World War II
World War II, or the Second World War, was the global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations — including all of the great powers — eventually forming two opposing military alliances, the Allies and the Axis. It was the most widespread war in history, with more than 100 million military personnel mobilised. In a state of "total war," the major participants placed their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities at the service of the war effort, erasing the distinction between civilian and military resources. Marked by significant events involving the mass death of civilians, including the Holocaust and the only use of nuclear weapons in warfare, it was the deadliest conflict in human history, resulting in 50 million to over 70 million fatalities. The Peace Palace Library's collection on World War II is focused on aspects of international law: the laws of war, international humanitarian law, international criminal law (war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes against the peace and security of mankind, genocide, aggression, the Nuremberg and Tokyo Trials), war reparations and the politics of its memory.
This Research Guide is intended as a starting point for research on World War II. It provides the basic materials available in the Peace Palace Library, both in print and electronic format. Handbooks, leading articles, bibliographies, periodicals, serial publications and documents of interest are presented in the Selective Bibliography section. Links to the PPL Catalogue are inserted. The Library's Classification scheme → History: World War II and subject heading (keyword) World War II are instrumental for searching through the Catalogue. Special attention is given to our subscriptions on databases, e-journals, e-books and other electronic resources. Finally, this Research Guide features links to relevant websites and other online resources of particular interest.
- Churchill, W.L.S., The Second World War, London, Cassell, 1948-1955.
- Gilbert, M., The Second World War: A Complete History, New York, Holt, 1989.
- Keegan, J., The Second World War, New York, Viking, 1989.
- Bazyler, M. and F.M. Tuerkheimer, Forgotten Trials of the Holocaust, New York; London, New York Press, 2014.
- Broichmann, C., Der außerordentliche Einspruch im Dritten Reich: Urteilsaufhebung durch den "Führer", Berlin, Erich Schmidt Verlag, 2014.
- Brunner, J., C. Goschler und N. Frei (Hrsg.), Die Globalisierung der Wiedergutmachung: Politik, Moral, Moralpolitik, Göttingen, Wallstein Verlag, 2013.
- Clemmesen, M.H. and M.S. Faulkner (eds.), Northern European Ouverture to War, 1939-1941: From Memel to Barbarossa, Leiden, Brill, 2013.
- Crowhurst, P., Hitler and Czechoslovakia in WWII: Domination and Retaliation, London, Tauris, 2013.
- Darnstädt, T., Nürnberg: Menschheitsverbrechen vor Gericht 1945, München; Berlin; Zürich, Piper, 2015.
- Douglas, L., The Right Wrong Man: John Demjanjuk and the Last Great Nazi War Crimes Trial, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2016.
- Edsel, R.M., Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures from the Nazis, New York, NY, Norton, 2013.
- Fitzpatrick, G., T. McCormack and N. Morris, Australia's War Crimes Trials 1945-51, Leiden; Boston, Brill Nijhoff, 2016.
- Graham-Dixon, F., The Allied Occupation of Germany: the Refugee Crisis, Denazification and the Path to Reconstruction, London, Tauris, 2013.
- Heydecker, J.J. and J. Leeb, Der Nürnberger Prozess, Köln, Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2015.
- Hoffmann, V.K., Die Strafverfolgung der NS-Kriminalität am Landgericht Darmstadt, Berlin, Erich Schmidt Verlag, 2013.
- Lingen, K. von, Allen Dulles, The OSS, and Nazi War Criminals: the Dynamics of Selective Prosecution, New York, NY, Cambridge University Press, 2013.
- Linton, S., Hong Kong's War Crimes Trials, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2013.
- Liu, D. and Zhang, B. (ed.), Historical War Crimes Trials in Asia, Brussels, Torkel Opsahl Academic EPublisher, 2016.
- Livingston, M.A., The Fascists and the Jews of Italy: Mussolini's Race Laws, 1938-1943, New York, NY, Cambridge University Press, 2014.
- Priemel, K.Ch., The Betrayel: the Nuremberg Trials and German Divergence, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2016.
