The Holocaust was an unprecedented crime composed of millions of murders, wrongful imprisonments, torture, rape, theft, and destruction. In the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust, the world was faced with a challenge—how to seek justice for an almost unimaginable scale of criminal behavior. The International Military Tribunal (IMT) held at Nuremberg, Germany, attempted to broach this immense challenge on a legal basis. This display marks the 60th anniversary of the IMT, a watershed moment in international justice. The commemoration of this anniversary coincides with numerous atrocities perpetrated in our world today—crimes that again challenge us to ask: can justice ever be done?
Nazi Germany planned and implemented the Holocaust under the cover of World War II. It was in this context that the IMT was created, a trial of judgment for war crimes. The IMT was not a court convened to mete out punishment for the Holocaust alone. The tribunal was designed to document and redress crimes committed in the course of the most massive conflict the world has ever known.
The Holocaust was, in the legal language of the IMT, “a crime against humanity.” Convened within months of the end of the war, from November 20, 1945, until the verdicts were delivered on October 1, 1946, the tribunal at Nuremberg set precedents: in international law; in documentation of the historical record; and in seeking some beginning, however inadequate, in a search for justice.