The 75th anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials: Program of Events

The Nuremberg Trials
Photo: National Archives, College Park, MD, USA

November 20th, 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Nuremberg Trials. In its memory, multiple projects approach the historical event from a variety of perspectives. They take place in a predominantly digital space due to the pandemic. At the heart of the program is a virtual act of remembrance on Friday, November 20th, 2020, at 19:00 from Courtroom 600, the historical site of the court proceedings, with Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier as the guest of honor. 

On November 20th, 1945, for the first time in history, leading representatives of a state had to answer for their crimes before an international court. On this day, the “Main War Crimes Trial” against 21 high-ranking Nazi state representatives opened at the Nuremberg Palace of Justice. The military tribunal was composed of representatives of the four Allied Powers – the USA, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France. The “trial of the century” lasted just under a year and ended on October 1st, 1946, with twelve death sentences, three life sentences, four long prison terms and three acquittals. The “Nuremberg Succession Trials” continued until April 14th, 1949. The trials marked the beginning of the legal prosecution of National Socialist crimes, which continues to this day.

November 20th, 2020 also marks the tenth anniversary of the institution “Memorium Nuremberg Trials”. With the opening of the Memorium in 2010, the City of Nuremberg has laid an important building block in the culture of remembrance for coming to terms with the crimes of the Nazi regime. The institution does not see itself first and foremost as a place of examination of Nazi history, but as one where world history was written. With the idea of the primacy of law over power, the Nuremberg “Main War Crimes Trial” opened up a future-oriented approach to war crimes and crimes against humanity that still raises great expectations and hopes today. 

The city of Nuremberg has been a historical symbol of both oppressive and constitutional rule of laws: the place where the “Nuremberg Laws” of 1935 were promoted, the city is to this day firmly linked with the creation of a pseudo-legal basis for the deprivation of the rights of minorities – but also with the re-establishment of constitutional principles by the Allies after 1945. The Memorium Nuremberg Trials is dedicated to this new start, the re-establishment of constitutional principles in Germany and the further development of international criminal law. 

In the spring of 2020, Courtroom 600, the historic site of the Nuremberg Trials, was retired in it’s use as a venue for court hearings. This is the first time that the jury courtroom has been freed from its original purpose, allowing it instead to be used as a place of remembrance. This ensures even better accessibility for visitors from all over the world. On the occasion of the two anniversaries, the Memorium Nuremberg Trials is planning a number of different projects, which will mainly take place in digital space due to the corona pandemic.


Virtual Act of Remembrance on Friday, November 20, 2020, 19:00

The Act of Remembrance will take place in Courtroom 600, the historical site of the Nuremberg Trials. After the welcoming address by the Mayor of Nuremberg, Marcus König, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will give the ceremonial address. Dr. Markus Söder, Minister-President of Bavaria, will deliver a welcoming address. Video messages will be sent by Benjamin Ferencz, contemporary witness and former chief prosecutor in the so-called Einsatzgruppenprozess (Task Force Process), Dr. Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and four foreign ministers of the former Allied nations: Michael Pompeo Page 3 of 6 (USA), Dominic Raab (Great Britain), Jean-Yves Le Drian (France) and Sergei Lavrov (Russia). 

The concluding panel discussion will feature the British lawyer and international law expert Prof. Philippe Sands, Prof. Dr. Angelika Nußberger, former Vice-President of the European Court of Human Rights, and Dr. Christophe Eick, Head of the Legal Department of the German Foreign Office and International Law Advisor of the Federal Republic of Germany. It will be moderated by Michaela Kolster, Program Director of the Phoenix TV station. Due to the current pandemic, the virtual Act of Remembrance will be broadcast in the live stream on https://75jahre-nuernberger-prozesse.de/erinnern/festakt and www.phoenix.de starting at 19:00. and will be broadcast on Sunday, November 22th, 2020, at 13:00 on the Phoenix channel on television.


Microsite for the 75th anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials 

A microsite on the topic was created specially for the anniversary, available in German and English as well as simplified German: https://75jahre-nuernberger-prozesse.de

The task of the microsite is to create a digital platform for the various projects and events of the anniversary. In addition, it offers the possibility of a digital production for the individual projects that could not take place in the usual form due to the corona pandemic. 