- Remy, S.P., The Malmedy Massacre: The War Crimes Trial Controversy, Cambridge, MA, London, Harvard University Press, 2017.
- Service, H., Germans to Poles: Communism, Nationalism and Ethnic Cleansing after the Second World War, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2013.
- Steinhardt, E.C., The Holocaust and the Germanization of Ukraine, New York, NY, Cambridge University Press, 2015.
- Steinweis, A.E. and R.D. Rachlin (eds.), The Law in Nazi Germany: Ideology, Opportunism, and the Perversion of Justice, New York, NY, Berghahn, 2013.
- Totani, Y., Justice in Asia and the Pacific Region, 1945-1952: Allied War Crimes Prosecutions, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2015.
- Wilson, S. (et al.), Japanese War Criminals: The Politics of Justice after the Second World War, New York, Columbia University Press, 2017.
- Bell, L. (et al.) (eds.), The Second World War: a Guide to Documents in the Public Record Office, London, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1972.
- Götz, A., Die Verfolgung und Ermordung der europäischen Juden durch das nationalsozialistische Deutschland 1933-1945, München, Oldenbourg, 2008-... , 16 vols.
- Langsam, W.C., Historic Documents of World War II, Princeton, Van Nostrand, 1958.
- O'Neill, J.E. and R.W. Krauskopf (eds.), World War II: an Account of its Documents, Washington, Howard University Press, 1976.
Periodicals, serial publications
- Cahiers d'histoire de la guerre
- Guerres mondiales et conflits contemporains : revue trimestrielle d'histoire
- Revue d'histoire de la deuxième guerre mondiale
- Revue d'histoire de la deuxième guerre mondiale et des conflits contemporains
- Bloomberg, M. and H.H. Weber, World War II and its Origins: a Select Annotated Bibliography of Books in English, Littleton, CO, Libraries Unlimited Inc, 1975.
- Ziegler, J., World War II: Books in English, 1945-65, Stanford, CA, Stanford University, 1971.
- Yoji, A., "An Annotated Bibliographical Study of the Japanese Occupation of Malaya/Singapore, 1941-45", in New Perspectives on the Japanese Occupation in Malaya and Singapore, 1941-1945, Singapore, NUS Press, 2008, pp. 250-284.
Classification scheme → History
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Classification scheme → History
Wilson, S. (et al.), Japanese War Criminals: The Politics of Justice after the Second World War, New York, Columbia University Press, 2017.View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
Beginning in late 1945, the United States, Britain, China, Australia, France, the Netherlands, and later the Philippines, the Soviet Union, and the People's Republic of China convened national courts to prosecute Japanese military personnel for war crimes. The defendants included ethnic Koreans and Taiwanese who had served with the armed forces as Japanese subjects. In Tokyo, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East tried Japanese leaders. While the fairness of these trials has been a focus for decades, Japanese War Criminals instead argues that the most important issues arose outside the courtroom. What was the legal basis for identifying and detaining subjects, determining who should be prosecuted, collecting evidence, and granting clemency after conviction? The answers to these questions helped set the norms for transitional justice in the postwar era and today contribute to strategies for addressing problematic areas of international law. Examining the complex moral, ethical, legal, and political issues surrounding the Allied prosecution project, from the first investigations during the war to the final release of prisoners in 1958, Japanese War Criminals shows how a simple effort to punish the guilty evolved into a multidimensional struggle that muddied the assignment of criminal responsibility for war crimes. Over time, indignation in Japan over Allied military actions, particularly the deployment of the atomic bombs, eclipsed anger over Japanese atrocities, and, among the Western powers, new Cold War imperatives took hold. This book makes a unique contribution to our understanding of the construction of the postwar international order in Asia and to our comprehension of the difficulties of implementing transitional justice.
