SMU’s unique connection to the Nuremberg Trials – where Nazi leaders were prosecuted for World War II atrocities, setting the foundation for modern international and human rights law – will be highlighted at two events commemorating the 70th anniversary of the trials on Monday, Oct. 24.
Expert insight on the trials’ legacy will accompany an exhibit of rare items – including Hitler’s marriage certificate, will and Nuremberg-related documents – from “The Storey Collection” shared by the family of former SMU School of Law Dean Robert G. Storey. After his work as executive trial counsel at Nuremberg, the former U.S. Army colonel focused on making SMU an “international law center.” Storey’s work ultimately drew three other former Nuremberg prosecutors to join the law faculty: Whitney Harris, Jan Charmatz and Walter Brudno. (For more about the men, see related sidebar.)
“For SMU to have had only one professor involved in the Nuremberg Trials would be a badge of honor. But to have had four? That’s extraordinary,” says SMU Dedman Law Prof. Chris Jenks. An armed forces and humanitarian law expert, Jenks organized the on-campus panel discussion and will introduce the Storey Collection at the late-afternoon event.
Storey, Harris, Charmatz and Brudno met while working as prosecutors for what was officially known as the International Military Tribunal, held from November 1945 to October 1946 in Nuremberg, Germany, the Nazi Party’s ceremonial birthplace.
The unprecedented legal proceedings, consisting of one main trial and 12 subsequent trials, resulted in trials of dozens of high-ranking Nazis, including Hermann Goering and Rudolf Hess. The Allied Powers (the United States, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union) used some 3,000 tons of the Third Reich’s own meticulous documentation to provide what Storey called “unimpeachable evidence” of crimes against peace, the laws of war, and humanity. The Tribunal also revealed much of what is known about the Holocaust: the Nazis’ systematic murder of 6 million Jews and 5 million others based on religion, race, political affiliation or sexual orientation.
“Unless record was made … future generations would not believe how horrible the truth was,” explained the chief prosecutor for the U.S. legal team, Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson.
Added former prosecutor Harris, “for the first time in history, absolute rulers were brought to account before the law. There is no longer any state, or any ruler of any state, who can claim total immunity from the law. … The age of empires has passed. At Nuremberg we put tyranny on trial. It is our duty to keep tyrants forever under the law.”