Atrocities on Trial: Historical Perspectives on the Politics of Prosecuting War Crimes

By Patricia Heberer; Jürgen Matthäus | Go to book overview

Law and Politics in the
Subsequent Nuremberg Trials, 1946–1949

JONATHAN FRIEDMAN

Historians have written volumes on the International Military Tribunal of Major War Criminals held at Nuremberg between November 1945 and October 1946, commonly referred to as the IMT. Yet scholars have not paid adequate attention to the twelve subsequent proceedings conducted in that city by the U.S. Army between 1946 and 1947. In these trials U.S. officials prosecuted the second tier of Germany's elite, 185 individuals in all, including members of the SS, civil service, officer corps, military and industrial spheres, and the medical profession. The opening of Allied documents, coupled with a shift in historiography toward the immediate postwar period, has sparked interest in these cases and their importance in the broader scope of contemporary European history and international war crimes prosecutions. This essay explores the functions of the twelve tribunals and assesses their place in the overall context of American denazification policy and the emerging cold war. The obvious question begged by this line of inquiry is: to what extent did the post-imt trials dispense justice effectively, and by effectively I mean proportionate to the crimes committed?


The Road to Nuremberg

Before the end of the Second World War, the major Allied powers fighting against Nazi Germany (the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union) resolved to bring suspected war criminals to justice. Under the terms of the Moscow Declaration of November 1943, the three Allies announced that anyone participating in war crimes would be tried by the courts of those countries on whose territory the infractions had occurred.1 The Moscow agreement excluded major war criminals whose acts could not be limited to any defined geographical area. Ultimately, these were to be tried and punished in accordance with a subsequent joint decision, adopted on 8 August 1945 as the “London Agreement on the Punishment of the Major War Criminals of the European

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