Comment: Holocaust perpetrators are living amongst us

Individuals who engaged in mass murder should not be allowed to go free, no matter how old or sick.

By Matthew Offord MP

Many people were shocked to learn of allegations which emerged last weekend regarding an individual living in Britain who was present at the Trawniki concentration camp in Poland between 1939 and 1944.

The camp was used to murder tens of thousands of innocent civilians from all walks of life during the Second World War. 

It is known that a number of individuals who acted as officials at the camp sought refuge in the UK after the war using false names and fake backgrounds to gain entry. Many were also employed by M15 and MI6 and simply failed to leave when their temporary visas ended. 

All the facts in this case are not yet clear but one issue is – the legality of the case. The UK law is quite clear that any individual who has committed war crimes or crimes against humanity must be handed over to the international criminal court at The Hague. 

The UK minister for immigration Damian Green has offered me assurances that any individual who was involved in genocide at the concentration camps will immediately have their citizenship revoked and be subject to swift prosecution. 

This is an important issue. Many of my constituents are rightly outraged and thus I am concerned on their behalf. My constituency contains a holocaust survivors' centre as well as numerous community facilities for older people, many of whom were themselves – or had relatives who were – affected by the terrible crimes that took place in the holocaust.

I myself count as friends several people who had relatives murdered in the concentration camps. Letting the perpetrators of these crimes live freely in this country does not do justice to the people who were affected and furthermore makes a mockery of the values the UK stands for – namely justice and tolerance to others, no matter what their beliefs or religion.

As the issue of crimes against humanity rises again in North African and Middle-Eastern countries we should not forget perpetrators from previous conflicts – particularly those who have subsequently made it to the UK and sought sanctuary in our society.

I understand that incriminating evidence exists which shows the complicity of individuals, who gained British citizenship after the Second World War, in places like Trawniki and I am currently demanding that the UK Border Agency take the appropriate action in order to punish the guilty and to deter abuses in current or future conflicts.

One argument against the investigation of these criminals is that so much time has passed it is not worth bringing a prosecution, especially as many suspects themselves are now old in age and have health problems.

I firmly believe that the passage of time should make no difference as to whether or not to prosecute someone. 

Indeed, if the UK extended this rationale we would not be taking action to protect civilians from Gaddafi in Libya, assisting the prosecution of former Serbian General Ratko Maladic and supporting the continuing investigations of perpetrators of genocide in countries such as Sierra Leone and the Congo.

The result would be that individuals who engaged in mass murder would simply be allowed to go free.

The passage of time does not diminish the magnitude of someone's crimes, and certainly does not diminish the anguish felt by the victims and their families. Consequently, I will continue to press the Home Office for information on individuals when evidence emerges.

Matthew Offord has been the Conservative party MP for Hendon since 2010.

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