Smashing of Death Eaters?
Sun 21 April 2019
(my comments on “Canon and the Moral Dimensions of Killing in War” thread on reddit)
This is no question of agreeing and disagreeing with me. What I wrote was not exactly my opinion (which I specifically emphasized), but what I consider the prevalent notion among Europeans. Discussion here is very different from the one in the States (I lived there for five years studying for law-related PhD), because the basic milieu is given by the European Convention as “no” for the capital punishment, which is obviously the opposite of the normal in many US states.
Considering my personal opinion, I have a legal education, so I spent many hours discussion pro- and contra- of the capital punishment. My conclusion of these discussion is that I understand a lot of reasons for it, but in the end I am mildly supportive of ECHR, mainly because of possibility of mistake. From the Harry Potter universe, if the mistake of Sirius Black happened in the world with the capital punishment, there would be probably no way how to rectify the mistake (or whatever it was). However, I am not much fanatical against it, and for example I have no problems with capital punishments for Nazi criminals given in the Nuremberg trials.
I am a Christian (not a Catholic) and I respect a lot of the current pope, but I think his declaration that the capital punishment is eternally against the Gospel, is completely crazy. Not only it makes all great Catholic theologians (including couple of Doctors of the Church) opposing Gospel (which is mildly disturbing even to me), but I cannot imagine myself standing in the courtroom and accusing all those who voted for the capital punishment for Hermann Göring et al., that they are standing against the justice. I am not sure what I would vote for (and I am very glad I don’t have to make that decision), but certainly I could very much understand and approve decision of those who thought these monsters deserved to be hanged (in time when in the most countries there was an automatic hanging for one intentional murder).
That’s for capital punishment. Concerning the morality of the killing in war, I think it is slightly more problematic than what I understand you suggest. I am not an expert on law of war, but if I recall correctly the legitimate goal of the war effort is to eliminate war-making power of the enemy with preference for preserving life and health of the other side (for example by capturing enemy soldiers and putting them in the POW camps, where they should be treated humanly). Thus, aerial carpet bombing of both England and especially of Germany in the later phases of the Second World War are highly problematic, not mentioning endless number of war crimes committed by both sides on the Eastern Front.
I would highly disagree with your assessment of the First World War.
- I am highly suspicious of motives of any large power in the war (both French, Russians and to large extent British were very much willing and happy to enter into the war; Belgians et al. might be truly pure victims of the war), and I think the Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles (War Guilt Clause) was just a piece of unjust anti-German propaganda hiding own French partial guilt for the war.
- Concerning the different results between the First and the Second World War. I really don’t think the difference was because Germany and Austria-Hungary was not sufficiently smashed. You know certainly your German history better than me, so you should know the state of the Germany after the First World War, and I think it is correct to say that both Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy were completely destroyed (Austria-Hungary literally, the other two were mostly non-functional for years, and especially in Italy there could be evidenced a clear link between the collapse of the government and rise of Fascism).
- I believe a way more important than the level of smashing was exact opposite: after the First World War destroyed countries were mostly left to their devices (whether the similarly ruined France and Britain were even able to help defeated countries is another question, but certainly there was no will to do so; if I recall correctly, the Keynes’ book had a little impact on the treatment of defeated), but immediately after the Second World War there was huge effort, first by UNRRA later by the Marshall Plan, to get all countries of Europe including the defeated ones to the functional state as soon as possible (and the true perpetrators of the war were actually punished, contrary to the First World War). Thus you had the hyperinflation of 1920s in Germany, but the Wirtschaftswunder of 1950s. That I think made the difference.
Now, back to the Harry Potter universe. I think the problem of smashing of the Death Eater ideology is the different situation than after the Second World War. First of all, this was civil war and more than the true war, The Second Blood War was more law enforcement action capturing criminals. Yes, criminals were proportionally almost as powerful as the official government (which was captured by them), but still I think the fit result of the conflict was just punishment of all criminals (including collaborators and propagandist for the essentially racist ideology), not large scale killing of all Death Eaters and their friends. Tom Riddle fled from justice (which is quite ironic: he didn’t flee from the death in the end, but he did so from justice) in the same manner Adolf Hitler did, but whether the large scale criminals like Lucius Malfoy, Yaxley, Dolores Umbridge, etc. deserved the Kiss by a dementor (that’s probably the magical equivalent of the capital punishment, right?) is an interesting question. Aside from the morality of plea bargains (in case of Lucius Malfoy), which is another very complicated question, we actually don’t know what was the result of the Shacklebolt’s regime. There is not much (if anything) in the canon describing the post-War resolution. Epilogue is nineteen years later, and the situation may changed then a lot.
I would hope there was some effort of dedeatheaterization or something like The Truth and Reconciliation Commission á la post-apartheid Southern Africa, which are more fitting answers to the post-civil war situation, but again the canon doesn’t say anything. There are some lovely fanfiction stories on that theme:
- Annals of Arithmancy by White_Squirrel (again, it is has finished with both of these: dedeatheaterization and The Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Yet, still the results are not quite completely satisfactory.
- Escape by SingularOddities and especially Mr and Mrs Percy Weasley by SingularOddities (both of which are AU) deal with more realpolitik situation where the post-War government has to balance its relatively weak political position with efforts to re-establish the normalcy.
- Grave Days by Northumbrian and his universe (which is probably the most canonical postwar fanon) don’t deal with the situation much at all: some people are punished, most important Death Eaters (sans Lucius Malfoy) are killed at Hogwarts, and some went to Azkaban for life, but mostly government is not significantly damaged and works as it should now back under the management of good people.
- there was some other (unfinished) story mainly focused on the international criminal court organized by ICW, but it was unfinished and it was mostly focused on the psychological readjustment and PTSD of the Carrows treatment of students.