Southern Illinois University School of Law–Legal Globalization & Comparative Law 2014

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The Nuremberg Trials

The Nurnberg Trials: The courthouse where the Nurnberg Trials were held is actually a functioning courthouse, I was surprised by that.  The courtroom itself was not in use when we visited, but I think even that courtroom was still available for state use.  I had just thought that this courthouse would stand like the Dachau memorial, a big monument to remind us of what happened so that we may never let it happen again. Instead, I found something that was very practically being used as it was intended to be used in the first place, to try criminals.  The museum itself was a bit overbearing.  We did the audio tour and there was just too much information that they made available, I felt like I could have spent four or five days there listening to the device and I still would not have heard everything.  I didn’t know there was that much you could say about a few trials and a building.  I liked that they had a lot of video from the trial easily accessible from computer stations throughout the museum, and I especially liked that I was able to watch Mr. Justice Jacksons opening and closing statements in their entirety, they were incredibly moving.  The museum also had a lot of information on arguments posited by both sides and one from the Nazi side that I actually thought was a pretty good argument, that the court had no jurisdiction, as it was a newly made court, and it hit me that the court was in a sense trying the Nazis based on something that seemed almost retroactive.  They had obviously done terrible things, but why did this specific court have the ability to try them. They raised good points. It was hard to envision a way in which the Nazi party leaders would have gotten off, gone free, but it was still interesting to learn about what was done legally to defend them.

~LL

Energy and Transportation

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America has received a great deal of criticism for its use of individual transportation and dependence on oil because of a lack of mass transit.  While in Europe, it was noticeable that most people did not rely on their cars for in city traveling or even city to city travel.

However, also very clear was that Europe’s layout geographically is quite different that the United States. In the United States cities are primarily zoned for business.  This area is a surrounded by “suburbs” and then after getting past the suburbs, homes in rural areas can be found between urban locations.  In order to get to work, shopping, and other necessities, Americans often do not have the luxury of simply walking to where they need. In all but very urban areas, there is no mass transit system to get individuals from the rural areas into urban areas. Thus, even if an American wanted to use the train to get into town, it is unlikely that one will be available.

In Europe, by contrast, individuals live near urban areas – even in the urban area itself.  In the areas visited, individuals could walk to work and shopping. Shopping areas were built in such a manner that they did not even accommodate vehicles.  When we traveled from city to city, the urban areas quickly turned rural.  However, trains made it easy to travel from one city to another (or even one country to another) without the need for a personal vehicle.

Americans are facing oil prices higher than prices have ever been.  Mass transportation and inner city transportation leave much to be desired in the United States. However, without progress in mass transportations, Americans may find themselves unable to afford to put gas in their cars.  Remedies that have worked in Europe may not work in the United States because of the difference in geographic layout (and Americans’ love of all things combustion engine powered); however, at some point Americans may need to look to European transportation for ideas of how to reduce the dependence on non-renewable energy.

~KA

Nuremberg

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The train ride Nuremberg was rather enjoyable through the rolling German countryside. We shared wine, cheese, and sausage. After exploring the city by dusk we returned for a new day spent in the courthouse where the Nuremberg trials took place. The courthouse is still used as a criminal court today. We entered the room where the trials took place. I had an interesting learning moment with Dean Fountaine as she utilized one of the interactive screens in the court room which appeared to be rather entertaining and fun, as we thumbed through some of the footage, cuts of opening and closing ceremonies, etc. After immersing ourselves in the courtroom we then pressed on to the exhibit where again an audio tour guided us through the museum. Which by the way I thought was great way of conveying information to the masses that may come through the memorium door. Multiple languages could be used. I seized this opportunity to attempt to follow along with my eyes and read the German language displayed on exhibits. It may or may not have improved my German language knowledge base. But we meandered through the site choosing exhibits to learn about. It was almost to much information all at once. I would have liked a break and returned to learn more. But, none the less, it was very informative. I particularly like when physical evidence, artifacts and primary sources are displayed. But that may just be the historian in me. I thought a majority of us found it interesting that a primary school teacher was tried and convicted of conspiracy. That was rather shocking to me.

Note: I may or may not have pirated some of a tour for the blind in German where there was a large group of blind folk touring the Nuremburg exhibit. But it comforted me to see such a thing even in a foreign country. Blind people in Germany no way? Didn’t they try to eradicate these peoples from the “genetic populous”…? Fun fact my genetic eye disease was discovered in Germany. I was happy to see those with lesser sight being guided and exploring their Nation’s history. It was a rather liberating feeling.

