This story came out a week or two ago, but I’ve been chewing on it since then: Ladislaus Csizsik-Csatary was recently arrested in Budapest for war crimes against Jews and others dating to WW2:
Csatary was the chief of an internment camp, in the Slovakian town of Kassa, now Kosice, from where Jews were deported to Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps.
He as a “commander” in the Royal Hungarian Police, was present in 1944 when the trains were loaded and sent on their way, say prosecutors. He declined a request by one of the 80 Jews crammed into a wagon to cut holes in the walls to let air in.
Csatary “regularly” used a dog whip against the Jewish detainees “without any special reasons and irrespective of the assaulted people’s sex, age or health condition”.
There is no doubt that this man is guilty of his crimes – he was convicted in abstenia after the end of the war – but I’m not sure that is the most pressing question here. It isn’t in the least bit difficult to understand how so many people would want this man to spend time in prison for the atrocities he committed, but what purpose does that serve? Is it in the interest of justice? I don’t mean merely equally the scales (at least insofar as they can be equaled in a circumstance like this). Rather, I mean, does sending this person to prison at the age of 97 make society a safer, better place?
I’ve written several times in the past that the U.S. justice and prison system has significant problems. We put people behind bars for incredibly long periods sometimes, but all we create are people who are better, bitter criminals. Our motivation for doing this, in addition to a general distaste for crime, is often revenge. That feeling traverses the pond. When someone has wronged us, we want to equally hurt that person. It usually doesn’t matter if doing so will result in a better world. We convict and punish people on emotion, not just rationality.
So my question here is, Can justice be justice if it is driven by emotion? How can it be blind if its motivation is not rational in nature?
Again, I understand the desire to punish this ex-Nazi for the crimes he committed, but I don’t see the purpose it serves any longer. Would this be a deterrent against future war crimes? Would it make the world a safer place? Is this man still a threat?