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

Overview

Since the Nuremberg trials following World War II, there has been considerable debate about the nature and effects of war crimes with regard both to the Nazis and to modern-day perpetrators. What constitutes a “war crime,” and how has the concept changed over time? How do victors and vanquished deal with crimes that have universal as well as national dimensions? How is the historical reality of war crimes related to their judicial treatment? ...

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Overview

Since the Nuremberg trials following World War II, there has been considerable debate about the nature and effects of war crimes with regard both to the Nazis and to modern-day perpetrators. What constitutes a “war crime,” and how has the concept changed over time? How do victors and vanquished deal with crimes that have universal as well as national dimensions? How is the historical reality of war crimes related to their judicial treatment? How are perpetrators portrayed during investigations and trials?
 
These timely and provocative essays make use of newly available archival sources and a wide range of case studies to provide in-depth analyses of war crimes within a broad historical framework. The essays are organized into four sections: the history of war-crime trials from Weimar Germany to just after World War II; the sometimes diverging Allied efforts to come to terms with the Nazi concentration camp system; the ability of postwar society to confront war crimes of the past; and the legacy of war-crime trials in the twenty-first century. Atrocities on Trial illuminates a dark and timely subject and helps us to understand the ongoing struggle to hold accountable those who perpetrate crimes against humanity.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Law Journal

“A compelling collection of informative and thought-provoking essays. . . . Historical lessons emerge best from the kind of stimulating explorations that fill this volume. It is an edited volume at its best: not a hodge-podge, but essays that complement each other, reflect off each other, and also create friction, setting off sparks that are consistently illuminating.”—Douglas G. Morris, New York Law Journal

— Douglas G. Morris

CHOICE

"This book fills a significant void in the more widely known war crimes literature that focuses on wartime atrocities committed by Hitler’s Third Reich."—J. C. Watkins Jr., CHOICE

— J. C. Watkins Jr.

Shofar
"These essays make use of newly available archival sources and a wide range of case studies to provide in-depth analyses of war crimes within a broad historical framework."—Shofar
Michael Livingston
"[Atrocities on Trial] leads to counter-intuitive and otherwise surprising conclusions in several areas which make it a significant contribution to the existing literature. . . . Well-written . . . balancing a lively if depressing story with a first-rate intellectual analysis [and] first-tier scholarship."

-Michael Livingston, professor at Rutgers School of Law-Camden

Holocaust and Genocide Studies

"[Atrocities on Trial] is an informative, nuanced, and balanced anthology that succeeds in its ambition to clarify the history of Nazi war crimes prosecution and the omnipresent influence of political forces on the trials."—Michael S. Bryant, Holocaust and Genocide Studies

— Michael S. Bryant

Michael Livingston
“[Atrocities on Trial] leads to counter-intuitive and otherwise surprising conclusions in several areas which make it a significant contribution to the existing literature. . . . Well-written . . . balancing a lively if depressing story with a first-rate intellectual analysis [and] first-tier scholarship.”—Michael Livingston, professor at Rutgers School of Law–Camden
New York Law Journal - Douglas G. Morris
“A compelling collection of informative and thought-provoking essays. . . . Historical lessons emerge best from the kind of stimulating explorations that fill this volume. It is an edited volume at its best: not a hodge-podge, but essays that complement each other, reflect off each other, and also create friction, setting off sparks that are consistently illuminating.”—Douglas G. Morris, New York Law Journal
CHOICE - J. C. Watkins Jr.
"This book fills a significant void in the more widely known war crimes literature that focuses on wartime atrocities committed by Hitler's Third Reich."—J. C. Watkins Jr., CHOICE
Holocaust and Genocide Studies - Michael S. Bryant
"[Atrocities on Trial] is an informative, nuanced, and balanced anthology that succeeds in its ambition to clarify the history of Nazi war crimes prosecution and the omnipresent influence of political forces on the trials."—Michael S. Bryant, Holocaust and Genocide Studies
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803210844
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 4/2/2008
  • Pages: 360
  • Sales rank: 1,433,972
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia Heberer is a historian with the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. She is the museum’s in-house specialist on medical crimes and eugenics policies in Nazi Germany. 
 
Jürgen Matthäus is the director for applied research at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He is the coeditor of Contemporary Responses to the Holocaust and a contributor to Christopher R. Browning’s The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939–March 1942 (Nebraska 2004). 
 
Contributors include: Donald Bloxham, Jonathan Friedman, Richard J. Golsan, Patricia Heberer, Michael R. Marrus, Jürgen Matthäus, John K. Roth, Ulf Schmidt, Rebecca Wittmann, and Lisa Yavnai.

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Table of Contents

Foreword   Michael R. Marrus     ix
Introduction: War Crimes Trials and the Historian     xiii
Precedents in Punishment
The Lessons of Leipzig: Punishing German War Criminals after the First World War   Jurgen Matthaus     3
Early Postwar Justice in the American Zone: The "Hadamar Murder Factory" Trial   Patricia Heberer     25
U.S. Army War Crimes Trials in Germany, 1945-1947   Lisa Yavnai     49
Allied Courts and German Crimes in the Context of Nuremberg
Law and Politics in the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials, 1946-1949   Jonathan Friedman     75
The Nuremberg Doctors' Trial and the Limitations of Context   Michael R. Marrus     103
"The Scars of Ravensbruck": Medical Experiments and British War Crimes Policy, 1945-1950   Ulf Schmidt     123
The Sachsenhausen Trials: War Crimes Prosecution in the Soviet Occupation Zone and in West and East Germany   Jonathan Friedman     159
Postwar Society and the Nazi Past
"No Ordinary Criminal": Georg Heuser, Other Mass Murderers, and West German Justice   Jurgen Matthaus     187
Tainted Law: The West German Judiciary and the Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals   Rebecca Wittmann     211
Justice in Austrian Courts?: The Case of Josef W. and Austria's Difficult Relationship with Its Past   Patricia Heberer     231
Current Aspects and Implications
Crimes-against-Humanity Trials in France and Their Historical and Legal Contexts: A Retrospective Look   Richard J. Golsan     247
Milestones and Mythologies: The Impact of Nuremberg   Donald Bloxham     263
Prosecution, Condemnation, and Punishment: Ethical Implications of Atrocities on Trial   John K. Roth     283
Selected Bibliography     305
Contributors     309
Index     313
Tables
British War Crimes Investigators Examining the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp     131
Nuremberg Medical Trial Defendants Originally Assigned to the British Medical War Crime Trial as Part of the Hohenlychen Group     133
Victims of Medical Experiments Carried Out in the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp     137
Members of the Court in Ravensbruck Trial No. 1     144
Outcome of Ravensbruck Trial No. 1     145
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