There was a practical reason for that, Weinberg said. Most European cities in 1945 were rubble heaps. Nuremberg had been heavily bombed, but its large court building and its adjacent holding facility still stood. A British judge presided, and each of the four powers sent a prosecutor. Court proceedings began in fall 1945. The Nazis had tried to destroy their paper trail, Weinberg said,"but carbon paper and mimeograph machine[s] worked against this effort." That meant that imme- diately after the war, vast quantities of material were made public and defendants were confronted with documents they themselves had signed."There were wit- nesses brought in, mosdy by the defense, and their testimony was dramatic:' Weinberg said. "But on the whole, the case for the prosecution rested overwhelmingly on the documents ... usually signed by the 27 defendants in the dock." Twelve of those defendants were sen- tenced to death. One of these, Hermann Goering, conmntted suicide before he could be hanged. Three were acquitted, and the rest were sentenced to prison for 10 years to life. Within the next few years, though, the political pressures of the devel- oping Cold War allowed the overwhelm- ing majority of those sentenced to get off early. Out of the Nuremberg trials - the main trial and those that followed - came several significant developments, Weinberg said. One was the concept of a crime against humanity: killing individuals simply because they exist, not because of anything they've done. The trials also gave people a clearer picture of what happened during the Holocaust, mainly because of the pros- ecution's strategy of relying on docwnents, films and pictures. "TIns didn't discourage a few from pretending those things didn't happen,"Weinberg added drily. In a lively exchange after his talk, an audience member asked if the Nuremberg trials were an illusion ofjustice because so few people were brought to trial. "Perfect justice is not allocated in this universe by hwnans,"Weinberg replied. "It's allocated elsewhere. At least somedUng was done. l'm not sure an effort at justice is not better than no justice at all." • - Kath.leen Keams
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