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David Matas


by David Matas, April 20, 2012

[Editor's note: David Matas has written this piece in response to the  postition taken by  Adam Muller who is of the view that antisemitism is not a  central cause of the  Holocaust. Matas's view is that antisemitism is the main cause of the Holocaust historically and the only cause from a legal point of view].


To read my editorial: Open letter to the Freeman Family Holocaust Education Centre on this issue, click here:'S_VIEWS


I disagree with  Adam Muller.
Causation can take different forms.  It can be predictive, explanatory or attributive.  The attributive, attributing responsibility, is legal.  The law limits itself to proximate causes. 

The law attributes civil responsibility to acts people cause where the result is reasonably foreseeable.  The law attributes criminal responsibility to acts people cause where the result was known or ought to have been known.   Criminal responsibility requires intent.  In criminal law, actors are presumed to intend the consequences of their acts they knew or ought to have known would result.
The proximate cause of the Holocaust, the mass killing of Jews and the effort to eliminate the whole Jewish people, was those persons who killed the Jews and their collaborators.  Those who participated in the Holocaust either knew or ought to have known that the mass rounding up of Jews and shooting them on site or sending them to camps where they were put in confined spaces into which poison gas was thrown would lead to their deaths.  Those who perpetrated the Holocaust intended the Holocaust.  The intent to kill Jews is a form of antisemitism.  So antisemitism caused the Holocaust.
Eliminationist antisemitism, the intent to kill Jews, was not just a primary cause of the Holocaust.  In the sense of attributive responsibility, it was the only cause.  The people who perpetrated the Holocaust caused the Holocaust.  Suggesting otherwise diminishes the legal responsibility of the perpetrators of the Holocaust.  Shifting blame away from those who inflicted the Holocaust is not only wrong in terms of legal causation; it is also unconscionable."

David Matas is the co-author of the book "Justice Delayed: Nazi war criminals in Canada" with Susan Charendoff published by Summerhill Press in 1987. He has authored more recent treatises on the subject which are available at the B'nai Brith Canada website or from their offices. Matas represented B'nai Brith Canada at the 1986 Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals chaired by the Honourable Jules Deschenes, as well as in a sequence of Nazi war crimes related court cases including the cases of Helmut Rauca, Imre Finta, Wasyl Odynsky, and Vladimir Katriuk. He was part of the Canadian delegation to the 1998 Rome Conference which negotiated the treaty for the International Criminal Court. Currently he is am a member of the Board for the Canadian Centre for International Justice.

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