The Nuremberg Trials at 70

"The privilege of opening the first trial in history for crimes against the peace of the world imposes a grave responsibility.The wrongs we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored because it cannot survive their being repeated”.  


Justice Jackson speaking at the opening of the Nuremberg TrialWith these words Justice Robert H. Jackson, Chief of Counsel for the United States marked the beginning of the Nuremberg trials 70 years ago. The Harvard Law School Library commemorates this anniversary with this webpage, which describes Harvard's Nuremberg related collections, as well as the school's connections to the trials. An exhibit featuring items from both the circulating and manuscript collections will be on display until the end of February. 

The Nuremberg trials prosecuted leaders and officers of the Nazi regime for crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The International Military Tribunal (IMT, 1945–46) charged the surviving leaders of the regime primarily with crimes against peace, with war crimes and crimes against humanity as secondary and supporting charges. The subsequent Nuremberg Military Tribunals (NMT, 1946–49, also held at Nuremberg) of the United States occupation government charged lower-level officials with more specific crimes. These included war crimes such as the murder of prisoners of war, the seizing and murder of hostages, the abuse of civilians in war zones, and the destruction of property in scorched-earth campaigns.

Court at Nuremberg
Crimes against humanity involved genocide and crimes against German citizens and others under German government jurisdiction, including murder, forced labor, persecution of political, religious, and ethnic groups, confiscation of property, medical experiments on prisoners, forced sterilization, and euthanasia of the ill or disabled.



Beyond punishing the offenders, a major purpose of the trials was to provide proof of the truth of the charges for the world at large, including the people of Germany at the time. The Nuremberg trials provided the basis for the modern law of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and a model for recent international prosecutions for such crimes. 

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