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Nuremberg Trials: Pursuit of Justice
Rabbi Benjamin Blech

Nuremberg Trials: Pursuit of Justice

What happens when there is a conflict between human values and the law of the land?


Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945, a week before Germany's surrender. The "heroic" leader of the German people chose not to face the consequences of defeat. But twenty-one other Nazi leaders mainly responsible for the criminal acts of the Germans survived.

It was at Nuremberg, in 1946, that an international tribunal was formed to bring these murderers to justice. No power on earth, of course, could bring the eleven million victims – six million Jews and five million others – back to life. But perhaps this act of the world going on record that it would not tolerate inhuman acts on this scale might serve to prevent similar horrors in the future.

Nuremberg represented a giant leap forward in the legal thinking of mankind. The defense of the Nazi officers, that they were "only acting under orders," was rejected; people must obey a "higher law" if the law of the land is completely immoral. Murder can never be justified, even when the government approves of its practice.

Do you remember how the prophet Nathan had expressed this very same truth to King David, that even the most powerful ruler could not place himself above the law? It took many centuries but at long last, at the price of eleven million people, the world finally understood what the Bible had taught ages ago!

As Julius Streicher was being led to the gallows, he inexplicably shouted out "Purimfest – Purim festival." Amazingly enough, Streicher had made a connection with an ancient story about the first attempt in Jewish history – the story of Haman – to destroy the entire Jewish people. The story ended with the ten sons of Haman hung and the Jews surviving. Is it simply a bizarre coincidence that the judgment of Nuremberg, too, ended with exactly ten Nazi leaders condemned to pay for their crimes by hanging? And was Streicher's last word a "coincidence" that forces us to acknowledge this incredible linkage?

The Bible commands us: "Justice, justice, you shall pursue" (Deut. 16:20). Punishment is not vengeance. It is making a statement of principle. To condone wickedness is to encourage it. And so the world that had sinned with both deed and with silence strove to redress its wrongs after the defeat of Nazi Germany. To its credit, the civilized world regained its voice in the post World War II era.

from "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Jewish History and Culture" (Alpha Books)

December 31, 1969

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Visitor Comments: 6

(5) Deborah Waynick, June 9, 2013 9:40 PM

Appreciate the knowledge of how horrible the Catholics were in WWII

I am greatful for knowing this information. I consider the researchers as heros, in addition to all of the Jewish communities who faced the Holocaust and after. I am deeply saddend by all that was written and I know there is much more. I have become so angered by the Catholics, I need to end my comment . Shalom

(4) GRAHAM R-B, January 10, 2013 9:52 AM

Pursuit of Peace

It seems that though we are instructed to 'pursue justice 'there is no stress laid on us to pursue peace. While we may desire Peace we are not obligated to pursue it. We simply pray for it as though Peace is the Almighty's to grant or withhold. If we pursue justice and our neighbors do too, peace will follow.

(3) Anonymous, June 3, 2008 7:46 PM


this article is just amaxing. im a student at a private jewish high school in los angeles, and as we were reaching an end to our megilat esther, our teacher had told us this story, and my entire class was amazed and immediatly perked up to listen, which is a hard thing to do. i can''t belive this story!!

(2) anon, October 7, 2007 4:46 PM

Not only that, but Hermann Goering, who committed suicide, was a transvestite. Haman's daughter reincarnated?

(1) anshu verma, July 10, 2002 12:00 AM

Tell me more

I'm a Hindu boy from India and i've a great respect and affinity towards the
Jewish community and Israel.
The torments suffered by this community
are really horrible but despite of all
these perpetrations and atrocities this
community not only survived but today
they are one of the most powerful on
the earth.
I admire there spirit.
I want to know more'bout Jewish culture
living style, and a lot more'bout Israel.
Wishing my heartiest wishes to them for
their ongoing campaign against Islamic terrorism of which my country is also a sufferer.
Anshu Verma

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