Now Online, Recordings of the Nuremberg Trials Make Evil Sound Dull

Jan. 21 2021

Thanks to a cooperative effort by several institutions, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has made the audio recordings of the trials of 24 of the highest-ranking members of the Third Reich available online in their entirety. Held in Nuremberg from November 1945 to October 1946, the hearings themselves lasted for a total of 775 hours—documented on 1,942 gramophone discs that have now been digitized. Edward Rothstein writes:

[W]hat is heard, even now, seems remarkable: a rough first draft of judgment, beginning just five months after the war with Germany ended and unfolding over nearly a year as its arbiters strained to fit minimal forms of existing law to maximal forms of moral degradation.

Stalin expected Nuremberg to be a show trial, like those he staged to deadly effect between 1936 and 1938; he propelled their veterans into important Nuremberg roles. So the Soviet participants can seem disoriented by cross-examination and defense. And when they try to prevent the defendants from bringing up the Hitler-Stalin pact or Soviet atrocities, disputes can verge on farce (and then perhaps, given Stalin’s displeasure, become tragedy: one of the Soviet prosecutors was almost certainly murdered midtrial). The other Allies try to get it right, but often get bogged down in procedure, multilingual delays, and repetition.

It is only in listening to large swaths of this trial that I became able to finally give some credit to Hannah Arendt’s notion, developed after watching Adolf Eichmann’s Israeli trial, that he and his fellow Nazis embodied the “banality of evil.” She saw the banality as a reflection of Nazi evil itself, as if it were a kind of bourgeois malfeasance—dull men doing devilish work without thinking. But after being immersed in sections of these 775 hours of hearings, I think banality was more a reflection of what she was witnessing. A trial can make evil seem dull because it makes it ordinary, showing how it becomes fact, disclosing details, memories, documents (Nuremberg’s produced 269,093 pages). The judging of evil is often banal, but . . . evil in itself is not.

Read more at Wall Street Journal

More about: Hannah Arendt, Holocaust, Nazi Germany, Nuremberg Trials


Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy