Sir Hartley Shawcross, the English chief prosecutor, works himself up in the course of the proceedings to asserting in his closing statement that this tribunal is “a milestone in the history of civilization.” He only neglects to mention that this milestone was sent from Moscow. That is evident in the fact that this trial had transgressed against two fundamental principles of European justice already in the planning-stage: since the days when Rome became the lawgiver for the West, it has been accepted, as the first requirement for arriving at a verdict, that the defendant must have violated an applicable law that is precisely limited in meaning. In the course of centuries criminal law became ever more refined, and the perpetrator’s motive was considered more and more carefully, to his favor or his detriment. These two requirements are not met by the charter.
Only in the Moscow show-trials has there been a reversion to pre-Roman barbarity. Communist class-justice has never denied that it serves only one purpose: the extermination of the class-enemy (die Ausrottung des Klassenfeindes); the defendant is therefore already convicted a priori, because he is a member of the enemy class. If we replace proletariat and bourgeoisie with victor and vanquished, then we arrive at the effects of the Nuremberg Charter.
This charter violates the elementary foundation of all dispensation of justice, because it devises “laws” with retroactive force. Actions that happened from 1933 to 1945 are supposed to be punished according to laws that were decreed by the Allies only on 8 August 1945. The construction of such a charter already proves that these “laws” were not previously valid. The charter is the substitute for non-existent laws. One produces such substitutes in order to be able to punish deeds that were regarded in the prior history of law as unpunishable. For the first time politicians and military men are supposed to be judged in accord with laws that had to be invented ex post facto for this purpose.
These retroactive laws however also contradict all prerequisites of justice for another reason: they lack universal validity. In Article 3 of the charter it is explicitly specified that the new laws are only to be applied against German “militarists,” but would have no applicability to soldiers and officers of the democratic and Bolshevik victors.
We gladly concede that the tribunal itself has gotten itself into a bind. If the tribunal had also applied these laws to the Allied militarists, the tribunal’s own foundations would have been shattered. The judges could not simultaneously be defendants. Nor would it be acceptable to perform the comedy of justice in Nuremberg. The unjust laws must therefore be limited to Germans, and with this onesidedness the character of justice has already been forfeited. One injustice begets the other.