The Holocaust on trial : the war crimes trials in the formation of history and memory
The thesis considers the educational function of the trials of Nazis by the British and American authorities after the Second World War. As has generally been overlooked in the literature, legal proceedings were instituted not only to punish the abhorrent actions of the Third Reich, but also to provide an historical record for the edification of victors, vanquished and posterity alike. The route from this Allied intention to its fulfillment was not a straightforward one, however, bedeviled by enduring preconceptions of Nazi criminality on all sides, and by the very nature of the legal process. To illustrate by case study the difficulties of disclosing information through the trial medium, the theme of the murder of the European Jews has been selected. The limiting influence of British and American socio-cultural and politico-legal norms on the parameters of the trials is developed in the first section. This analyses the prosecutorial methods with which it was considered the didactic aims would best be achieved, alongside the prevailing trend towards downplaying the particular identity of the chief victims of Nazism. The image of the Jewish catastrophe thus compiled as theory was translated into reality in the Allied courtrooms is the initial focus of the second section. That deals with the problematic image of the 'concentration camps' established in a selection of trials; and with the influence of such proceedings upon the academic historiography of the Holocaust. Finally, the thesis confronts the popular receptivity in Britain, the USA and West Germany to the information made available.