2013-05-03Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.18452/27844
Consigning justice to history: Transitional trials after the Second World War
This article reviews recent historical investigations of transitional trials held after the Second World War. It identifies three main strands of historiography. One group of studies has been dominated by the trials' participants who have shaped the perception of the trials' scope, their achievements, and their shortcomings, and pursued political, legal, or biographical agendas. A second group has treated the trials as a mere epilogue to the history of the deceased regimes. A third, more profound approach has conceptualized the trials as places where collective memory was assembled, configured, and shaped. This notion opens the debate to an analysis of how law and history on the one hand, jurisdiction, jurisprudence, and historiography on the other interact and how they impact on one another. The article compares and evaluates the benefits drawn from this research. It finds that historical analyses which take seriously the epistemological premises of the law as well as the courtroom's performativity manage to bypass well-trodden paths of interpretation which either deplore the limited, inadequate punishment meted out, or celebrate the triumphant march from Nuremberg to The Hague. The article concludes that such interdisciplinary readings help to avoid widespread disillusionment with the results of transitional trials.
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This publication is with permission of the rights owner freely accessible due to an Alliance licence and a national licence (funded by the DFG, German Research Foundation) respectively.