Wed, Jan 12, 2000 - Page 8 News List

Improving the conscience of intellectuals

Lin Yung-Mei

The most frightening discovery to emerge from the battle grounds of World War II after the fighting was over was not the scattered corpses, ruined buildings, or the moaning of the wounded, but the extent of gruesome crimes against humanity. These crimes truely traumatized the international community and exposed the extent of the cruelest and most selfish collective violence of humankind.

The most ghastly crime was the systematic torture and genocide of Europe's Jewish population by Germany's Nazi Party. Japan and Italy also committed heinous and inhuman crimes.

The international community tried the culprits of these crimes in war tribunals, the most famous of which was in Nuremberg, Germany.

During the Nuremberg trials, only one defendant pleaded guilty to the charges against him. All the other defendants pleaded not guilty on the grounds that they had simply been following orders.

In the end, all those whose crimes had been substantiated were found guilty as charged.

Fifty-five years later, European countries, the US and Israel are still trying to apprehend alleged war criminals who escaped in the chaotic aftermath of the war.

After the end of the war, Taiwan was occupied by Chang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and the KMT, who imposed autocratic rule.

From the 228 Incident to the "white terror," each and every incident perpetrated by the ruling regime, without exception, violated the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights and ran counter to the growth of democracy in other parts of the world.

Until the lifting of martial law in 1987, the KMT government oppressed the people of Taiwan.

Accomplices to the KMT's past crimes now have the audacity to say "that was then, this is now; the greater external environment caused it."

Because the Taiwan government has never tried to prosecute anyone in connection with the violence committed over the past 50 years, there has been no reflection about the right or wrong, the good or evil of what happened.

As a result, we cannot find justice in Taiwan's society.

Did the "greater external environment" cause all the wrongs?

Albert Speer was an accomplished architect and leading member of Adolf Hitler's government. At the time, German factories needed an enormous number of workers.

These workers were often either concentration camp prisoners or enslaved workers from various other countries who were subjected to ruthless and inhumane treatment.

Although Speer was in not charge of recruiting these workers, he knew and understood the deplorable situations they were in and kept silent.

During the Nuremberg trials, Speer admitted that, as a result of his personal ambitions, he had disregarded morals and conscience and permitted the occurrence of criminal acts. His admission of guilt may have come too late, but it was propelled by his conscience as an intellec-tual.

Therefore, those who helped the KMT victimize the people of Taiwan definitely cannot use the "greater external environment" as an excuse for their crimes. They should all be subjected to a trial of conscience or perhaps even the law.

This conscience of intellectuals constitutes the fundamental integrity of people in any environment. People ought to be able to distinguish the issues and make a decision about what they can and cannot do by resorting to their rationality and knowledge.

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