NUREMBERG: A Nation on Trial by Werner Maser

NUREMBERG: A Nation on Trial

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Werner Maser, the indefatigable researcher into Nazi history who decisively laid to rest the legend of Hitler's Jewish ancestry (Hitler: Legend, Myth, Reality, 1973) has now turned his attention to the Nuremberg trials, and the result is a book beset by a glaring inconsistency. While obviously deploring Nazi atrocities, Maser so thoroughly doubts the legitimacy and the actual value of the trials that his work could easily serve as a source book for critics of Nuremberg; at the same time, his humanitarian sympathies make him long for the application of the Nuremberg principles across the board. Combining legal history, philosophical argument, and lengthy excerpts from the Nuremberg transcripts, Maser doggedly demolishes the trials' legitimacy with familiar arguments: Nuremberg was victor's justice; the victors had been as belligerent as Germany; the men on trial were only Hitler's puppets; the defendants were unused to Anglo-American jurisprudence; etc. Maser even believes that, for the German people, the trials were unsuccessful in bringing Nazi horrors to light: he claims that many Germans considered the revelations ""extravagant exaggerations"" to justify Allied vengeance. Furthermore, his blunt references to Hiroshima, Hungary, and Vietnam, remind us that Nuremberg was not a harbinger of peace: intended as a warning to future violators of human decency, ""it carries little weight among men of that ilk."" Yet in the end Maser calls Nuremberg ""essential,"" and a ""revolutionary step,"" and claims that since Nuremberg the ""historian feels himself bound to take up the cudgels on behalf of international law"" against the politicians who would violate it. This distinguished historian seems unaware that his demolition of Nuremberg has robbed him of a very important ""cudgel.

Pub Date: Sept. 25th, 1979
Publisher: Scribners