Oct. 1, 1946, the International Military Tribunal (IMT) issues verdicts against leading Nazis at Nuremberg.
In the aftermath of World War II, many high ranking Nazi officials were sentenced to death by the War Crime Tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany. The phrase, “I was just following orders” originates from these trials and it brings up important questions about justice. More importantly, what defines a “war crime” and how does one judge it? The trials were made up of prosecutors from the USA, USSR, France, and Great Britain. The 1961 film, Judgement at Nuremberg, dramatizes the court proceedings.
- In your view, when is “following orders” justified as a rationale for committing a crime, and when is it not?
- In 1989, following the fall of communism, there were no comparable trials for crimes committed under communist regimes – even though many more people died as a result of communism than died because of fascism. What do you believe explains the difference? Would justice have been better served with the execution of more communists, or less fascists?
- How did the implementation of the trials at Nuremberg follow the rule of law? It what ways was it at odds with the traditional understanding of the rule of law?