On Holocaust Remembrance Day, gratitude for archives preserving histories of post-WWII war crimes trials


LOS ANGELES – On this International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I am honored to be spending this month at the USC Shoah Foundation, reviewing testimonies of persons who did their part to set right one of history’s terrible wrongs.

Seventy-three years ago today, Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, the infamous Nazi concentration camp located about 45 miles west of Kraków, Poland. Liberations of other camps by other Allied forces soon followed; among them, the U.S. liberation of Buchenwald on April 11, 1945, and the British liberation of Bergen-Belsen 4 days later.

Sixty years later, a 2005 U.N. General Assembly resolution set this date aside for commemoration of World War II atrocities; to quote the resolution, of

“… the Holocaust, which resulted in the murder of one third of the Jewish people, along with countless members of other minorities …”

The resolution further:

  • honored “the courage and dedication shown by the soldiers who liberated the concentration camps”;
  • rejected “any denial of the Holocaust as an historical event”;
  • envisaged the Holocaust as “a warning to all people of the dangers of hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice”;
  • denounced “all manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief, wherever they occur”; and
  • encouraged initiatives designed to “inculcate future generations with the lessons of the Holocaust in order to help to prevent future acts of genocide.”

Among the many such initiatives are memorial centers and foundations throughout the world – 2 of which have helped me in my own research into the roles that women played during postwar international criminal trials at Nuremberg.

In December, the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, located in Glen Cove, New York, opened its archives to me. Special thanks to Helen  Turner, archivist and Director of Youth Education, for her assistance.

This month, as the inaugural Breslauer, Rutman and Anderson Research Fellow, I am in residence at the University of Southern California, examining documents in USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive. It has been a fruitful and moving scholarly experience, and I look forward to sharing my research at a public lecture on campus at 4 p.m. this Tuesday, Jan. 30 (as I was honored to do last week at UCLA Law’s Promise Institute for Human Rights; video here). Special thanks to all at the foundation’s Center for Advanced Research – Wolf Gruner, Martha Stroud, Badema Pitic, Isabella Evalynn Lloyd-Damnjanovic, and Marika Stanford-Moore – and to the donors who endowed the research fellowship. (Fellowship info here.)

As reflected in the 2005 General Assembly resolution, the work of such institutions helps to entrench – and to prevent backsliding from – states’ promises to ensure and respect human rights and dignity norms, set out in instruments like the 1945 Charter of the United Nations, the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. To this list I would add the many documents establishing international criminal fora to prosecute persons charge with violating such norms – from  the Nuremberg-era tribunals through to today’s International Criminal Court.

(Cross-posted from Diane Marie Amann; image credit)

The Bystander Dilemma

Debates about conflict, crime and accountability often center on the victims and the perpetrators — protection of victims; search for, prosecution and punishment of perpetrators; compensation, restitution and acknowledgement for victims. These are, of course, essential questions and issues. But any situation of violence, from random street crime to the largest atrocities, involves a more complex cast of characters than the two main protagonists. Examining the roles, potential and obligations of that vast space between victim and perpetrator offers an opportunity to explore challenging questions about human security, responsibility, and the intersection between law, morality and the social contract.

I had the great privilege of participating in just such a conversation last Friday at the University of Utah Law Review symposium on The Bystander Dilemma: The Holocaust, War Crimes, and Sexual Assaults. The symposium was inspired by Utah Law Professor Amos Guiora’s remarkable new book, The Crime of Complicity: The Bystander in the Holocaust.  Professor Guiora’s book is an intellectually challenging and deeply personal exploration of the legal and moral obligations of bystanders, based on the experiences of his parents, Holocaust survivors from Hungary.

Over the course of three panels — on the Holocaust, situations of conflict and mass atrocities, and sexual assault — and a keynote, the symposium wove together old and new conversations about several critical thematic questions. Who is a bystander? Where is the line between bystander and perpetrator or between bystander and potential victim? How do these lines affect how we view a bystander’s obligations — or perhaps how the bystander him- or herself views any such obligations? Why does the bystander matter and, most directly linked to Professor Guiora’s book, why is there a disconnect between the bystander’s moral and legal obligations?

