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Harvard Law School Library Launches Nuremberg Trials Web Site

The Harvard Law School Library has launched a new web site, the Nuremberg Trials Project, devoted to analysis and digitization of documents relating to the Nuremberg Trials. The site will make available on the web for the first time more than one million pages of documents related to the trials of military and political leaders of Nazi Germany and other accused war criminals before the International Military Tribunal (IMT) and the United States Nuremberg Military Tribunals (NMT). The site is found at http://nuremberg.law.harvard.edu.

The prosecution of Nazi political leaders and "major" war criminals from broad sectors of German society represented an unprecedented effort to punish people accused of war crimes. The charge of "crimes against humanity" originated in Nuremberg and set a precedent for the ad hoc tribunals to try war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The chief US prosecutor at the main trial, Robert Jackson, stressed that war crimes are war crimes no matter what country commits them and irrespective of the war being waged.

"The documentation from such tribunals helps establish a permanent record of the truth that makes it more difficult for revisionists to try to alter history," said Harry S. Martin III, the Law School's Henry N. Ess III Librarian and Professor of Law. "By placing this material on the web, we hope it will be widely available to scholars of many disciplines as well as to the general public."

Documents relating to the initial trial of the Nazi leadership are readily available. But the documentation relating to the trials of other groups and individuals for medical experimentation on humans, torture of POWs, use of slave labor, plunder and spoliation of private property, mass murder of civilians, and the manufacture of chemical weapons is harder to find.

The first stage of the project presents most of the documents from and relating to Case 1 of the United States Nuremberg Military Tribunals trials. Known as the Medical Case or the Doctors' Trial, Case 1 was held in 1946-1947 and involved 23 defendants accused of organizing and participating in war crimes and crimes against humanity in the form of harmful or fatal medical experiments and procedures inflicted on both civilians and prisoners of war.

In addition to presenting digital versions of these documents—many of which are too fragile to be handled—the site provides context for and analysis of the materials. Among the materials are trial transcripts, briefs, document books, evidence files, and other papers. They are of particular interest to officials and students of current international tribunals involving war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Currently more than 6,700 pages of Case 1 trial documents and related evidence file documents (including all of the prosecution trial documents in the collection) are available. Additionally, users can search through the transcript of the first week of the trial proceedings.

The Harvard Law School Nuremberg Trials collection fills 690 boxes, with an average box containing approximately 1,500 pages of text (for a total estimated at 1,035,000 pages). The three largest groups of documents are trial documents for the 12 NMT trials and the IMT trial, trial transcripts for the 12 NMT trials and the IMT trial, and evidence filedocuments (the photostats, typescripts, and evidence analyses from which the prosecution, and, occasionally, defendants, drew their exhibits). The Law School expects to make these documents available in future stages of the project.

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Last modified on Monday, September 15, 2003.