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THE NUREMBERG TRIAL by Ann & John Tusa Tusa



Pub Date: Sept. 19th, 1984
ISBN: 1616080213
Publisher: Atheneum

This careful, fluent, detailed narrative of the Nuremberg trial of Nazi leaders looks to be, in two respects, an alternative to Bradley Smith's Reaching Judgement at Nuremberg (1977), the now-standard retrospect: Smith writes in broad strokes, and constantly attitudinizes; he is also unenthusiastic about Nuremberg, finding it an over-elaborate proceeding with little effect as a precedent. Smith is an American, moreover, who was writing in the wake of Vietnam's Nuremberg overtones. The Tusas are British researcher-writers for whom, as for many of their compatriots, Nuremberg was the best that could be done at the time, and worth doing: ""a remarkably calm and dispassionate proceeding"" that ""formulated the principles to which nations still appeal."" (Was it ""victor's justice""? ""All justice is to some extent that of victors."") So their book differs from Smith's in tenor and manner without differing from Smith and subsequent commentators on the trial itself. The Tusas do embody a British perspective in the sense of regularly noting British reactions and, to a degree, in spelling out and further exposing the shortcomings of American chief prosecutor Robert Jackson--impassioned, combative, unable to grasp the distinctions between Anglo-American and Continental judicial tradition, ""so stuck on the 'American Way' as to have tunnel vision."" Their account echoes the universal admiration for Jackson's eloquent opening address (on the moral responsibilities of accused, and accusers); then, sometimes smugly, they detail American failings in presenting evidence and cross-examining witnesses. (Re Jackson's notorious rout by Goering, they find in his files evidence of ""bald assertions wide open to challenge or outright denial."") This detailing is interesting, even absorbing; but insofar as it demonstrates nothing substantially new, it might also seem excessive to the non-specialist American reader. (Though the book is not unusually large at 500 pp., smallish, close-set type makes it quite long--roughly 286,000 words. And though the chapters are distinct topical units, there are unfortunately no chapter headings.) But what the Tusas attempt overall is at once to personalize and depersonalize: ""The controversy over Jackson's cross-examination and the Tribunal's handling should not have obscured the paucity of Goering's defense, but it did."" In this regard the book presently stands alone as a chronicle--apt if not exceptional in describing the defendants' demeanor and performance, clear if not groundbreaking in characterizing the judges' exacting disposal of the charges, but without competition in showing the minutiae as adding up to something. (A more vigorous and explicit, first-hand response to Bradley Smith is provided, however, in Airey Neave's On Trial at Nuremberg; Robert Conot's 1983 Justice at Nuremberg is just a massive trivialization.)