Particularly interesting was the breadth of ways in which one might consider the bystander and for what reasons, all of which matter to any consideration of moral or legal obligations and consequences. First, and perhaps most instinctive, we think of the bystander in the context of protecting the victim of a crime — someone who can alert the authorities or even stop the violence in some way.  This links directly to the second — preventing violence and crimes. If a bystander speaks up in some way, the attack or crime is less likely to happen.

But the discussions and exploration of the bystander dilemma ranged far beyond this direct relationship. A third component focuses on assigning responsibility to act, whether moral or legal responsibility. The central call of Professor Guiora’s new book is for a legal obligation for bystanders to alert authorities or otherwise intervene to protect the victim of a crime. Fourth, the bystander conversation is also about identifying capability — who has the capability to act to help a victim, to stop a crime, to prevent violence, and how does the nature of that capability affect the content of any such obligation?

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Announcements

New Grants Available

Two EU grants advertised for work relating to children’s rights, specifically focusing on children’s rights in the context of migration/asylum and children-centred approaches to child victims of violence. Please forward on to European colleagues you think might be interested. For a link to the grants, click here.

Jobs

Manager, Ferencz International Justice Initiative

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is looking for a dedicated and passionate individual to join the Museum’s team and help support our mission. The Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide works to ensure that the United States government, governments around the world, and multilateral organizations institutionalize structures, tools, and policies to effectively prevent and respond to genocide and mass atrocities.

The Simon-Skjodt Center is seeking a Manager, Ferencz International Justice Initiative whom will work under the supervision of the Simon-Skjodt Center’s Deputy Director and work with the Ferencz International Justice Initiative Senior Consultant on a day-to-day basis in developing and implementing the Initiative’s objectives. The purpose of this position is to provide leadership in planning and implementing the work of the newly established Benjamin Ferencz International Justice Initiative. This initiative was established by a gift from Benjamin Ferencz, the last surviving prosecutor from the Nuremberg Tribunal, to strengthen the rule of law and the legal architecture for atrocity prevention and response; promote justice and accountability for atrocities committed in countries of concern; and establish a significant new locus for policy and research on the use of international justice mechanisms to deter, prevent, and respond to mass atrocities.

This is a full-time donated position (non-Federal) paid with the Museum’s donated funds. Salary is commensurate with experience.

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Go On! TOMORROW: Implications of Vichy and Third Reich legal discourse for contemporary law (Cardozo Law, 6 pm)

Tomorrow, October 30th, the Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights (HGHR) Program at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law presents a discussion “On the Implications for Contemporary Law and Legal Scholarship of Vichy and Third Reich Judicial Discourse.” The event will begin at 6 pm at 55 Fifth Avenue. There will be a reception following the event.

The discussion will involve close readings of what passed for legal discourse in Vichy France and Nazi Germany, appraising its significance for today’s legal scholarship, judges, and interpretive theory. Among specific developments to be discussed are a German court’s recent description of circumcision in Jewish ritual as causing “severe physical injury,” the relationship of law and morals generally, and the implications of Vichy’s legal and academic discourse for the incipient renewal of anti-semitism in France.

The speakers are Prof. Otto Pfersmann, Prof. of Law, Paris-1, Pantheon, Sorbonne, and Prof. Richard Weisberg, Floersheimer Prof. of Constitutional Law and Founding Director, Cardozo Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Program.

Please RSVP to cardozophhr@gmail.com.

Go On! FASPE Legal Ethics Fellowship in Berlin, Krakow, and Oświęcim (Auschwitz)

(Image credit: FASPE)

FASPE (Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics), in collaboration with The Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, is now accepting applications for a fellowship that uses the conduct of lawyers and judges during the Holocaust and in Nazi Germany as a launching point for an intensive two-week summer program on contemporary legal ethics. Fellowships include an all-expenses-paid trip from New York to Berlin, Krakow, and Oświęcim (Auschwitz) where students work with leading faculty to explore both legal history and the ethical issues facing practicing attorneys today. All program costs, including international and European travel, lodging, and food, are covered.

The 2015 FASPE Law program will run from May 24 to June 4.

The program is particularly targeted at students who intend to practice, whether in law firms, as prosecutors, as defense attorneys, or otherwise. All FASPE programs are non-denominational and candidates of all religious, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds are encouraged to apply. Completed applications must be received by January 6, 2015.

To apply or to learn more about FASPE, please visit: http://www.FASPE.info.

If you have any questions, please contact Thorin R. Tritter, Managing Director of FASPE, at ttritter@FASPE.info.