Just last week, a former Nazi concentration camp secretary – who was charged with aiding and abetting the murder of thousands – absconded from her war crimes trial. The 96 year old, who worked at Stutthof camp, is offering up the defence that she was someone who simply worked behind a desk; that she was not an active participant but merely a cog in a much bigger machine.

David Wilkinson’s documentary argues that even the cogs should not be spared justice.

The tagline on the poster for Getting Away with Murder(s) should tell you everything you need to know about the epic three-hour long documentary. It reads: “99% of those who carried out the 11 million murders in the Holocaust were never prosecuted … They were never even questioned. Why?” This grim statistic underlines that satisfactory justice has not been done, a sentiment furthered by the survivors, lawyers and historians interviewed.

When it comes to Nazi war crimes, the Nuremberg trials seem like a logical place to start. They put the “big names” of the regime on the stand, laying bare the atrocities of the Holocaust for the entire world to see. Wilkinson shows clips of the likes of Goering vigorously submitting his plea of nicht schuldig (not guilty).

One of the most frustrating elements of the documentary is the way in which those tasked with bringing the Nazis to justice spent so much time debating legal terminologies or allowing perpetrators to evade justice thanks to ridiculous loopholes at a national and international level. The need for proof or eyewitness evidence seemed outrageous when both had met their fate in the fires of the concentration camps. If you have read Phillipe Sands’ East West Street, you will be familiar with this. The survivors and subject matter experts roll their eyes and sigh at the reams of excuses used in court, the most notorious being the cry of “only following orders.”

More than this, Wilkinson outlines how – in the wake of the Cold War – it suited the Allies to re-arm and re-fund Germany in order to provide a buffer against Russian influence. The whole situation would be so laughable if it wasn’t for the tear-streaked eyes of Arek Hersh, Kitty Hart-Moxon and Malka Levine recounting the horrors and humilations that they both witnessed and were subjected to.

But, lest you think that Nazis evading justice was purely a problem on the mainland, Wilkinson teams up with the prolific Nazi hunter, Dr Stephen Ankier, who identified more than 400 war criminals who had snuck into the UK. Some had gone to the efforts of removing their SS tattoos; others were brazenly using their own names. Of these 400 – many of whom were Ukrainian Legion – only one was ever brought to trial. UK newspapers such as The Times and The Telegraph are called out for their thinly veiled anti-Semitic remarks about this bloodthirsty need for “vengeance”.

Throughout the film, we are shown “case files” of lesser known – but no less vicious – Nazis, detailing the crimes they committed. If it’s even possible, what’s more shocking than their crimes is the fact that the majority of them lived their lives entirely unpunished. Many reached their 90s or 100s. These long and healthy lives are a luxury denied to their victims.

Coupled with this is the truly devastating archival footage of the liberation of Auschwitz. Entire pits filled with teeth, glasses, shoes, braided hair give way to mass graves; the eyes of the emaciated dead staring right down the barrel of the lens. No matter how many times you see these images, they are never any less haunting. Humanity at the very brink.

Wilkinson tours around the UK, Europe and the Baltics, noting prominent statues of marble, steel and metal. These are, in many cases, a very public way of saying sorry; of acknowledging the past. But are they any substitute for real justice? Proper procedure and legal status – the very things denied to the Jews and other Holocaust victims – have never been applied to its perpetrators, either.

This is an extremely long and detailed documentary – so much so that it has an intermission around the 90 minutes mark. It is absolutely forensic in its examination of Nazi war crimes – a level of detail perhaps only matched by the rows and rows of paperwork that each talking head has accumulated. It is not, therefore, a casual or light-hearted watch. Wilkinson has created so many layers of detail peppered with hundreds of statistics, names, locations and legal terminologies. And perhaps it’s hard, when you hear of things on such a scale to remember that every tattooed forearm, every pregnant belly, every tallit belonged to an individual with hopes and desires; likes and dislikes. We cannot imagine how frightening and seemingly endless their torture must have been.

Shot over three years, Wilkinson closes Getting Away With Murder(s) with an interesting thought: If you are not actively pursuing “satisfactory justice” for the crimes of the Holocaust – and other international examples of genocide and crimes against humanity – are you every bit as complicit as the perpetrators?

Rating: ½

GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER(S) is in UK cinemas from 1st October, 2021
Released 75 Years to the day of the International Military Tribunal sentencing