During the short time Amos Guiora spent around Cleveland, he gave two speeches about the focal subject of his recently published book “The Crime of Complicity: The Bystander in the Holocaust.”
Being Jewish and a law professor at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Guiora emphasized the effect of the bystander during the Holocaust and today with current sexual assault cases.
“There have been a million books written about the Holocaust,” he said. “But for me, what was important was to take the Holocaust and look at current society. (In our) current society, I look at sexual assault. A bystander who witnesses a rape is doing nothing more than facilitating the rape.”
Guiora said the idea for his book was born while he was training for the Salt Lake City Marathon. As he was having a casual conversation with his running partner, Guiora questioned how the Holocaust happened.
“Even though both my parents were survivors, I grew up in a home that didn’t talk about it,” he said.
While Guiora examined the history of the Holocaust, he noticed the bystander character continuously appearing.
“The more I researched, the more I became focused on the question as a bystander, the individual who sees another individual in distress,” he said.
Guiora said the more he understood the bystander and recognized the complicity of sovereign states as bystanders, he understood the trials of his parents in the Holocaust.
“As a law professor, the bystander who doesn’t intervene is committing a crime of non-intervention,” he said.
Guiora took his understanding of the bystander and compared it to sexual assault cases happening around the country today, by highlighting three sexual assault cases invovling a bystander over the past three years.
In two of these cases, he said the bystanders where present and aware of the crime being committed but did not try to stop the act, which he compared to his father walking in a death march.
“No one offered him assistance, quite the opposite,” Guiora said. “(They) taunted him. He had no help while walking through villages.”
In his third example, Guiora used the Stanford sexual assault case that made headlines during summer 2016 where onlookers who could have walked away called the police.
“All I want you to do is if you see someone in distress, you don’t have to intervene,” he said. “All you have to do is call 911.”
His first speech was given at The City Club of Cleveland April 26 and his second at an April 27 event co-sponsored by B’nai Jeshurun Congregation, AJC Cleveland, Forest Hill Church and Facing History and Ourselves.