The Nuremberg Trials: fascism as a morality play

Nov 22, 2020 by

by James Woudhuysen, spiked:

Seventy-five years ago, at 10 o’clock on 20 November 1945, the courtroom in the Palace of Justice, Nuremberg, Germany, was crowded. Present were lawyers, generals, soldiers, white-helmeted US military police, photographers, movie cameras, journalists and locals. Punctually, the four judges began the proceedings of the International Military Tribunal.

It was ‘International’ because of the four Allies — America, the Soviet Union, Britain and France. And it was ‘Military’ because they were occupying powers. There was no German government.

A procession of more than 20 top Nazi officials, led by former Luftwaffe chief Herman Goering, came up from dank, windowless solitary confinement elsewhere in the building, and took to two rows of serried seats. The lights in the panelled room were almost as intense as those shone by each black-helmeted GI as he inspected his own personal captive – known by just a number – in the cells. As we will see, Nuremberg was more than a courtroom drama, a show trial, or the double-standards exercise of victors’ justice. For more than 10 months, the Allies not only saw some kind of justice done there. They also contained the populist and radical worldwide atmosphere of anti-fascism immediately after the war, by making justice seen to be done – in a style more convincing than Stalin’s infamous Moscow Trials. The Allies wanted to make some key political points, of a fundamentally conservative nature, about the postwar order, and to make them in the full glare of the world’s media.

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