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Reassessing the Nuremberg Military Tribunals

Reassessing the Nuremberg Military Tribunals: Transitional Justice, Trial Narratives, and Historiography

Kim C. Priemel
Alexa Stiller
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 334
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  • Book Info
    Reassessing the Nuremberg Military Tribunals
    Book Description:

    For decades the history of the US Military Tribunals at Nuremberg (NMT) has been eclipsed by the first Nuremberg trial-the International Military Tribunal or IMT. The dominant interpretation-neatly summarized in the ubiquitous formula of "Subsequent Trials"-ignores the unique historical and legal character of the NMT trials, which differed significantly from that of their predecessor. The NMT trials marked a decisive shift both in terms of analysis of the Third Reich and conceptualization of international criminal law. This volume is the first comprehensive examination of the NMT and brings together diverse perspectives from the fields of law, history, and political science, exploring the genesis, impact, and legacy of the twelve Military Tribunals held at Nuremberg between 1946 and 1949.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-532-1
    Subjects: History, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Michael R. Marrus

    This book addresses German war crimes trials that need a higher pro-file in our understanding of how the Allies contended with the defeat of the Hitlerian regime in 1945. The twelve trials of German war criminals held under American auspices in Nuremberg, conducted between October 1946 and April 1949 following the verdict of the four power International Military Tribunal (IMT), have struggled to find their identity and their place in historical discourse ever since their last verdict was handed down in 1949. Unlike the IMT, the trials in question have suffered from historiographical neglect. Nomenclature itself has been part of...

  6. Introduction Nuremberg’s Narratives Revising the Legacy of the “Subsequent Trials”
    (pp. 1-22)
    Kim C. Priemel and Alexa Stiller

    Less than a month after the final verdict of the Nuernberg Military Tribunals (NMT)¹ had been handed down in the so-called High Command Case, the departing chief prosecutor, Brigadier General Telford Taylor, wound up the four-year-long venture in a statement to the International News Service, articulating his expectations as to the legacy of the trial series. To those who thought that the war crimes proceedings, which by that time had come under scrutiny and criticism on both sides of the Atlantic, would fade into oblivion Taylor issued a stern warning: “I venture to predict that as time goes on we...

  7. Chapter 1 The Trials of Robert Kempner. From Stateless Immigrant to Prosecutor of the Foreign Office
    (pp. 23-46)
    Dirk Pöppmann

    When Nuremberg trial No. 11—the so-called Ministries case orWilhelmstraßenprozessagainst the former state secretary of the foreign office Ernst von Weizsäcker and twenty high representatives of the ministerial bureaucracy of the Third Reich—began on November 20, 1947, it soon became obvious that Robert Kempner played a key role in the prosecuting authority. At that point, he had already served as one of the most important staff members of the American Chief prosecutor Robert Jackson in the International Military Tribunal (IMT). But by November 1947 he had evolved from his role as assistant US chief counsel to that...

  8. Chapter 2 A Judge, a Prosecutor, and a Mass Murderer. Courtroom Dynamics in the SS-Einsatzgruppen Trial
    (pp. 47-73)
    Hilary Earl

    All history is human history. Never was an aphorism more apt than for the SS-Einsatzgruppentrial in which three individuals stand out among the hundreds who participated in this, the ninth of twelve trials held at the Palace of Justice at Nuremberg between 1946 and 1949. At the centre of this trial was Otto Ohlendorf, a young and handsome family man, who was extremely well educated, “poised and polite.”¹ Described as “one of the most remarkable persons ever to go on trial in any country in any age,”² Ohlendorf was also a notorious murderer. As leader ofEinsatzgruppe D, one...

  9. Chapter 3 Victims, Witnesses, and the Ethical Legacy of the Nuremberg Medical Trial
    (pp. 74-103)
    Paul Weindling

    The victims of these crimes are numbered in the hundreds of thousands. A handful only are still alive; a few of the survivors will appear in this courtroom. But most of these miserable victims were slaughtered outright or died in the course of the tortures to which they were subjected. For the most part they are nameless dead. To their murderers, these wretched people were not individuals at all. They came in wholesale lots and were treated worse than animals. They were 200 Jews in good physical condition, 50 gypsies, 500 tubercular Poles, or 1,000 Russians. The victims of these...

