THE ANATOMY OF THE NUREMBERG TRIALS: A Personal Memoir by Telford Taylor


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An admirably balanced account of the first Nuremberg trial, by Telford (Munich, 1979, etc.), who helped prosecute the Nazi war criminals. Taylor has allowed nearly half a century to elapse before writing about the trials in order, he says, to provide opportunity for reflection. He concludes that the trials were necessary, that nothing less would have met the worldwide demand for punishment; and that, above all, they created a precedent to punish aggressive wats in the future--but his account is surprisingly, if legitimately, critical of the proceedings. Their greatest flaw, Taylor believes, was the presence of Soviet judges, which led to an almost total absence of acknowledgment of the Nazi-Soviet Pact dividing Poland in 1939 and of the Soviet attack on eastern Poland, as well as to the ""travesty"" of the effort to allocate responsibility for the massacre at Katyn. Another serious flaw was the specific selection of the defendants, including Hess, who was probably insane; Schacht, who--though he had played a considerable economic role in the 30's--had been stripped of all honors during the war and had ended it in a concentration camp; and Streicher, who--though a nasty Jew-baiter--was, Taylor believes, unjustly executed. Most incredible of all was the misunderstanding between the British and American prosecutors as to whether the court would indict Gustave Krupp or his son Alfried. Despite these problems, the results of Nuremberg were largely just, Taylor says, and they helped deter actions that would have discredited the entire Allied victory: The British initially were in favor of summarily executing most of the German defendants, he explains, and Eisenhower suggested exterminating the entire German general staff, the leaders of the Nazi Party from mayors on up, and all members of the Gestapo. A thoughtful, fair, and eloquent memoir that marshals the evidence on each side with such an even hand as to be probably definitive.

Pub Date: Oct. 21st, 1992
Page count: 736pp
Publisher: Knopf