From The Hague to Nuremberg: The Peace Palace Library’s Visit to Nuremberg

From Sunday 8 November 2015 to Tuesday 10 November 2015, we, Sophie Brinkel, Candice Alihusain and Fé de Jonge, visited the city of Nuremberg in Germany. This city is internationally known for the war crimes trials that took place in Nuremberg after the Second World War, from 1945 to 1949. These trials encompassed both the International Military Tribunal, which was created by the Allied forces, and the subsequent Nuremberg Trials, organized by the USA authorities.

The city of Nuremberg was chosen as the location for these trials because it played a crucial role in the rise of the Nazi regime. The Nazi Party selected the city to be the site of several enormous party conventions: the Nuremberg rallies. During this pre-war period, Nuremberg was the stage for these extensive Nazi propaganda shows. Today Nuremberg is a modern city and many of the historic buildings are rebuilt. During our trip we visited the most important sites in Nuremberg’s history.

The Documentation CentreThe Documentation Centre

We started our visit at the Documentation Centre, which commemorates the Nazi party rallies that took place there. The Documentation Centre is located at Congress Hall on the old Nazi Party Rally grounds. The plan for the Nazi Party Rally grounds and the buildings was made by the Nazi architect Albert Speer in 1933. Congress Hall was designed to house 50.000 spectators. The Nuremberg rallies were held in 1927 and 1929, and annually between 1933 and 1939. The Nazi Party rallies were mass festivals organized for the community and to honor Hitler, who was called the ‘uncontested leader’ of the National Socialist Party.

The Documentation Centre itself opened its doors in 2001 in the former Congress Hall. The Centre is designed by the Austrian architect Günther Domenig, who created a modern centre with a lot of light to counteract the darkness of the National Socialist regime. Here we spoke with dr. Martina Christmeier, a scientific researcher at the Documentation Centre. She told us more about the history of the party rallies and the buildings of the Nazi Party Rally Grounds.

The Memorium Nuremberg TrialsPalace of Justice - Courtroom 600

Our next stop was the Palace of Justice and the Memorium Nuremberg Trials which is located in the Palace of Justice. The Memorium opened its doors in 2010 and informs visitors about the background of the trials and their location. The decision to locate the International Military Tribunal in Courtroom 600 in Nuremberg at the largely undamaged Palace of Justice was taken during the London Conference of August 1945. The International Military Tribunal was created by the Allied forces (United States of America, Soviet Union, France and Great Britain) and started sessions three months after the Second World War ended. 22 of the most important political and military leaders of the ‘Third Reich’ were brought before the Tribunal. The subsequent trials took place from 1946 to 1949 and included cases against German industrialists, lawyers and doctors. For the first time in history, defendants were indicted of crimes under international law: conspiracy, crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The trial before the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg was conducted under the presidency of Lord Justice Geoffrey Lawrence. Robert H. Jackson, the key figure in the creation of the International Military Tribunal, was appointed as the Chief Prosecutor of the war criminals. Examples of significant defendants during the first trial are Hermann Göring and Rudolf Hess. Wilhelm Frick was one of the noteworthy defendants during the second trial. At the Memorium we spoke to dr. Henrike Claussen, the director of the Memorium, inside courtroom 600. She told us about Courtroom 600, the trial itself and the defendants.

Faber Castell Castle - Schloss SteinFaber Castell Castle

Afterwards, we visited the Faber Castell Castle in Stein. While the more prominent international guests and judges stayed at the Grand Hotel in the centre of Nuremberg during the trial, the Castle was used as a press camp for the international media. Journalists from all over the world who came to Nuremberg to report on the trial slept at the old castle of Eberhardt Faber. Since September of this year the castle holds an exhibition about the press camp and the rooms used by the reporters. The International Military Tribunal brought the international community to Nuremberg and for a short period of time, Nuremberg was the centre of the world.

The International Nuremberg Principles AcademyAcademy

On Tuesday morning we visited the International Nuremberg Principles Academy (hereafter Academy). The Academy educates in international criminal law and its challenges, and gives special human rights trainings. The Academy is named after the Nuremberg Principles of 1950 which were adopted after the trial and can be seen as the basis for modern international criminal law. In 1947, one year after the end of the first Nuremberg Trial, the United Nations General Assembly passed resolution 177 in order to codify the Nuremberg principles. The International Law Commission subsequently codified the 7 principles in 1950.

At the Academy we spoke to Bernd Borchardt, the founding director of the Academy, and dr. Sigall Horovitz, who works for the Educational Department of the Academy and who is a specialist in international criminal law and transitional justice. We spoke with them about the German perception of the trial, how the public initially supported the International Military Tribunal, but rallied against the subsequent trials held by the USA.  Additionally, they spoke about the importance of the rule of law on both the national and global level, and how the political, military and economic leaders of Germany were to be tried in Nuremberg according to the rule of law. Finally, they explained how the Cold War prevented further international cooperation on issues of international criminal justice.

For more information about our visit to the Academy, please read the interview with Dr. Sigall Horovitz and Bernd Borchardt.

The goal of our Nuremberg trip was to make a documentary about the Nuremberg Trials and the history of Nuremberg as the city of the Nazi Party Rallies. This documentary will be shown during the Peace Palace Library events on Saturday 14 November 2015 and Saturday 26 November 2015 to commemorate 70 years Nuremberg. 

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