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The Legacies of Nuremberg


International Military Tribunal Defendants and Defense Attorneys (Dec. 10, 1945)

Harvard Law School Library
Casperson Room
October 28, 2005 – January 13, 2006
Monday – Friday, 9:00am – 5:00pm

The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg challenged the world to apply law to mass violence and to recognize crimes against humanity. Now, 60 years later, what has that precedent produced? Although little happened during the Cold War to advance the vision of justice and human dignity through international law, the past decade has witnessed new tribunals, the creation of an International Criminal Court, truth commissions and reparations initiatives, each devoted to restoring human dignity and addressing crimes against humanity and mass atrocity. Each of these efforts shows how international law has not fully achieved justice nor prevented new mass atrocities. However, the hope exemplified by the Nuremberg trials continues to inspire and call for broader education about human rights, strengthening the rule of law, bolstering democracy, and promoting empathy in the pursuit of human dignity.

The present exhibition traces the history—from the Middle Ages to the present—of the institutions established to further these goals.

“We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants today is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well. We must summon such detachment and intellectual integrity that this trial will commend itself to posterity as fulfilling humanity’s aspirations to do justice.”
Justice Robert H. Jackson, Opening speech at the first Nuremberg Trial, November 20, 1945