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War Crimes Resources – A Research Guide

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Some of the most interesting items in our collections, at least to my way of thinking, are the publications of various war-crimes tribunals.  These range from the Nuremberg Trials to the more recent tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.  In this post, I want to touch on a number of these resources and invite you to explore the Library of Congress Online Catalog (OPAC) to find related materials.  I will include some tips for searching the catalog for these kinds of items.

[Nuremberg Trials showing Fascist bandits hung by their own rope]
The Nuremberg trial transcripts and related materials are perhaps some of the most popular in this area.  The main trial transcripts can be found in a publication entitled “Trial of the major war criminals before the International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg, 14 November 1945-1 October 1946.”  This 42 volume set was originally published between 1947-1949 but has been reprinted at least twice: once in 1971 and then again in 1995.  We also have a copy of this publication in French, although any original documents referred to during the trials appear only in their original language.  Related publications include an index for the trials which was compiled by Mary Anne Fugelso in 1966.  In addition, we also hold an eight volume publication entitled “Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression.”  This is one of those books whose title is provocative but not very descriptive.  Intrigued by the title I opened up the first volume and discovered that it is a “‘collection of documentary evidence and guide materials prepared by the American and British prosecuting staff.”

In addition to transcripts from the European theater of World War II, the Law Library has transcripts from the International Military Tribunal for the Far East.  This tribunal was established to try major war criminals in the Far East and was seated in Tokyo.  Not surprisingly, the transcripts from this tribunal are often referred to as the Tokyo Trials.   The Law Library of Congress has copies of both original trial transcript publication of 1948 as well as a reprint from 1968.  However, both the original transcripts and reprint are in Japanese, and English speakers would need to refer to the 1998 publication of these records which also include commentary and a guide.  Documents and transcripts from the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials as well as transcripts from other war-crimes incidents can also be found on the Library of Congress’ Federal Research Division’s Military Legal Resources page.

Another collection featuring war-crimes trials is the International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991.  The Law Library also collects the Global War Crimes Tribunal Collections which is comprised of transcripts,  documents and background information from both Rwandan and Yugoslav tribunals.

One of the best ways to find related materials in the online catalog is to click on the various subject headings, which appear on each of these records such as War crime trials or Tokyo Trial, Tokyo, Japan, 1946-1948.  Alternatively one can click on the call number from the Online Catalog option and browse a list of publications with the same call number: it is  just like browsing a shelf in a library, except it is digital.  A user can also do a Guided Search using terms such as war crimes, trials, law as well as geographic terms.

The Law Library also holds a widely varied collection of trial transcripts from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, but most of these items are part of our Rare Books Collection.

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