; those who advocate for abortion are “Nazis.”

People with political ideals incompatible with one’s own are too often labeled Nazis in the modern age. It has become kind of a catchall term for any degree of bigotry or intolerance, even when no actual physical violence is involved.

The word has become a euphemism, a stand-in, an avatar, a bit of hyperbole thrown in for dramatic effect here and there. The phenomenon has even gone so far as to label the world’s only Jewish state, and the Middle East’s sole Democracy, a “Nazi state,” which is, needless to say, as mind-numbingly ironic as it gets.

The word “apartheid” gets applied to Israel more and more these days as well, as if 20% of Israel’s population wasn’t Muslim and Palestinian, and as if Palestine suffered a single Jew. As if Jewish people have no historical heritage in or claim to the ancient Jewish ancestral homeland of Israel.

Jewish people, and organizations representing the human rights and freedoms of same, often object to those throwing around the term “Nazi” and “Holocaust.”

And with good reason.

Calling the situation at the U.S. southern border a “holocaust” compares what is, admittedly, a poorly-handled humanitarian crisis to the systematic extermination of 23 million people, most of them Jews.

They are both awful, yes; but they aren’t the same thing. Not even close.

The U.S. southern border is a mess because the world is a mess, among other far-reaching and complicated reasons, foreign and domestic. People are suffering there because officials in the U.S. and ten other countries impacted by mass migration in this hemisphere have no idea how to handle the multifaceted problem and are floundering.

During the Holocaust between 7 and 20 million people were killed in a very intentional, very systematic, state-sponsored crime against humanity engineered for one primary purpose: To wipe Jewish people from the face of the earth.

Not every humanitarian crisis is a war crime, but every war crime is a humanitarian crisis. Not every war crime is a genocide, but every genocide is a war crime. Not every genocide is the Holocaust, full stop. As terrible as genocide is, no effort to utterly stamp out an entire people has ever come as close as the Nazis did.

It was a massive, complex and multifaceted operation, conducted in specific steps with one end in mind. It required meticulous planning, preparation, and persistence. It was an effort on par with the effort the Nazi Party made to conquer the world.

Hitler’s “final solution” required a diversion of resources from the war effort; soldiers, staff, facilities, materials, fuel. It required thousands of people to operate- each with the full or partial knowledge that they were participating in mass murder.

Labeling someone who has never raised a hand in violence a “Nazi” denies and downplays the terrible truths of the real Nazi Party.

It’s been too long since Schindler’s List, too long since we read the Diary of Anne Frank in school. We have forgotten the piles of shoes, the piles of shorn hair, the personal belongings of men, women, and children who went to their deaths in the Nazi gas chambers, or perished in the death camp.

We’ve forgotten the twisted experiments, the torture, the debasement. We’ve forgotten what the liberating allies found when they first glimpsed the results of the Nazi’s grisly work- and the starved and ravaged bodies of the survivors.

It’s been too long since the Nuremberg Trials were held, and so many crimes laid bare before all the world.

It has become in vogue to hate Israel, to love Palestine. Too many of us have avoided thinking about the Holocaust because it would mean admitting how the Jewish people ended up being repatriated to their ancient, ancestral homeland after World War II in the first place.

It would mean admitting the real reason Jewish people needed their own state post-1945, their own refuge from the countries which were complicit in trying to wipe them from the earth, yes; but also from the countries which shut their doors, and their eyes, to fleeing Jews.

But not everyone has forgotten.

“The arc of the moral universe is long,” the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. cautioned the wrongdoers of this world. “But in the end, it bends towards justice.”

Many of the worst perpetrators of the Holocaust were caught and punished or perished in the immediate aftermath of the liberation of the Nazi death camps. The subsequent Nuremberg Trials were an important part of the healing process for the whole world.

Nothing could restore what was taken from the Jewish people, and so many others, by the Nazi Party; but earthly justice could still be done.

There were, and remain, those who determined that it would be done- that every one of the thousands of people who made it possible for the Nazi Party to murder millions of Jews answered in a court of law for crimes against humanity.

Former Nazi death camp secretary, 96, in custody after fleeing ahead of trial

A 96-year-old former Nazi concentration camp secretary was remanded in custody on Thursday after spending several hours…


But maybe they’ve learned their lesson? Maybe they’re too old, they’re sorry.

Of those on earth who might conceivably use the term Nazi without being accused of undue hyperbole or poetic license, are the Cambodian victims of the Khmer Rouge. Pol-Pot and his bloodthirsty lieutenants committed mass genocide- terrorizing, torturing, starving to death, and murdering millions of innocent people.

All these many decades later, Pol Pot’s top officials went on trial recently. Their defense?

We only killed the bad people.”

All this time to reflect on their crimes, and they have learned nothing. And even if they had, murder is murder and murder will out. Whether it was yesterday or well nigh on 70 years ago, murderers- and perhaps especially those who help engineer mass murder, genocide and crimes against humanity without ever actually lifting a finger themselves- deserve to face justice, however delayed.

Their victims, even victims who are dead- especially victims who are dead- deserve for justice to be served on their behalf, even all these years later.

That the perpetrator of these terrible crimes is now an elderly lady, who fled her care home rather than face trial, or was only a young adult when she was “only” a secretary in the Nazi death camp, is immaterial.

Justice must be seen to be done in order to be truly done. The perpetrators of war crimes, the architects and laymen of mass murder must be held accountable for their horrific actions.

The world needs to see the process play out. We need to see the arc of the moral universe bend- at last- towards justice.

We need reminding of what can happen, what must never happen again. When the last of the Nazi fugitives are captured or known to be dead, we will have no more of these periodic reminders of what real Nazis were or what they did.

It will up to us to keep words like “Nazi” and “Holocaust” in their proper, historical context. There are certain things for which we should never substitute mere euphemism.

Reducing the words Nazi or Holocaust to catchall phrases describing injustice is itself an act of injustice.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)