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International Academic Conference: the 70th Anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials – Juridical, Political and Cultural Consequences

A large audience filled the auditorium of the Ghetto Fighters' House on the first day of the International Conference marking the 70th anniversary of the Nuremberg trials. The conference, which was a joint project of the Ghetto Fighters' House and the University of Haifa, with the support of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, dealt with the juridical aftermath, both politically and culturally, of the impressive civilian operation that complemented the military victory over Nazi Germany.

Prof. Hanna Yablonka highlighted how the Chief Prosecutor, the American Judge Robert Jackson, described the way in which the victors decided to take the moral and just route rather than one based on emotions and revenge.

In her scholarly lecture, Prof. Daphne Barak-Erez, a judge on the Israeli Supreme Court, described the moral and judicial precedents in the Nuremberg trials, especially the expropriation of the country in achieving justice and establishing the principal of taking personal responsibility for crimes against humanity.

Prof. Arieh Kochavi uncovered the political struggles that took place behind the scenes of the trials on the backdrop of the Cold War. It was the Cold War, stated Kochavi, that re-drew the frontline in the post-war world.

Prof. Arieh Kochavi

Prof. Hanah Yablonka

Dr. Renana Keydar delved into the cultural significance of the Nuremberg trials, which included making the decision between a revenge-based perception and an enlightened outlook. 

Dr. Daniel Uziel discussed the changes concerning the Wehrmacht after the trials: the Wehrmacht was not included as one of the Nazi organizations that were considered criminal, while research after the trials revealed their cooperation in committing war crimes.

Prof. Daphne Barak-Erez

From left to right: Dr. Daniel Uziel,
Dr. Renana Keydar,Prof. Arieh Kochavi
and Dr. Boaz Cohen

Prof. Rotem Kowner clarified that there was another side of the Axis during World War II by discussing the Tokyo Trials held by the Japanese leadership parallel to the Nuremberg Trials.

Prof. Moshe Zuckermann criticized, in his familiar way, the popular belief that the trials helped deal with the meaning of the cultural rift created by the war against Germany, both internationally and in Israel. The trials, according to Zuckermann, did not in reality – and could never – bring justice, but did allow the German society to mentally detach from taking responsibility for its actions and failures that facilitated the crimes.

Dr. Kiril Feferman brought the Russian perspective in his lecture. He described the different approaches to the trials of the Allied Forces and the USSR, as well as the implications of overcoming these differences.

Prof. Rotem Kowner

Prof. Moshe Zuckermann

Dr. Kiril Feferman

The first day of the conference concluded with the screening of the disturbing American movie Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today (1948) that documents the Nuremberg Trials. The film had been archived for many years and recently was restored and screened. Mrs. Sandra Schulberg, the producer of the movie and daughter of the creator of the original film, sat down for a discussion on the film with the filmographer Naomi Schori.

The second day of the conference took place at the University of Haifa and was diverse and enriching. The first session dealt with the reaction of Israel (the "Yishuv") to the criminal trials against the Nazis and how they set an example for the trials in the Deportation Camps against Jews who were Kapo in concentration camps during the war.

The second session was dedicated to the cultural implications of the trials – for example the fact that major figures in the Nazi regime (like the filmographer Leni Riefenstahl and the architect Albert Speer) did not stand trial for their tremendous contribution to the indoctrination of the Nazi ideology through their cultural enterprises (Speer was brought to trial only for his role as the Ammunitions Minister). The representation of the Nuremberg trials in movies was also discussed.

The conference ended with a fascinating lecture given by Prof. Deborah Lipstadt from Emory University, USA. She compared the Nuremberg Trials, the Eichmann Trial and the trial in which she was sued by the Holocaust denier, David Irving, a trial in which she was acquitted. Prof. Dan Michman responded to Lipstadt's lecture and summarized the legal and historical implications.

Prof. Deborah Lipstadt

Overall, this conference enriched all the participants with knowledge and a renewed and diverse intellectual experience that left everyone with a taste for more.


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