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Hausbrauerie Altstadthof bier cellars tour was an interesting experience and brewery had great food. Our tour guide was Frankonian and when we shared with her what we did I found it interesting that she had never been to the Nuremberg trials memorium. She said she hadn’t because, she was German. Any way today was most relaxing and the beer cellar tour was a nice close to the day. I had ventured off with Louis through the city but always enjoyed climbing up the city hill to the Imperial castle. I felt at home there. My plan was to post up there and find where we needed to be for the evening tour and dinner. So we did find the location and had time to tour the observation tower and the well of the castle. The individual who worked the well was a rather theatrical person who conveyed the information about the well quite easily. He reminded of Monty python character. Afterward Louis went back to get a coat. I already had one and knew where we were going. So I sat in the village on the hill right beneath the castle to relax. I listened to people sing in German at a nearby beer garden and conversed with a local who was volunteering her time and money to garden the bed beneath a tree in the street. It was a pleasant afternoon. I moved along to hear in a corridor, made of stone that was an entrance to the area, where a guitarist sang in German and for whatever reason it felt rather medieval to me. It captured my imagination as sat against the cool stone. After several songs I paid the musician and walked into the warm sunlight where I stretched and observed the people from the area again. I caught a little to much sun on my face then. But the tour time came soon enough.

~BK

The Courts

Palace of Justice in Munich: This was a very beautiful older building, this was where the white rose proceedings happened. I hadn’t realized prior to this presentation just how young the college students who were prosecuted and summarily executed (without an appeal) were.  A few of the students were 19.  That’s 8 years younger than me.  When I was 19, I had very little drive.  Sure, I was in undergrad, but all I was doing was worrying about my grades and hanging out with friends. These kids were attempting to do everything in their power to thwart the nazi regime.  I found it amazing.  I learned a lot more about the German criminal law system as well, most things were the same, but some were very different, like that the prosecutors automatically became judges. Who knew?

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European Court of Justice in Luxembourg: This building was very ornate and pristine, seemingly very orderly. What went on in the courts was anything but that.  I think they said that there were something like 26 different countries in the European union and many different spoken languages.  There were at least 8 or 9 translators on duty when we were able to attend a court session, the attorneys speaking in Spanish, the judges answering them in French and English, the audience being members of nations that don’t speak any of those languages, so they made even more translators necessary.  To me, it kind of seemed like a controlled chaos. Even though everything seemed confusing to me, I feel like if I stayed in the court for a week or two and got used to it, it may have seemed a bit more cohesive.  I couldn’t quite grasp how this court had power over the courts of the other countries, but it seemed to be working.

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International Criminal Court: This court house was actually very scary to me.  It seemed like the courthouse was prepared for war, almost like it would literally take an army to storm the walls of the court, bulletproof glass throughout the building, locks everywhere.  I understand that the defendants are very dangerous men and women, and that many people could be hurt by them and their associates, and there is the fact that there are many people who would like to hurt them or the witnesses, but it seemed to be a bit overdone.  Armed guards and a few regular locks with a good enough security check should be enough. What I didn’t like about this, is that it seems like this court couldn’t do much, since they did not have a police force that could go out and actively attempt to arrest the defendants in question.

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International Court of Justice: The building was amazing, it looked like a castle, the gardens outside of it very peaceful. With this court, I felt for the first time that this was an international court that could really get something done with its rulings.  Because of the longevity and reach of the united nations, and this courts affiliations with it, there were very real consequences to a country who did not comply with the demands of the court.  I didn’t understand everything that was going on here, but what it sounded like is this court was a form of very complicated mediation between two or more countries, using the court as an impartial venue to voice both sides of an issue and come to a conclusion of how to move forward.

~LL

Dachau Concentration Camp

When delving into the subject of the Holocaust, the most poignant question that comes to mind immediately is: how could this have happened?  Indeed, many experiments have been performed in order to learn how people can commit such horrors to other human beings.  Just to name a few of those experiments: The third wave -In spring 1967, in Palo Alto, California, history teacher Ron Jones conducted an experiment with his class of 15-year-olds to sample the experience of the attraction and rise ofthe Nazis in Germany before World War II; Aclass divided, Blue-eyedBrown-eyed – An American teacher developed the blue eyes/brown eyes exercise for her all-white third grade class in Riceville, Iowa, after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.

I understand that no society is safe from discrimination.  However, I did not understand how people, on a personal level, could see the suffering and slow death of other human beings and look the other way until now. Yet as I write the set lines, I struggle with my own emotions because now I feel that I do understand; I know how others could see the suffering of other human beings: they believed blindly in the system. 

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In our course, we learned about the legal aspects of the Nazi action and what was the basis in the Nuremberg trials.  We talked about the difficulties in convicting persons when there is no law forbidding his or her actions.

However, I am not simply concerned with conviction, but also with prevention, and the key to prevention lies in understanding why something happened, and in the case of Nazi Germany, I believe this is why to be a blind belief without questions of criticism. So what do we do with the knowledge that a system needs to be created for order combined with the knowledge that there are important times to work outside, disobey, or even fight against such systems?

Since I began my legal studies I have struggled with, sometimes even been tormented by, questions of justice; the question of our boundaries as legal practitioners and public servants. The question of the System vs. Justice. Who trumps whom, and which should be our guiding torch.  I have no exact answer myself, only a deep and profound wish to discover truth, to uphold not simply the law, but what is right, what is just as well.

