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Good reads: Within the context of the Holocaust, new book explores legal, moral duties of bystanders

 

April 28, 2017

"The Crime of Complicity: The Bystander in the Holocaust,"

by Amos N. Guiora

Consider this dilemma: You are a bystander and witness to a crime. Should your intervention in an attempt to prevent that crime be a legal obligation? Or is moral responsibility enough?

On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Week, law professor and author Amos. N. Guiora addresses these profoundly important and timely questions in his new book, "The Crime of Complicity: The Bystander in the Holocaust," published earlier this month by Ankerwycke, the trade imprint of the American Bar Association.

Guiora, who teaches law at the University of Utah and is a retired lieutenant colonel in the Israel Defense Forces, delves into the bystander-victim relationship from deeply personal and legal perspectives, focusing on the Holocaust and then exploring cases in contemporary society.

Sharing the experiences of his parents and grandparents during the Holocaust and drawing on a wide range of historical material and interviews, he studies the bystander during three distinct events: the forcible movement of prisoners in Nazi Germany known as death marches, the German occupation of Holland and the German occupation of Hungary. He explains that while the Third Reich created policy, its implementation was dependent on bystander non-intervention.

Guiora then fast forwards decades later to explore sexual assault cases at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and Stanford University in California, as well as other crimes where bystanders had to choose to act or not. Their actions-or non-actions-carried real consequences.

"Questions of bystander complicity are, unfortunately, highly relevant to contemporary society," Guiora said. "A casual glance at the daily news sheds disturbing light on the consequences of bystander non-intervention. Drawing on the lessons of the Holocaust is particularly useful in determining the extent of the bystander's complicity in our lives today."

Guiora asserts in "The Crime of Complicity" that a society cannot rely on morals and compassion alone in determining obligations to assist another in danger. It is ultimately, he concludes, a legal issue and a society must make the obligation to intervene the law and non-intervention a crime.

Avery Friedman, CNN legal analyst, in his review of the book, stated: "Amos Guiora's 'The Crime of Complicity' should make any bystander who sees violence against another and chooses to do nothing about it shudder. He recounts in depth the suffering of his family in Death Marches and concentration camp agony, watched by Eastern Europeans who looked the other way, to campus rape watchers who did nothing... (he) argues that those who watch violence have a greater duty not to remain silent and that legislation imposing that duty to protect the innocent might be necessary."

Paul Cliteur, professor of jurisprudence, Leiden University, the Netherlands, and author of "The Fall and Rise of Blasphemy Law," had this to say: "It is very difficult to find the right words to describe the horror portrayed in this book. But Amos Guiora has done this, and he has done this very well. Highly recommended."

Besides his teaching duties and lectures around the world, Guiora is involved in the effort to legislate Holocaust-Genocide education in Utah public schools. He is the author of several books, including "Freedom from Religion: Rights and National Security" and "Tolerating Intolerance: The Price of Protecting Extremism."

 

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