History, Jewish Studies hosts Senior Historian at U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

Jason Meek

Dr. Peter Black, the Senior Historian at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, will be presenting a lecture on the investigations of Nazi war criminals living in America, in which he served as a historical expert.

The free presentation will be in Room 306 of Cartwright Hall at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 8 and is sponsored by the Department of History and the Department of Jewish Studies.

Black was involved in the Office of Special Investigations, or OSI, from 1977 until 2005.
 OSI was a department established by the Immigration Service in response to previous failed attempts to investigate and take appropriate action against Nazi war criminals living in the United States.

Trials had been attempted as early as the late 1940s, but most early trials were unsuccessful because of the relations with Soviet countries, said Black. 
The Immigration Court or Supreme Court would often decide that defendants in the trials would face political persecution if they were deported to a Soviet nation, and would delay the proceedings indefinitely.

“At the end of the whole process, which could sometimes take years, it would all go for naught because you could not remove him from the country,” said Black.
 Few people expected the Soviet Union to dissolve in their lifetime, said Black, but after it collapsed in the 1990s there was more information revealed in previously unavailable documents that allowed further investigations to proceed.

OSI opened about 1,300 cases over the course of its existence. Nazi war crimes were still being investigated as late as 2005.

“For certain types of crimes, there is no statute of limitations,” said Black.

Black said that the lecture should help provide students with a detailed look at the process of investigating war crimes that they may only be partially aware of.

The lecture will also encourage students to think about the methodical operations necessary to allow genocide to happen, said Richard Steigmann-Gall, the former director of Jewish Studies at Kent State University.
 Steigmann-Gall said that many of the war criminals in the later trials were lower-tier bureaucrats and industry leaders who, although often overlooked, were still deeply involved in supplying the concentration camps. He expects that Black’s lecture “will show students the kinds of scrutiny and vigilance that powers must take in getting to the bottom of atrocity.”

Information about the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum can be found online at http://www.ushmm.org/learn.

Contact Jason Meek at [email protected].