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Contemporary Legal Lessons from the Holocaust
Jewish Political Studies Review (2007)
  • Michael Bazyler

Sixty years after the Nuremberg Trials, the "Nuremberg legacy" is part of modern international law. An important aim of the Western judges and prosecutors at Nuremberg was to spotlight the wholesale corruption of the German legal system during the Nazi period. At the "Justice Trial" in Nuremberg, the defendants argued that their actions conformed with German law. Although this defense was rejected, legal scholars still grapple with the jurisprudential conundrum that the Holocaust could simultaneously have been both legal and criminal. The failure of German legal actors to oppose the Nazi transformation of German law into legal barbarism has implications for the current dilemma faced by liberal democracies on how to maintain civil liberties while simultaneously enacting laws to protect against terrorism. Although judges in the United States, United Kingdom, and Israel so far have maintained a balance, it is too early to make a final evaluation. Remembering the behavior of German judges and lawyers during the Nazi era can help ensure that today's democracies, faced with the threat of terrorism, do not transform themselves into legal tyrannies.

  • holocaust,
  • legal lessons
Publication Date
Spring 2007
Citation Information
Michael Bazyler, Contemporary Legal Lessons from the Holocaust, Jewish Pol. Stud. Rev., Spring 2007, at 15.