Nuremberg trials debate at BGSU

Tim Sampson and Tim Sampson

Some 60 years ago in the war ravaged town of Nuremberg, Germany, sentences were handed down to Nazi leaders in condemnation of the egregious crimes committed during World War II and the Holocaust.

These convictions marked the end of one of the darkest chapters in human history while ushering in a new era of international criminal justice.

Today and tomorrow in the Union, the Nuremberg proceedings and their ramifications on contemporary global politics will be the focus of a conference titled, ‘The Nuremberg War Crimes Trial and Its Policy Consequences Today.’

The conference, sponsored by the Graduate Program in Policy History and the Social Philosophy and Policy Center, will feature more than 50 speakers and panelist from around the world who will discuss a wide range of topics, including how international criminal courts have evolved since Nuremberg and how they relate to modern day conflicts, such as those in Darfur and Iraq.

Scheduled speakers include Henry King, a former Nuremberg prosecutor and professor of law at Case Western Reserve University, and Curtis F.J. Doebbler, an international human rights lawyer and an advisor to the defense team of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

About 300 students from colleges and high schools around the country are currently registered to attend the event. Registration is free to all students and students can register at the door.

‘The proceedings at Nuremberg are being discussed because they were unique as an event,’ said Don Rowney, conference chair.

The Nuremberg trials marked the first time an international criminal court convened to judge a case of crimes against humanity, setting a precedent to try future acts of genocide and aggressive war.

The legacy of Nuremberg, Rowney said, has been its influence on the way governments behave today.

‘Historically, many people, like the people who were engaged in the civil war in Yugoslavia, have now had to think twice as were the Nazi war criminals never thought twice about their actions,’ Rowney said.

But according to Christi Bartman, executive administrator of the conference, even though the concept of international law has been in existence for 60 years, there is still a lot of debate over how it should implemented.

‘Everyone is in general agreement that it needs to be done,’ Bartman said. ‘The problem is that no one is in general agreement about how exactly it is to be done, and that’s really the debate that’s going on today.’

Subsequently, a good portion of the conference will focus on contemporary international legal issues, such as the importance of national sovereignty and what constitutes crimes against humanity.

‘These topics and considerations are going to have an enormous impact on the world that people who are currently in their 20s are going to have to live in, in the next 60 or 70 years,’ Rowney said.