Reporting Justice

II/2: Nuremberg & Tokyo

II/2: Nuremberg & Tokyo

Judicial Module 2:  Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals

We will examine the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals and their lasting legacy in international criminal law.  The Nuremberg and Tokyo trials staked out new territory with the development of and promulgation of the notion of “crimes against humanity” and the principle that individuals—and not societies as a whole—should be held accountable for crimes committed in war.  While individual prosecutions of Nazi leaders formed the core of these trials, critics have accused the United States and its Allies of practicing “victor’s justice” since they failed to bring to justice those responsible for the firebombing of the German City of Dresden and the use of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  We will explore the significance of these two tribunals and how their legacy led, some fifty years later, to the establishment of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

Key Questions:

What was the significance of the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials?

What is meant by “victor’s justice”?

What is the concept of “individual responsibility” as articulated in the Nuremberg judgment?

Required Readings:

David Cohen, “Beyond Nuremberg:  Individual Responsibility for War Crimes,” in Carla Hesse and Robert Post (eds), Human Rights in Political Transitions:  Gettysburg to Bosnia (New York:  Zone Books, 1999).

Edward M. Wise, “The Significance of Nuremberg,” in Belinda Cooper, War Crimes:  The Legacy of Nuremberg (New York:  TV Books): 55-61.

John W. Dower, Embracing Defeat:  Japan in the Wake of World War II (New York:  W.W. Norton & Co.): 443-469.

Glenn Greenwald, “What should we have learned from Nuremberg that we still haven’t learned?”, available at

Selected Online Resources:

Nuremberg Trials Project, available at

London Agreement, IMT Charter and IMT Judgment.

Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, available at

Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, available at

World War II Database, “The Tokyo Trial and Other Trials Against Japan,” available at

The Nanking Atrocities, “The Postwar Judgment: International Military Tribunal for the Far East,” available at

Charter of the International Military Tribunal, 8 August 1945, available at