Trials of Justice
Carolina Club speaker explores postwar Nazi tribunals
The Nuremberg trials,
shown below In 1945, were
of interest to Wayne County
community members who
had Just read Night by Elle
The Nuremberg trials, Gerhard Weinberg told about 300 people packed into a historic Goldsboro court-
room, were "a major effort to engage with horrors that
were j ust unprecedented."
Weinberg, who taught at UNC for 22 years and is
regarded as one of the world's leading authorities on
Adolf Hitler, traveled to Goldsboro in February at the
invitation of the Wayne County Carolina Club to give
a talk sponsored by Wayne County Reads. Weinberg's
talk more than doubled the turnout of the progranl's
previous events, thanks in part to pre-event publicity by
tlle club, as well as a heated topic. Elie Wiesel's Night
was this year's book selection, and readers of the harrowing Auschwitz memoir turned out en masse to
learn about the po twar trials of the Nazis who
perpetrated such horrors.
Weinberg has personal knowledge of anti-Semitic
atrocities.A native of Hanover, Germany, he remem-
bered his distress when the synagogue he attended was
burned in 1938, when he was 11; he and his family
soon fled to the United States. The William Rand
Kenan Jr. professor emeritus of history, Weinberg has
written extensively on World War II.
The main Nuremberg trial took place in 1945 and
1946, Weinberg said. But before it could begin - in
fact, even before the war ended - the Allies struggled
with differences of opinion about how to treat the Nazis.
As fighting continued, the British and the Americans
Professor Gerhard Weinberg drew a crowd of about 300 when he spoke at an
event for the Wayne County Carolina Club and Wayne County Reads program.
issued declarations denouncing mass murder and
promising a multinational tribunal after the Allies
The problem was how to run that tribunal. The
British, Weinberg said, favored executing the worst
offenders. Some Americans agreed, but most felt that
would not be in accord with the U.S. Constitution.
Trials, the Americans, French and R ussians decided,
were essential. The British came around, Weinberg said,
when Supreme Court Ju tice Robert H.Jackson was
named as the American prosecutor in Nuremberg.
The summer before the trials began, Allied represen-
tatives met in London to halmner out a procedure mat
would bring together elements of their fundamentally
different legal systems. The British and American sys-
tems feature adversarial arguments between lawyers for
the prosecution and for the defense, while the French
and Russian systems don't. What a defendant could or
could not do in court also had to be worked out.
Under American and British law, a defendant has the
right to be questioned by his or her attorney, while
French and Russian law allow the defendant, not under
oam, to make a statement in court.
After much argument, a court was established with its
headquarters in Berlin, although the trial itself, after a
formal opening in Berlin, would take place in N uremberg.
May /Jllll e 2006