The Allies organized the Nuremberg Trials to hold the Nazis accountable for their crimes and to restore a sense of justice to a world devastated by violence. But a major piece of the Nuremberg story has often left out: the Soviet Union’s pivotal role in making the trials happen in the first place.
Indeed, Soviet jurists developed the legal framework that treated aggressive war as an international crime, giving the trials a legal basis. The Soviets war effort and the costs they endured gave them moral authority. However, in the end, little went as the Soviets had planned and Stalin’s efforts to steer the trials from afar backfired. So, what was the Soviet contribution to Nuremberg Trials, and how did they win the war but lose the peace?
Francine Hirsch is Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She’s the author of Empire of Nations: Ethnographic Knowledge and the Making of the Soviet Union. Her new book is Soviet Judgment at Nuremberg: A New History of the International Military Tribunal after World War II published by Oxford University Press.
Pete Seeger, “Last Train to Nuremberg.”