Simon Weisenthal’s greatest contribution to the world was his dogged pursuit of Nazi criminals who escaped punishment at the end of World War II. His second greatest contribution was his reminder that despite being described as “the Good War” or “a just war,” not enough good was ultimately done, and comparatively little justice was meted out. Some of the most prominent and heinous architects of mass murder simply got on with their lives, and some were the recipients of largesse — jobs, travel assistance, even money and government protection — that was denied to the people who endured their cruelty. And we tend to forget that for every high-ranking sadist or mass murderer who was imprisoned or executed after the war, thousands more who assisted them directly (through action) or indirectly (through silence) were never even called to account.
This grim fact is the jumping-off point for “Elusive Justice” (Tuesday, PBS; check local listings), a documentary by Jonathan Silvers about Holocaust survivors (and victims) and the German war criminals that still weigh on their minds nearly 70 years after the end of the war. Narrated by Candice Bergen, the movie hits some of the expected topics and people, including the Nuremberg Trials and the efforts of Weisenthal (who disliked being called a “Nazi hunter” because so much of his work consisted of sifting through documents) and Asher Ben Natan, who funded and organized ex-Nazi-tracking operations in Europe.
You can read the rest of Matt’s piece here at Salon.
Matt Zoller Seitz is publisher of Press Play.