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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Nuremberg : la damnation de la mémoire

by Jean Chatain

Nuremberg: the Damnation of Memory

Translated Saturday 10 March 2007, by David Lundy

A comprehensive view of the trial which unfolded before history’s first ever international court


Author of several reference works on deportation, and former member of the study mission on the spoliation of the assets of French Jews, Annette Wieviorka includes, in this new edition of the Nuremberg Trial, an additional chapter on "posterity" (Touvier, Barbie and Papon trials, in particular). The work presents a holistic vision of this major 20th-century event, from its somewhat chaotic and fumbled beginning in October 1943, the birth date of the United Nations Commission for the Investigation of War Crimes (a title thought up at the Washington conference, in December 1941) - up to its current effects on the emergent conception of international justice. An initial predicament concerned the differences in the legal approaches in the countries that had overcome Nazism, with Washington and London giving priority to the concept of "plotting against peace", while Moscow (joined by Paris) laid emphasis on war crimes and crimes against humanity, a concept that had acquired full and complete legal form in this instance. With, however, a common prerequisite: to avoid any moves towards the placing of collective guilt on the German people, in favour of stressing the guilt of individuals or organisations (the Gestapo and Waffen SS in particular)the essential elements of Hitler’s scheme. The book closes with a quotation by Edgar Faure, the Attorney General’s French assistant in Nuremberg, evoking the old "damnation of memory" that applied in ancient Roman times: "We intended to pronounce an eternal damnation against the memory of Nazism and the evil humans which it embodied.’With the small difference that, for us, the memory of men and of crimes should be, by this curse, not destroyed, but, on the contrary, thoroughly preserved…"

Published in the edition of 19 February 2007

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