Remy, S.P., The Malmedy Massacre: The War Crimes Trial Controversy, Cambridge, MA, London, Harvard University Press, 2017.View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
During the Battle of the Bulge, Waffen SS soldiers shot 84 American prisoners near the Belgian town of Malmedy―the deadliest mass execution of U.S. soldiers during World War II. The bloody deeds of December 17, 1944, produced the most controversial war crimes trial in American history. Drawing on newly declassified documents, Steven Remy revisits the massacre―and the decade-long controversy that followed―to set the record straight. After the war, the U.S. Army tracked down 74 of the SS men involved in the massacre and other atrocities and put them on trial at Dachau. All the defendants were convicted and sentenced to death or life imprisonment. Over the following decade, however, a network of Germans and sympathetic Americans succeeded in discrediting the trial. They claimed that interrogators―some of them Jewish émigrés―had coerced false confessions and that heat of battle conditions, rather than superiors’ orders, had led to the shooting. They insisted that vengeance, not justice, was the prosecution’s true objective. The controversy generated by these accusations, leveled just as the United States was anxious to placate its West German ally, resulted in the release of all the convicted men by 1957. The Malmedy Massacre shows that the torture accusations were untrue, and the massacre was no accident but was typical of the Waffen SS’s brutal fighting style. Remy reveals in unprecedented depth how German and American amnesty advocates warped our understanding of one of the war’s most infamous crimes through a systematic campaign of fabrications and distortions.
Priemel, K.Ch., The Betrayel: the Nuremberg Trials and German Divergence, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2016.View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
At the end of World War II the Allies faced a threefold challenge: how to punish perpetrators of appalling crimes for which the categories of 'genocide' and 'crimes against humanity' had to be coined; how to explain that these had been committed by Germany, of all nations; and how to reform Germans. The Allied answer to this conundrum was the application of historical reasoning to legal procedure. In the thirteen Nuremberg trials held between 1945 and 1949, and in corresponding cases elsewhere, a concerted effort was made to punish key perpetrators while at the same time providing a complex analysis of the Nazi state and German history. Building on a long debate about Germany's divergence from a presumed Western path of development, Allied prosecutors sketched a historical trajectory which had led Germany to betray the Western model. Historical reasoning both accounted for the moral breakdown of a 'civilised' nation and rendered plausible arguments that this had indeed been a collective failure rather than one of a small criminal clique. The prosecutors therefore carefully laid out how institutions such as private enterprise, academic science, the military, or bureaucracy, which looked ostensibly similar to their opposite numbers in the Allied nations, had been corrupted in Germany even before Hitler's rise to power. While the argument, depending on individual protagonists, subject matters, and contexts, met with uneven success in court, it offered a final twist which was of obvious appeal in the Cold War to come: if Germany had lost its way, it could still be brought back into the Western fold. The first comprehensive study of the Nuremberg trials, The Betrayal thus also explores how history underpins transitional trials as we encounter them in today's courtrooms from Arusha to The Hague.
Fitzpatrick, G., T. McCormack and N. Morris, Australia's War Crimes Trials 1945-51, Leiden; Boston, Brill Nijhoff, 2016.View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
This unique volume provides a detailed analysis of Australia’s 300 war crimes trials of principally Japanese accused conducted in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. Part I contains contextual essays explaining why Australia established military courts to conduct these trials and thematic essays considering various legal issues in, and historical perspectives on, the trials. Part II offers a comprehensive collection of eight location essays, one each for the physical locations where the trials were held. In Part III post-trial issues are reviewed, such as the operation of compounds for war criminals; the repatriation of convicted Japanese war criminals to serve the remainder of their sentences; and reflections of some of those convicted on their experience of the trials. In the final essay, a contemporary reflection on the fairness of the trials is provided, not on the basis of a twenty-first century critique of contemporary minimum standards of fair trial expected in the prosecution of war crimes, but by reviewing approaches taken in the trials themselves as well as from reactions to the trials by those associated with them. The essays are supported by a large collection of unique historical photographs, maps and statistical materials. There has been no systematic and comprehensive analysis of these trials so far, which has meant that they are virtually precluded from consideration as judicial precedent. This volume fills that gap, and offers scholars and practitioners an important and groundbreaking resource.
