An impassioned defense of the Nuremberg legacy by California supreme-court judge Ehrenfreund, a former journalist at the war-crimes trials.
After serving with the occupation forces at the end of World War II, the author became a reporter for The Stars and Stripes, covering the trials of the captured Nazi high command from 1945 to 1949. In this pertinent, thorough overview, Ehrenfreund revisits the initial trial and considers its legacy, both as it affected his decision to become a trial lawyer, and the important precedents it has set in terms of prosecuting and checking future crimes against humanity. The author begins near the end of the war, when Secretary of War Henry Stimson and lawyer Murray Bernays successfully convinced President Roosevelt that a trial rather than summary execution was morally necessary in order to expose Hitler’s plan as a criminal conspiracy and to establish a full record of Nazi atrocities. Supreme Court associate justice Robert H. Jackson, appointed chief prosecutor by President Truman, insisted that the Nazis must have a fair trial: due process, a lawyer for each, presumption of innocence. Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess and 19 other defendants were charged with conspiracy to wage war, waging aggressive war, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Few witnesses were called; the bulk of the case was made with a mountain of documentary evidence. Despite the defendants’ charges of unfairness, the trial convicted 18 on at least one count, and 12 were hanged. From this astounding precedent, the author considers the successes and failures of the 12 subsequent Nuremberg trials and the Tokyo trial of Japanese war leaders, as well as the Nuremberg precedent in cases of medical ethics, human rights, racial prejudice, criminal big business and the establishment of a long-overdue international court to try the world’s dictators. The author makes a tremendous case for adhering to the Nuremberg legacy of fair treatment for even the most odious offenders.
Students and young adults will especially value this accessible, personable work.