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Essay 3

Nuremberg Trial Simulation

Imagine the following scenario. Four of the original twenty-four defendants in the Nuremberg Trials escaped just prior to prosecution. After decades of tracking, Israeli Mossad agents have just captured all four living under assumed identities in a foreign country. The accused have reclaimed their original identities and have requested that they be tried according to the same conventions as their compatriots half a century ago. The Nuremberg Tribunal has been specially reconvened for this purpose; and you will play an integral role in carrying out justice.

To run this trial, we will divide into four teams of two for the prosecution, four teams of two for the defense, and four judges. Each will play a slightly different role:

The Prosecution: Each prosecution team will be responsible for indicting one of the defendants and for composing a brief in support of the indictment(s). Each brief should be no more than 2500 words. The teams’ arguments should be restricted to matters of law rather than matters of fact. The indictments and arguments, however, do not need to ape those made in the original tribunal.

These briefs must be submitted to me (via email) by 8:00 PM, Wednesday, 28 April. I will circulate these to the class immediately. On Thursday, 29 April, each prosecutorial team will make a 15-minute presentation of their indictments and arguments to the tribunal.

The Defense: Each defense team will be responsible for responding to the indictments issued and arguments raised. The defense team may either compose a single brief of no more than 2500 words or submit a brief along with a personal statement from the defendant (totaling no more than 2500 words). The defense teams are free to craft their own defenses as they see fit. They also do not need to feel constrained by the arguments issued in the original tribunal.

These briefs must be submitted to me (via email) by 8:00 PM, Monday, 3 May. I will circulate these to the class immediately. On Tuesday, 4 May, each prosecutorial team will make a 15-minute presentation of their indictments and arguments to the tribunal.

The Tribunal: The four judges will be collectively responsible for ruling on each indictment for each defendant. Each judge will then consider particularly the cases of two defendants and author an opinion of no more than 1250 words for each. (The additional writing burden for the judges is designed to offset the extra time allotted to them and their lighter research burdens.) The judges should coordinate to ensure that there is at least one opinion for each defendant. The judges are also required to discuss the substance of these cases; but each will be responsible for his or her sole-authored opinions.

These decisions must be submitted to me (via email) by 10:00 AM, Thursday, 6 May. I will circulate these to the class after the decisions have been rendered. On Thursday, 6 May, the judges will hand down their rulings on each indictment. Each judge will then make a 15-minute presentation of his or her opinion on the decisions for one defendant. (The judges ought to ensure that a presentation is given for each defendant.)

Completing this assignment will require you to undertake independent research. The strongest essays will be those that articulate robust legal arguments that are grounded in a clear presentation of the particular defendants’ circumstances. A list of additional materials that students may consult appears below.

Keep in mind as well that more than half a century has passed since the original Nuremberg Trials. While the institutions and procedures will be the same, the last sixty years have seen a good deal of development in legal thinking and legal practice. You should thus feel free to deploy and cite perspectives, cases, and developments that have occurred since 1946. For instance, you might marshal the arguments made by Robert Keohane or depend on the precedents set Eichmann. Remember, however, to cite whatever materials you deploy using standard academic conventions of citation (i.e. just as in your other papers).

The Defendants

Nuremberg Materials

Students should begin by learning the biographies of their subjects. Each of these figures has attracted considerable scholarly attention, and students should not have difficulty tracking down good source material of this nature.

Essentially all of the original materials related to the Nuremberg Trials are available online through the Avalon Project. There is a good deal of material here, and students are strongly encouraged to begin working through it sooner rather than later. Part of the assignment is to conduct research, which, among other things, means learning how to sift through considerable amounts of information in search of the essential bits and pieces required to make strong arguments.

Within these documents, students might begin by examining the following pages:

After reviewing this material, students might examine the testimonies of the various witnesses and the daily proceedings relevant to their defendant. This material is available in the “Blue Book” series on the Avalon Project site (link above).

I may also post some additional, scanned-in materials later. I will notify you if I do.

Additional Guidelines

Your presentations do not need to be a full 15 minutes in length; although I will have to strictly enforce the upper limit (to ensure that everyone has enough time). You are free to use visuals (PowerPoints with graphics, bits of relevant text, &c); but do be forewarned that the presentation system can be testy. Thus, you should come prepared to present without the PowerPoints just in case. If you’d like, you may email me the PowerPoints in advance, and I’ll include them on my computer, which may (or may not!) work better. (Of course, you also don’t need to do PP if you prefer.)

I see the presentations as an opportunity to enhance, supplement, and advance the case you make in the written briefs. If your presentation is much stronger than the brief, the presentation may help the grade some. If, on the other hand, the presentation is much weaker; most of the grade will be based on the brief. In other words, the presentation can prompt an adjustment of the essay grade either up or down, with greater headroom on the upside (which I think you’ll appreciate). I think this should parallel the actual workings of the justice system. One or both of you may do the presentation. Please, though, be sure to confine your team’s remarks to a total of 15 minutes.

All of the standard rules on tardiness, word counts, formatting, bibliography, &c. apply. In that sense, you should consider this a normal paper. All of these essay policies can be found here:


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