Hitler, Mein Kampf: eine kritische Edition, München; Berlin, Institut für Zeitgeschichte, 2 vols, 2016.View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
Am 31. Dezember 2015, 70 Jahre nach Hitlers Todesjahr, sind die Urheberrechte an dessen Buch „Mein Kampf“ erloschen. Das Institut für Zeitgeschichte hat es sich zum Ziel gesetzt, unmittelbar nach Ablauf dieser Frist eine wissenschaftlich kommentierte Gesamtausgabe vorzulegen. Unter der Leitung von Dr. Christian Hartmann hat ein Historikerteam "Mein Kampf" in mehrjähriger Arbeit umfassend aufbereitet: Im Zentrum der kritischen Kommentierung stehen die Dekonstruktion und die Kontextualisierung von Hitlers Schrift: Wie entstanden seine Thesen? Welche Absichten verfolgte er damit? Welchen gesellschaftlichen Rückhalt besaßen Hitlers Behauptungen unter seinen Zeitgenossen? Welche Folgen hatten seine Ankündigungen nach 1933? Und vor allem: Was lässt sich mit dem Stand unseres heutigen Wissens Hitlers unzähligen Behauptungen, Lügen und Absichtserklärungen entgegensetzen? Dies ist nicht nur eine historiografische Aufgabe. Angesichts des hohen Symbolwerts, den Hitlers Buch noch immer hat, ist die Entmystifizierung von „Mein Kampf“ auch ein Beitrag zur historisch-politischen Aufklärung.
Liu, D. and Zhang, B. (ed.), Historical War Crimes Trials in Asia, Brussels, Torkel Opsahl Academic EPublisher, 2016.View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
This book offers analyses of historical war crimes trials in Asia from a variety of perspectives. Compared to their counterparts in Europe, the post-WWII war crimes trials in Asia have received much less attention. This is especially true for domestic trials by national authorities in Asia. The book examines the historical trials from different perspectives, including the legal concepts used and debates that took place; the influence of the trials within a broader social context, both at their time and later; the collection of evidence; and preservation, compilation and research of historical documents. It not only analyses the trials in their historical and social contexts, but emphasises their present day significance, also as regards the prevention of core international crimes, especially in Asia.
Douglas, L., The Right Wrong Man: John Demjanjuk and the Last Great Nazi War Crimes Trial, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2016.View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
In 2009, Harper’s Magazine sent war-crimes expert Lawrence Douglas to Munich to cover the last chapter of the lengthiest case ever to arise from the Holocaust: the trial of eighty-nine-year-old John Demjanjuk. Demjanjuk’s legal odyssey began in 1975, when American investigators received evidence alleging that the Cleveland autoworker and naturalized US citizen had collaborated in Nazi genocide. In the years that followed, Demjanjuk was twice stripped of his American citizenship and sentenced to death by a Jerusalem court as "Ivan the Terrible" of Treblinka—only to be cleared in one of the most notorious cases of mistaken identity in legal history. Finally, in 2011, after eighteen months of trial, a court in Munich convicted the native Ukrainian of assisting Hitler’s SS in the murder of 28,060 Jews at Sobibor, a death camp in eastern Poland. An award-winning novelist as well as legal scholar, Douglas offers a compulsively readable history of Demjanjuk’s bizarre case. The Right Wrong Man is both a gripping eyewitness account of the last major Holocaust trial to galvanize world attention and a vital meditation on the law’s effort to bring legal closure to the most horrific chapter in modern history.
Darnstädt, T., Nürnberg: Menschheitsverbrechen vor Gericht 1945, München; Berlin; Zürich, Piper, 2015.View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
Die Nürnnberger Prozesse veränderten die Welt. Wie macht man Frieden? 1945 finden die alliierten Siegermächte darauf eine revolutionäre Antwort: Zum ersten Mal in der Geschichte werden Politiker und Generäle als Kriegsverbrecher vor ein internationales Gericht gestellt. Dort muss sich die Nazi-Elite für ihre Untaten verantworten. Thomas Darnstädt erzählt spannend und aus der Kenntnis unveröffentlichter Quellen von dem historischen Versuch, Frieden durch Recht zu schaffen.
