The lawyer, the war criminal and the limits of empathy

François Matarasso

Courtroom 600 of the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg was the venue for the post-war trials of Nazi leaders, so it is strange to learn that it is still used for the administration of justice. Strange but completely appropriate. Those trials established new principles of international law and the competing concepts of genocide and crimes against humanity. They also showed that what had happened under the Nazi regime was not above the law. The scale or horror of a crime cannot be allowed to take its perpetrator beyond justice, even if it takes them beyond comprehension and perhaps beyond mercy. At the same time, Courtroom 600 is a historic site under the care of the Nuremberg Trials Memorial which works to increase understanding of what happened here.

On 21 November 1945, the American Prosecutor, Robert H. Jackson, began his opening speech by saying

‘That four great nations, flushed with victory…

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