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March 1994





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This brief 1994 book review essay (5500 words) examines Telford Taylor's memoir, The Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials (1992). The review is a personal one, set against two things - the author's work, while reading Taylor's memoir, in Iraq for Human Rights Watch leading a forensic team excavating Kurdish victims of the 1988 al-Anfal campaign, and the diplomatic discussions leading to the formation of the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia. The essay argues that the Nuremberg trials, according to Taylor, had a certain deflationary emotional affect - deliberately ratcheting down the emotions of what had occurred to the limited world of the courtroom. It was able to do that because the WWII allies had been willing to pay the price of victory and had 'earned' the right to conduct a trial. The Yugoslavia tribunal, by contrast, and at that time, was premised on a claim to universal justice that did not depend upon the willingness of its sponsors to intervene in the slaughter in the former Yugoslavia. "Nuremberg was a lovely hood ornament," said one of the author's unnamed sources, a senior European military judge advocate, "on the ungainly vehicle that liberated Western Europe, but it was not a substitute for D-Day."

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