Oral History

Historian Peter Black describes the importance of legal consequences

In the 1980s and 1990s, historian Peter Black worked for the US Department of Justice Office of Special Investigations, as part of a team tracking and prosecuting suspected war criminals. Black later served as the Senior Historian at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.


It's important for all of us, I think, as ordinary -- if that is a meaningful word -- as ordinary citizens of a society that there be at least the potential if we do something like what was done during the Second World War, regardless of the circumstances in which the individual found himself -- whether he was compelled to do it or whether he did it out of his own -- as a volunteer -- that there be some possibility of legal consequence for that, no matter how many years go by, in terms of that type of crime. I feel in the recent news reports of the proceedings against the Chilean, former Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet, that this, though there are legal problems at every stage, there are serious legal problems, the idea that our world, as a world society now, is no longer prepared to sweep responsibility for crimes in an official position, where an official abuses the law and causes death and suffering to people in his care, or her care, in the future, that there shouldn't be some, somewhere down the line, the possibility of legal consequence for that.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum
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