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Everyday philosophy

Punishment and memory

By Nigel Warburton   January 2010

American student Amanda Knox’s conviction for the murder of Meredith Kercher may have won the headlines, but the trial of John Demjanjuk—accused of taking part in the murder of 27,900 Jews at Sobibor—has even more moral, and literal, urgency. At 89 and in shaky health, there is a risk he won’t make it to the sentence stage. Since he denies being there—like Knox—the trial centres on identity. But in Demjanjuk’s case it also raises questions of personal identity. The man on the stretcher in court could well be the same man, the same human being, who committed horrors; but are…

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