It also functions as a digital archive of the anniversary for the institution and the public, through which the content can be made accessible in the long term. In addition to detailed information on the individual program items, the microsite also offers an overview of the Nuremberg Trials. Also included are video messages from some of the last contemporary witnesses at the Nuremberg Trials, whose testimonies are available on the microsite as “oral history”. These are supplemented by recordings of conversations with experts on the subject of the Nuremberg Trials. Some of these video messages will be shown during the virtual act of remembrance and only published on the microsite afterwards.


Commemorative Publication “That four great nations. 75 Years Nuremberg Trial. 75 Years Nuremberg Trial”

On the occasion of the anniversaries, a special edition publication has been created by the Memorium Nuremberg Trials. Authors from the former four allied states and Germany have approached the historical and cultural event from many different fields of study. The contributions in the richly illustrated publication stimulate new views and insights: In the focus are the Nuremberg “Major War Crimes Trial” as an outstanding achievement of multilateralism and international encounter, as well as the potential of the historical site as a globally significant memorial and cultural learning location. 

The publication will appear in November 2020 at Michael Imhof Verlag as volume 21 of the publication series from the Museums of the City of Nuremberg. It is bilingual (German and English), comprises 107 pages and is available for Price of 12.95 Euro directly at the Memorium Nuremberg Trials or available in bookshops under ISBN 978-3-7319-0948-4.


Digital Poetry Slam “Strong words” on Thursday, November 26th, 2020, 19:30

Five poets share their thoughts and poems on the topic “The 75th year of Nuremberg Trials” in poetry-slam format. The artists deal with the idea that the significance of the Nuremberg Trials have and still deal with historical themes as well as current questions. It is moderated by Michael Jakob, regular moderator of the Poetry Slams in Ansbach, Bayreuth, Fürth and Nuremberg. 

Due to the corona protection measures the event will take place purely digitally and is streamed live on the microsite at https://75jahre-nuernberger-prozesse.de/discuss/poetry-slam and on the Youtube channel of the Poetry Slam Bayreuth under https://youtu.be/eAgUu3LChQc.


Digital book launch and reading on Thursday, December 3rd, 2020, 19:00

At a digital book launch, the British lawyer and Author Philippe Sands will present his new work “The Ratline: Love, Lies and Justice on the Trail of a Nazi Fugitive”. He will also report on his personal experiences during the creation of the book. The Actress Katja Riemann, known from movies like “Fack Ju Göhte” and “Rosenstraße”, will read selected passages from the German translation.

“The Rat Line” tells the story of SS officer Otto Wächter, scion of one of the most respected families in Austria, who became the NS Governor of Krakow in 1939 and of Galicia in 1942. 

After 1945 he was wanted by the Allies as a suspected war criminal, but successfully escaped. 

The story is closely connected with the Nuremberg Trials: Prior to the trials, the defendants had to be agreed upon- but many could neither be found nor made to stand trial. These “non-defendants” of Nuremberg are still a topic of discussion today. The event will be held in English and German (discussion with the author in English, reading in German) and will be published digitally on Transfer zoom. To participate, please send an e-mail to memorium@stadt.nuernberg.de so that a link to the event can be sent to you. A registration with Zoom or downloading the app are not necessary.


Exhibition “Graffitied – A School Project for the 75th anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials”

Students of the Scharrer Middle School in Nuremberg dealt with the questions of how relevant the Nuremberg Trials are 75 years after its beginning, and what significance it still has today for them personally. In a two-day workshop with Carlos Lorente from the Graffiti Academy Style Scouts, the learned techniques were “translated” into graffiti sprayed on canvas.

The graffiti created during the workshop will be shown in an exhibition in the Cube 600. The Cube 600 is a former workshop opposite the Memorium Nuremberg Trials and will be showing temporary and travelling exhibitions in the future. Due to the current closure of the Memorium, the opening of the exhibition is not yet foreseeable.

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