A World of Peace and Justice Under the Rule of Law: From Nuremberg to the International Criminal Court


The genesis of the trial of the major German war criminals at the end of World War II was the Moscow Conference of October, 1943, at the conclusion of which, a statement was signed by President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill, and Premier Stalin declaring the determination of the three powers to hold Germans individually responsible for crimes committed by them in the course of the war. The statement did not declare whether such offenders would be punished by executive action or pursuant to the judicial process. In Britain, Lord Chancellor Simon and Prime Minister Churchill were of the view that major war criminals should be disposed of by executive action. This view was echoed in the United States by Secretary of the Treasury Morganthau, who proposed to President Roosevelt that German arch criminals be shot upon capture and identification. Secretary Morganthau was opposed in the Cabinet by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimpson who believed that leading Nazis should be brought to trial before an international military tribunal. Stimpson’s views ultimately prevailed and a memorandum recommending a trial was prepared for the use of President Roosevelt at the three-power Yalta Conference in February 1945. The memorandum stated that condemnation of German war criminals after a trial would command maximum public support and receive the respect of history and it noted that use of the judicial method would make an authentic historic record of Nazi crimes.


international criminal law, World War II, Nuremberg Trials, war crimes, Germany, Nazis, International Criminal Court, ICC



Whitney R. Harris (Southern Methodist University)



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