After the Nuremberg trials, the convicted German judge said, in partial defense, that he did not know that his actions would lead to the murder of millions of Jews.  The American judge answered him with: “the moment you sentenced one person you knew to be innocent,you knew.” I believe this statement should be on the wall in every lawyer’s office.

We created the ICC (International Criminal Court) in order to try those who are responsible for war crimes, and in order to signal that never again shall the Holocaust or crimes like it occur without fight. That said, we are lacking the education that can prevent such crimes against humanity from happening. When I asked Judge Dauster, from the Palace of Justice in Germany, what will prevent another Holocaust as in Nazi Germany, the judge answered: the people.

Essentially the people will no longer allow themselves to be led blindly, without question, the way they were in Nazi Germany.

I agree with Judge Dauster; we must be the type of people that can never commit another Holocaust. As lawyers we must constantly use our judgment, trust our judgment, challenge the system constantly, and remember that people are more important than the system.  The system was created to serve us people and not the other way around. We lawyers are the safety mechanism Judge Dauster called the people and the trust for the future of humanity is in our hands. May we never forget and fail that trust.

~RS

Nuremberg

Leaving Munich and entering Nürnberg only solidified my appreciation for less people and beautiful architecture.  Upon arriving into Nuremberg, a few of us hit the streets right away. The cobblestone streets led us through a city full of old buildings, clearly full of history.  The Churches stood tall within the middle of the city, and more street performers sprinkled throughout the streets.  We climbed a substantial hill up to the castle that overlooks the entire city, with a breathtaking view from the top.  We then had a good ol’ German beer at a café in the castle, and I could tell that this was a city in Europe that I would truly enjoy.

            The next morning, we were privileged enough to tour the courthouse where the Nuremberg trials took place. We learned about this in class prior to our departure, but being in the courtroom, seeing where these horrible Nazi leaders sat, was more powerful than I ever expected.  Additionally, it was a proud moment after previously being at Dachau.  To some extent, it was proud because I am American and the Americans finally took a stand against this horrific catastrophe of the Holocaust.  I was also proud as a future attorney.  As an attorney, I will have many opportunities to somehow right a wrong, even if it is only slight.  Justice is priceless.

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            Before departing from Nürnberg, we visited the Documentation center.  Here, we were able to see the Nazi age come to fruition. Although I learned about Adolf Hitler in school, seeing his rise to power through extension documentation in Germany made much more sense.  His strategy was anything but haphazard; he thought out every move that he made, brainwashing the country to follow him.  How this happened is forever unfathomable, but seeing the documentation from beginning to end at least made a shred of sense in the face of disbelief. The fact that sticks out most in my mind is that he ended up holding three of the highest offices as one person. This would be like one individual being the President, the Vice President, and Secretary of State in the United States.   No one person should ever have so much power, and the Holocaust and Final Solution are proof of that.

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~TB

Nuremberg

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The train from Munich to Nuremberg was short but the views were beautiful. Traveling along the sunny rolling hills of the Rhine Valley felt like watching a moving postcard changing before my eyes. Nuremberg could not have been more different from Munich – yet each was beautiful and interesting in their own way. Munich was modern and bustling, while Nuremberg was older and more cobblestone-clad. The first day we visited the Memorium Nurnberg Trials, which is a museum housed in the Nuremberg Palace of Justice where the Nuremberg Trials were held. Courtroom 600 is where the trials took place that criminalized the actions of the Nazis. It was interesting to learn details about the case and I found feelings of pride evoked when reading that the U.S. was one of the main proponents of holding a trial in the first place. Other countries, who wanted to automatically sentence the Nazis to death, would have been perpetuating the same unjust practices as those they were punishing. Holding a trial was the dignified and just avenue to pursue. That evening we visited the Hausbrauerie Alstadthof where we took an incredible tour of an underground rock-cut cellar which was built centuries ago to make and store beer, but acted as a shelter for the people of Nuremberg during the air attacks of World War II. In the tavern above we sampled several of their special beers and delicious fares. Huge, soft pretzels act as the equivalent of dinner rolls on restaurant tables in Germany, a practice I would be more than happy to see adopted in the U.S. Huge matzo-ball looking dumplings are often accompaniments to a main course in Germany, and meats are heavy and rich. The small glass of port wine we were served at the end though had a tricky way of making me feel like it erased all of the caloric wrongs I consumed during dinner.

The next day we visited the Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds, which is a museum that was built in the unfinished remains of the Congress Hall of the former Nazi party rallies. This museum astounded me because I really didn’t know what the rally grounds were before visiting it. I had always thought of it as a large plaza where parades were held and speeches made, but the rally grounds were actually enormous, covering 11 square kilometers and comprised of several buildings. It was a physical embodiment of the large-scale plans the Nazis had for Germany and was quite eerie to be there.

 ~MS