Judgement on Nuremberg : an historical enquiry into the validity of article six of the London charter as an expression of contemporary international law.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts (Hons)
In 1945 the Allies declared that the process controlling the punishment of the major Nazi war criminals was legal rather than political and thus not reliant on an "arbitrary exercise of power". They claimed that the crimes with which Germany's Nazi leadership were to be indicted were provided for in existing international law. This assertion was made despite the fact that it contradicted the pre-war, war-time and early post-war war crimes policy and activities of the Allied nations. This thesis, in examining the process by which the Allies reached agreement on the punishment of Germany's Nazi leadership, concludes that the Allies evidenced scant regard for the system known as international law. Rather, the process appears more as an effort to justify Allied war-time policies and gain post-war public support. In 1945 no law existed to give the victorious Allies the legal right to punish, to the full extent, what they saw as Nazis' misdeeds. The Allies thus chose to leave the realm of international law and enter into the political domain. In effect they created the necessary law. However, in order not to create law by which they themselves might in the future be judged, the Allies chose to do so not through accepted channels for the creation of either national or extra-national legislation. Despite Allied claims to the contrary, the disposal of the major Nazi war criminals was indeed an "arbitrary exercise of power". As such, it had historical precedents which include the imprisonment of Napoleon in 1815 and the planned political trial of the Kaiser in 1919.