The Nuremberg Trials

Hello all!

My name is Vivian Hustad and I am a junior accounting major and classics minor from St. Louis Park, Minnesota.

Today we ventured to the Nuremberg Palace of Justice for a program on the Auschwitz Trials of National Socialists in the Federal Republic of Germany. The first Nuremberg trial to prosecute the high ranking officials involved with Auschwitz was organized by the alliance of Allied powers (Britain, the Soviet Union, France, and the US). This is the only trial with all of the powers working together while the other 12 trials (for lower ranking officials) were run solely by the United States.

When looking at the part of the exhibition about the defense lawyers of officers indicted of criminal acts during the war, one of the most common arguments by the defense was the idea the Hitler was the only one responsible for Auschwitz. This argument reminded me of an article we read as a class by Tom Lawson entitled "The Realisation of the Unthinkable: searching for the origins of the Final Solution." In this article Lawson breaks down the two arguments on the origin of the Final Solution:

-Intentionalism: The idea that Hitler alone is responsible for the Final Solution and planned for its presence since the beginning of the war.

-Functionalism: The idea that the Final Solution came as a natural function of the war. The idea to kill the Jews gradually escalated as the war went on.

By using this argument in the Nuremberg Trials, the defense lawyers argue for the intentionalist view of the Final Solution, attempting to ensure their defendants would not be convicted of murder (as all those who determined to make the executive decision to kill were) but rather the lesser sentence of complicity to murder. Another interesting aspect of the visit was that the courtroom was remodeled right after the end of the Nuremberg Trials by the locals. When looking at a chapter of the book German National Identity after the Holocaust by Mary Fulbrook, we can see that the worries of accusing the guilty were soon replaced by the worry of finding missing loved ones, finding a place to live, and finding food to survive for Germany. Many repressed the past to focus on the future. The remodeling of the courtroom puts this idea into physical actions. The German public wished to put the events of World War II in the past and rather focus on the future, and this case physically removed the memories of the atrocities committed during the war.

Combining the knowledge from the articles we've read and our tour about the Nuremberg Trials, it appears that Germany's national identity took a turn towards avoiding its past, focusing on the idea that a few bad seeds had lead the majority of the innocent population astray. Blame was placed on only higher ranking individuals such as Heydrich, Himmler, and Hitler himself. Those under them, referred to as "desk perpetrators" were merely following orders in the public eye.

Now we are in Prague, Czech Republic and ready to start the next leg of our studies!


Vivian Hustad
The left side of the benches from the original court room used for the Nuremberg Trials.
Our group outside of the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg, Germany.