Totani, Y., Justice in Asia and the Pacific Region, 1945-1952: Allied War Crimes Prosecutions, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2015.View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
This book explores a cross section of war crimes trials that the Allied powers held against the Japanese in the aftermath of World War II. More than 2,240 trials against some 5,700 suspected war criminals were carried out at 51 separate locations across the Asia Pacific region. This book analyzes fourteen high-profile American, Australian, British, and Philippine trials, including the two subsequent proceedings at Tokyo and the Yamashita trial. By delving into a large body of hitherto underutilized oral and documentary history of the war as contained in the trial records, Yuma Totani illuminates diverse firsthand accounts of the war that were offered by former Japanese and Allied combatants, prisoners of war, and the civilian population. Furthermore, the author makes a systematic inquiry into select trials to shed light on a highly complex – and at times contradictory – legal and jurisprudential legacy of Allied war crimes prosecutions.
Steinhardt, E.C., The Holocaust and the Germanization of Ukraine, New York, NY, Cambridge University Press, 2015.View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
The German invasion of the Soviet Union during the Second World War was central to Nazi plans for territorial expansion and genocidal demographic revolution. To create “living space,” Nazi Germany pursued two policies. The first was the systematic murder of millions of Jews, Slavs, Roma, and other groups that the Nazis found undesirable on racial, religious, ethnic, ideological, hereditary, or behavioral grounds. It also pursued a parallel, albeit smaller, program to mobilize supposedly Germanic residents of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union – so-called Volksdeutsche or ethnic Germans – as the vanguard of German expansion. This study recovers the intersection of these two projects in Transnistria, a portion of southern Ukraine that, because of its numerous Volksdeutsche communities, became an epicenter of both Nazi Volksdeutsche policy and the Holocaust in conquered Soviet territory, ultimately asking why local residents, whom German authorities identified as Volksdeutsche, participated in the Holocaust with apparent enthusiasm.
Carruthers, B. (ed.), The SS on Trial: Evidence from Nuremberg, Barnsley, Pen & Sword Military, 2014.View this title in our link resolver Plinklet
The Nuremberg Trials were held by the four victorious Allied forces of Great Britain, the USA, France and the USSR in the Palace of Justice, Nuremberg from November 1945 to October 1946. Famous for prosecuting the major German war criminals, they also tried the various groups and organisations that were at the heart of Nazi Germany. This volume is concerned with the trial of the SS and includes all the testimony from the Nuremberg Trials regarding this enormous organisation, including the original indictment, the criminal case put forward for the SS, the closing speeches by the prosecution and defence and the final judgment.
The Emerging Legal Regime of Wrecks of Warships
The status in international law of operational warships has been long established. In contrast, the status of such vessels after they have sunk has been, and remains, a matter of considerable uncertainty. The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provides no rules whatsoever relating to sunken warships nor to wrecks more generally. However, over the last decades, technological advances have led to the discovery of many new wreck sites, fuelling commercial interest in these wrecks. As we have seen in our previous blog, illegal scavenging of war wrecks has caused significant upset among governments, war veterans and historians who want to preserve the final resting place of sailors who went down with their ships.Read more
Java Sea: Dutch, British and U.S. WW II Shipwrecks destroyed by Illegal Scavenging
An international investigation has been launched into the mysterious disappearance of Dutch Second World War shipwrecks which have vanished from the bottom of the Java Sea off the coast of Indonesia. In a press statement on 15 November, the Dutch Defence Ministery has confirmed that the wrecks of two of its warships that sank in 1942, the HNLMS De Ruyter (see photo) and HNLMS Java, have completely gone, while large parts of a third, the HNLMS Kortenaer, are also missing. The Dutch Defence Ministry immediateley launched an investigation as to what happened to the wrecks, suggesting the wrecks may have been illegally salvaged for the scrap metal market.Read more
New (E-)book: Historical War Crimes Trials in Asia
Torkel Opsahl Academic EPublisher (TOAEP) in Brussels has published a new (e-)book : Historical War Crimes Trials in Asia edited by Daqun Liu and Binxin Zhang. The TOAEP furthers the objective of excellence in research, scholarship and education by publishing worldwide through the Internet. The publisher has four publications series: the Publication Series, the Policy Brief Series, the Occasional Paper Series and the Law of the Future Series. The Peace Palace Library wishes to thank the Torkel Opsahl Academic EPublisher for donating all books on print.Read more
From The Hague to Nuremberg: Our Visit to Nuremberg
From Sunday 8 November 2015 to Tuesday 10 November 2015, 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.Read more
Warsaw Uprising 70th Anniversary, 1944-2014
Today it is exactly seventy years ago the Warsaw Uprising began on Godzina W at 17.00 hours. It was part of a greater resistance operation Akcja Burza meaning Operation Tempest but often referred to in English as Operation Storm. The idea of national armed rising was there from the moment the Armia Krajowa the largest organisation in the Polish Resistance, formed after the German Occupation of Poland in 1939. The Polish resistance movement, consisting of the Armia Krajowa and affiliated organisations even became the largest underground resistance movement in Europe.Read more
D-Day and the Battle of Normandy Remembered
On June 6th, 2014, Heads of State and dignitaries from France, Great Britain, Canada, the United States and other Allied countries will gather on Sword beach, Normandy with a contingent of the last living veterans to remember the liberation of France. They will honor the sacrifice made, and heroism shown by men and women in uniform and by French civilians on D-Day and during the Normandy Battle on land, sea and in the air. With deep gratitude for the liberators the Heads of State attending will once again solemnly confirm their bond of friendship and their common steadfast pursuit for a more peaceful world.Read more
Cultural Property: Art Crimes, Disputes and the Passage of Time
On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Dutch Restitutions Committee, an International Symposium titled ‘Fair and Just Solutions? Alternatives to Litigation in Nazi-looted Art Disputes, Status Quo And New Developments’ was held in the Academy Building of the Peace Palace on November 27, 2012.Read more
Dresden 1945: An Allied War Crime?
Since 1945, the bombing of Dresden is considered by many as a violation of international law and as a crime against humanity, even though positive rules of international humanitarian law were absent at the time. The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, were among the first formal statements of the laws of war and war crimes in the nascent body of international law. However these conventions, adressing the codes of wartime conduct on land and at sea, were adopted before the rise of air power. Despite repeated diplomatic attempts (→ The Hague Rules of Air Warefare 1922/1923) to update international humanitarian law to include aerial warfare, it was not done before the outbreak of World War II. The absence of positive international humanitarian law does not mean that the laws of war did not cover aerial warfare, but there was no general agreement of how to interpret those laws. The aerial bombardment of Dresden does not only raise the question as to whether or not it was an Allied war crime, but it also makes a moral appeal to prevent total war against civilian populations. It’s memory is kept alive.Read more
German War Reparations (WW I) Financially Ended
Nearly 92 years after the official end of World War I, Germany made its final reparations-related payment for the Great War on October 3, thereby ending the conflict financially. The German newspaper Die Welt discovered a last installment for the Londoner Schuldenabkommen of 69,9 million euro’s in the German budget. Not being a direct reparations settlement but rather the final sum owed on bonds that were issued between 1924 and 1930 and sold to foreign (mostly American) investors, but then never paid.Read more
More Research guides on War, Peace and Security
- International Humanitarian Law
- International Peace and Security
- Use of Force
- War and Peace
- World War I
- Crimes against humanity
- International criminal law
- International humanitarian law
- International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg
- International Military Tribunal for the Far East
- Laws of war
- Military history
- War crimes
- War reparations
- World War II