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Legacy of Nuremberg. Anne K.W. Richardson HHRC/Bates College August, 2005. Nuremberg Trials. The International Military Tribunal of 1946, convened by the U.S., British, French and Soviets, which convicted the major Nazi leaders who survived World War II AND

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Legacy of Nuremberg

Anne K.W. Richardson

HHRC/Bates College

August, 2005

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Nuremberg Trials

  • The International Military Tribunal of 1946, convened by the U.S., British, French and Soviets, which convicted the major Nazi leaders who survived World War II


  • Twelve cases tried by U.S. military tribunals at Nuremberg from1946-9 of groups of doctors, lawyers, industrialists, Einsatzgruppen and more.

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  • International Law

  • Human Rights & Genocide Conventions

  • Code of Medical Ethics

  • Enforcement Mechanisms & Tribunals

  • Models of Bringing Individual Perpetrators to Justice

  • Deportations to Home Countries for Justice

  • Vocabulary: War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity, Genocide, Truth and Reconciliation Commission

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  • 11/30/43: Moscow Declaration signed by U.S., U.K., Soviet Union and China.

  • 2/4-11/45: Yalta agreement signed

    by Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin

  • 4/12/45: Truman becomes President

  • 4/12/45: Dachau liberated by U.S.

  • http://www.trumanlibrary.org/photographs/displayimage.php?pointer=3855

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Timeline continued

  • 4/30/45: Adolf Hitler commits suicide.

  • 5/2/45: Supreme Court Justice Robert

    Jackson appointed as chief U,S,

    prosecutor in the Nuremberg War

    Crimes Trial.


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Timeline continued

  • 5/8/45: Germany surrenders unconditionally to Allies.

  • 7/7/45: Jackson visits Nuremberg & recommends it as trial site.

  • 8/2/45: Potsdam Protocol

  • 8/8/45: London Agreement

  • 10/6/45: 4 powers issue

    joint statement of indictment


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Timeline continued

  • 10/14/45: Sir Geoffrey Lawrence (UK) elected President of the IMT

  • 10/18-19/45: 24 men and 7 organizations are indicted, charged with the systematic murder of millions of people

  • 11/20/45: Nuremberg Trials begin. All defendants plead “not guilty.”

  • http://www.trumanlibrary.org/photographs/displayimage.php?pointer=11274

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Timeline continued

  • 10/1/46: Verdicts handed down.

  • 10/13/46: All appeals rejected.

  • 10/15/46: Goering commits suicide.

  • 10/16/46: Ten war criminals are hanged.

  • 10/25/46: 12 more trials of 199 officials begin.

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Nuremberg Charges

  • The Common Plan or Conspiracy

    • Crimes Against Peace

    • War Crimes

    • Crimes Against Humanity



      Bergen Belsen

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The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated. …

Justice Jackson

from his opening statement

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Why Trials?

The Trial which is now about to begin is unique in the history of the jurisprudence of the world and it is of supreme importance to millions of people all over the globe.

Sir Geoffrey Lawrence, President, Opening Remarks

  • Create precedents in international law

  • Create moral precedents

  • Collate historical record

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Procedural Innovations

  • International Tribunal

  • Individuals Tried

    States do not commit crimes; individuals do

  • No Immunity for Heads of State, etc.

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Substantive Innovations

  • Established Crimes Against Humanity as a charge: mass crimes – murder, torture, (rape)

  • Established Crime of Genocide

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  • First time

  • Ad hoc – for a particular purpose

    • Need a permanent tribunal to be effective, not subject to political whims and current politics

    • ICC 6/98

  • Not all sides were investigated

    • Victors’ justice

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  • Restrospective Law-making

  • Superior Orders

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So …

  • Nuremberg Trials closed the circle …

    • International Law prevailed

    • Message sent

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Legacy: Genocide Convention

  • 1933: Raphael Lemkin begins to write about mass murder as a crime under international law

  • 1943: Coins the word: “genocide.”

    • Greek –genos (family, tribe or race)

    • Latin -cide (killing)

  • 1946: Genocide recognized by UN as crime in international law

  • 1948: Genocide Convention adopted by UN. Rape eventually added as an act of genocide

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Genocide Convention

  • Article I:

    The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish. 

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Legacy: Genocide

  • 4 decades before the U.S. ratifies the Genocide Convention

  • 50 years before anyone is convicted of genocide

  • 97 countries ratify the convention before the U.S.

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Sen. William Proxmire D-Wisconsin

  • 1967 Began campaign

  • 1985 Bitburg Cemetery Visit

  • 2/11/86 Genocide Convention Ratified by U.S.

    19 years

    3,211 speeches

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Legacy: Human Rights

  • Adoption by UN of Declaration of Human Rights follows the Genocide Convention in 1948 on the next day.

  • Article 1.

  • All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

  • Article 2.

  • Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

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Legacy: Nuremberg Code of Medical Ethics

  • Code of Ethics:

    • Informed Consent mandatory and exercised freely

    • Experiments must avoid physical and mental suffering

    • Experiments must be avoided if death or disabling injury a possibility

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Never Again?

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Genocides Continue

ArmeniaEast TimorSudan







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War Crimes Continue



Abu Grahib

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Genocides are Planned: Rwanda



  • 11 January 1994

  • “Belgian troops were to be provoked and if Belgians soldiers restored to force a number of them were to be killed and thus guarantee Belgian withdrawal from Rwanda.”

  • “Since UNAMIR mandate he has been ordered to register all Tutsi in Kigali. He suspects it is for their extermination. Example he gave was that in 20 minutes his personnel could kill up to 1000 Tutsis.”

  • Genocide began April 6th, 1994

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The “G” Word

  • Ghost of Mogadishu

  • Genocide = Obligation to Act

  • Public is silent

    • “no recognizable national interest in taking a role” Washington Post, 4/17/94

    • “Rwanda: Is the world just too tired to help?”Ted Koppel, Nightline 5/4/94

    • “The phones aren’t ringing” – NSA Anthony Lake

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Eventually …

  • War Crimes Trials occur

    • Accountability

    • Documentaion and trials demonstrate meticulous planning

    • Essential to truth-telling and reconciliation

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Not On My Watch …

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The Legacy cont.

  • CNN.com Friday, March 18, 2005 Posted: 6:25 AM EST (1125 GMT)

  • Dutch Iraq war crimes case opens

  • http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/europe/03/18/dutch.saddam/index.html

  • London Times World News April 02, 2005

  • Darfur genocide trials to reach world court after US 'climbdown'From James Bone in New York

  • http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-1550709,00.html

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The Legacy cont.

  • British troops charged with war crimesBy Simon Freeman, Times Online, 7/20/05

  • http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,7374-1701404,00.html

  • War-crimes trials gear up in IraqHussein and others may be tried in next few weeks in cases that will ripple around the world.By Faye Bowers | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor2/23/05

  • http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0223/p03s01-wogi.html

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Finally …

  • Intervention and Trials are beginning to make a difference …

    • Eyes are trained on Washington and Europe

    • Perpetrators realize the prospect of accountability

      “Hotel Rwanda”

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