Come to This Court and Cry: How the Holocaust Ends by Linda Kinstler - review by Caroline Moorehead

Caroline Moorehead

Frontiers of Guilt

Come to This Court and Cry: How the Holocaust Ends

By

Bloomsbury Circus 320pp £20 order from our bookshop
 

Given the vast literature on the Holocaust – and the huge amount of books that continue to appear, many of them memoirs and increasing numbers of them novels – it is surprising how little attention its long legal aftermath has received. True, the Nuremberg Tribunal, the Eichmann trial and what Linda Kinstler calls the ‘little Nurembergs’, the trials of senior Nazi judges, industrialists and SS officers, have all been well documented. But, as she writes in Come to This Court and Cry, what historians seldom focus on is the fact that to this day, more than three quarters of a century after the end of the Second World War, many cases still remain open. Her book sets out to explore and understand the meaning of ‘justice’ and its relationship to memory and forgetting.

In 2016, while a graduate student at Cambridge University, Kinstler became intrigued by a story she saw in a Latvian paper about a man called Herberts Cukurs, the ‘Butcher of Riga’. Cukurs was assassinated in 1965 by Mossad in Uruguay, but his case was still under investigation. Her own parents had emigrated to the United States from Soviet-ruled Latvia in 1988; after her parents divorced, Kinstler grew up in her mother’s circle of Soviet Jews. Cukurs, she knew, had been a colleague of her father’s father. He had disappeared after the war, not long after his marriage, leaving his wife, Biruta, five months pregnant. Her husband, she was informed, had killed himself during a mysterious business trip to Estonia.

Come to This Court and Cry is part quest for this elusive grandfather, part soliloquy on the meaning of justice, part historical inquiry into the Latvian killers who did the Nazis’ bidding when, in 1941, the Germans captured what had been since the previous year Soviet-occupied Latvia. Kinstler takes

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