  10. Chapter 4 Semantics of Extermination. The Use of the New Term of Genocide in the Nuremberg Trials and the Genesis of a Master Narrative
    (pp. 104-133)
    Alexa Stiller

    This chapter could also be entitled: “Genocide: from a broad analytical concept of oppression, persecution, and extermination, to a crime of mass murder,” as this is exactly what happened to the new term between 1944 and 1949. Some scholars have already shown that Lemkin’s original concept of genocide, which he published in 1944,¹ had been more comprehensive than that adopted by the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.² The same can be observed in the Nuremberg trials in which the crime of genocide was not consistently seen as congruent with the Holocaust, i.e.,...

  11. Chapter 5 The SS as the “Alibi of a Nation”? Narrative Continuities from the Nuremberg Trials to the 1960s
    (pp. 134-160)
    Jan Erik Schulte

    In the judgment of the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal (IMT) theSchutzstaffel(SS or Protective Squad) of the National Socialist Party was named a criminal organization. Even before the verdict was delivered, Allied propaganda,¹ the media² and especially the testimonies during the IMT proceedings had made clear that the SS was responsible for major crimes and atrocities of the Third Reich. It therefore came as no surprise that SS men and their crimes were at the center of successive Allied war crimes trials. Notably, at the location of the former Dachau concentration camp, US authorities initiated 489 trials against 1,672...

  12. Chapter 6 Tales of Totalitarianism. Conflicting Narratives in the Industrialist Cases at Nuremberg
    (pp. 161-193)
    Kim C. Priemel

    In 1995, Celia Goetz was invited to a panel celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Nuremberg trials. Sitting alongside other participants in the trials, such as Telford Taylor and his former deputy Drexel A. Sprecher, Goetz took a decidedly critical stand towards the legacy of the so-called Subsequent Proceedings. “I have grave reservations about the usefulness of Nuremberg as a precedent,” she told the audience. In her eyes at least those cases conducted by the US authorities under Control Council Law No. 10 had been “a flawed precedent.”¹ This harsh verdict might come as a surprise because the Allied proceedings...

  13. Chapter 7 From Clean Hands To Vernichtungskrieg. How the High Command Case Shaped the Image of the Wehrmacht
    (pp. 194-220)
    Valerie Hébert

    At the core of the Nuernberg Military Tribunals project, as Telford Taylor declared in 1947, was the goal to provoke among the German people a national self-examination of conscience for their responsibility and complicity in Nazi crime. Not every case was equally suited to the task. State organizations and institutions like the SS or the judiciary seemed to represent only a minority. The military trials, and chief among them the High Command case, allowed no such social or psychological distancing. The crimes charged in these proceedings implicated the many millions of “ordinary” Germans who had served in the ranks of...

  14. Chapter 8 The Power of Images. Real and Fictional Roles of Atrocity Film Footage at Nuremberg
    (pp. 221-248)
    Ulrike Weckel

    The Nuremberg trials are among the very first court proceedings in which film footage was presented as evidence.¹ During the trial of the major war criminals before the International Military Tribunal (IMT), it was only the prosecutors who attempted to make use of the power of images; during the trials before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals (NMT), some defense counsels also deployed the new medium trying to find counter-images that favored their clients. The importance attributed to visual evidence can be recognized in the unorthodox way in whichSchwurgerichtssaal600 in Nuremberg’s Palace of Justice was reconstructed for the IMT proceedings:...

  15. Chapter 9 The Fate of Nuremberg. The Legacy and Impact of the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials in Postwar Germany
    (pp. 249-275)
    Devin O. Pendas

    The collapse of efforts to establish a second International Military Tribunal in the summer and fall of 1946 meant that many of the major goals the Americans had had for the international Nuremberg trial were now transferred to the Subsequent Proceedings.¹ The two most important of these were the development of an international legal regime that could help contain the threat of major global wars, and the democratization of Germany. For Germans, who were both the object and most immediate audience for the Subsequent Trials, it was this second goal that mattered most.

    In the very first of the Subsequent...

  16. Chapter 10 From IMT to NMT. The Emergence of a Jurisprudence of Atrocity
    (pp. 276-295)
    Lawrence Douglas

    The fabric of international law has been radically and irrevocably changed as a result of its contact with atrocity—first in the form of Nazi crimes, and more recently in the shape of atrocities in the Balkans and genocide in Rwanda. At the most basic level, this has led to a shift in the basic model of criminality. In the familiar domestic national model, law views criminal behavior as a deviant act, characteristically committed by a discrete individual, harmful of community norms and interests. The state, in this account, intervenes as the accuser and as the agent for enforcing and...

  17. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 296-305)
  18. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 306-308)
  19. Index
    (pp. 309-321)