What remains of the Nuremberg Trials

Seventy-five years ago, on 20 November 1945, the trial of 24 high-ranking representatives of the National Socialist regime began. These included Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess and aviation minister Hermann Göring. The Nuremberg Trials were the first international criminal proceedings in history and are considered to be the forerunner of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. What remains of their spirit?

Open/close all quotes
Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Might makes right once again

Not much remains of the spirit of the Nuremberg Trials, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung laments:

“The examples of Nuremberg and the Yugoslavia Tribunal show that a judiciary with universal authority has a chance to flourish if there is either a consensus among the major powers, as was the case right after World War II, or when a a single strong power, for example the US after 1989, dominates the world for a while. 75 years after Nuremberg, this is no longer the case. ... The 'American Age' is over now. ... Seventy-five years after a new era began in Nuremberg, a time window in which law and power meet on an equal footing is closing for the second time. We are moving back into one of those 'normal phases' of history in which in relations between peoples, in case of doubt, might makes right.”

Irish Examiner (IE) /

Return of the small minds

The witnesses of Nuremberg must be turning in their graves, the Irish Examiner also writes:

“If the regressive instincts of Orbán and Morawiecki would appall those who sat through Nuremberg, it is easy to imagine how they might judge Brexit and the increasingly implausible prime minister Boris Johnson and his knock-about cabinet. They have become the antithesis of their measured, though not faultless, predecessors. Their parish-pump nativism is an affront to those who built today's Europe. ...The Nuremberg generation, if they might be called that, were determined to build a lasting peace. That they, especially post-war Germany, succeeded should not be taken for granted or imagined a permanent reality.”

Mérce (HU) /

Not a catalyst

The Nuremberg Trials raised questions that continue to shape discussions about international law to this day, Mérce explains:

“Which war is considered a war of conquest? Does the term 'genocide' also apply to the persecution of political groups? ... How can the term 'crime against humanity' be applied when states commit this crime against their own citizens, even in times of peace? From today's perspective, there was a brief moment of consensus after 1945. There was international agreement that in the future legal principles should take precedence over the sovereignty of authoritarian rulers in order to enforce human rights universally. The Nuremberg Trials, however, did not serve as a catalyst for this restructuring of the world order.”

Ekho Moskvy (RU) /

Lukashenka should feel the lessons of Nuremberg

Economics professor Konstantin Sonin calls in Echo of Moscow for the creation of a similar tribunal to try the Belarusian dictator Lukashenka:

“You don't have to point out that the crimes of Himmler, Heydrich, Kaltenbrunner, Müller and other Nazi leaders were a thousand times bigger and worse than those in Belarus in 2020. Of course Hitler's regime can't be compared to anything in human history. But Nuremberg was necessary not only to bring to book the remaining culprits, but also to learn lessons for less serious cases. The fact that Lukashenka and his people 'only' killed a few people, 'only' beat hundreds, 'only' kept a few thousand in prison and 'only' arrested tens of thousands should not prevent the lessons of Nuremberg from being applied to this case.”