Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy

War Crimes Project: UN the Holocaust & the War Crimes Commission 1943 – 1948

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s support for CISD’s research came in a message to the January 2012 launch event at Lancaster House. ‘I commend this important meeting and welcome your efforts to delve more deeply into the origins of the United Nations. That pre-history was a period in which states and peoples responded to grave threats with remarkable vision and resolve… Let us learn what more there is to know.’ The Economist highlighted the war crimes element of the project in reviewing Plesch’s America, Hitler and the UN. The project is now supported by a generous grant from the Oak Foundation.

Justice Richard Goldstone commented, 'you have introduced a positive new paradigm in International Criminal Law' in opening and analysing the archive of the UN War Crimes Commission.

The research will reinforce efforts to strengthen the effectiveness of the ICC. The objective is to examine the international response to Axis crimes and apply lessons from this period to 21st century international responses to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The twin focuses of the work are reassessing international public statements condemning atrocities, particularly the extermination of the Jews and examining the work of the UN War Crimes Commission of 1943 1948.

The project's intellectual base can be seen in Chapter 5 - Auschwitz and Nuremburg - of Plesch's America Hitler and the UN. The research focuses on the archives of the UNWCC held by the UN ARMS in New York and on the 70th anniversary of the creation of the UNWCC in October 2012 in conjunction with the Wiener Library.

The project will being publishing online, documents on the UNWCC that were kept secret for decades after 1945.

LATEST MEDIA: BBC WORLD TONIGHT: UNITED NATIONS DECLARATION ON THE PERSECUTION OF THE JEWS (STARTS 35 MINS INTO THE PROGRAMME)

 

 

The project is part of the broader work on UN History for the Future being conducted in conjunction with the Ralph Bunche Centre for International Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. The War Crimes and Human Rights project is in partnership with the Wiener Library for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and the Institute for Advanced Legal Studies at London University.

Project Activities

Releasing restricted UN Archives to the public 

As part of the project we will be releasing selected documents from the UN archives and other material related to the work of the UNWCC. We look forward to engaging in rich discussion with you about this overlooked paradigm of international criminal law. The full list of documents are (in order of release):

  1. History of the United Nations War Crimes Commission and the Development of the Laws of War 
  2. The UNWCC Archive Finding Aid         
  3. The Application to Access the UNWCC Archives
  4. "INFORMATION CONCERNING HUMAN RIGHTS ARISING FROM TRIALS OF WAR CRIMINALS" (prepared by the UNWCC In Accordance to the Request Received by the United Nations)
  5. The Index (in sections)
  6. Link to the trial volumes 
  7. Selected documents from the UN archives

This has been made possible with support from the Oak Foundation. We work in partnership with the Wiener Library, the United Nations Archives and Records Management Section, The Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies at the City University of New York, the SOAS Law School and the Center for Human Rights at the American Bar Association.

Workshops and Conferences

We will be holding workshops about the work and contemporary relevance of the UNWCC from January to spring 2013 in New York, Washington DC, London, Geneva and The Hague. 

We will also be hosting an international conference to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Commission in September 2013.   

War Crimes Cases Tried

 

CISD and Wiener Library initiative to combat Holocaust denial and anti-semitism

SOAS's Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy has linked with the Wiener Library for the study of the Holocaust and Genocide are to launch an initiative to combat Holocaust denial and anti-semitism by remembering a WW2 statement by many nations condeming the extermination of the Jews. 

Speaking at a special Holocaust Memorial Day lecture at the library Jan 26th, Centre Director, Dan Plesch said, "We are asking the EU, NATO, the OSCE and the UN and their member states to reissue a public condemnation issued many nations in December 1942 of the Nazi's extermination of the Jews.' The Holocaust memorial day theme is 'Stand Up and Speak Out', we need to remember that nations did stand up and speak out at the time and reissue this statement on its 70th anniversary.' We hope that come 17th December 2012, the UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and his US and Russian counterparts will solemly re-state that,

'the German authorities, not content with denying to persons of Jewish race in all the territories over which their barbarous rule has been extended the most elementary human rights, are now carrying into effect Hitler's oft repeated intention to exterminate the Jewish people in Europe.'

Project Participants

  • The Wiener Library
  • The London Institute for Advanced Legal Studies
  • The Ralph Bunche Centre for International Studies 
  • Dr Dan Plesch (CISD) Director of the War Crimes Project
  • Shanti Sattler Deputy Director of the War Crimes Project

 

Research material

  • International Criminal Court presentation by Plesch on UNWCC

    Presentation to the International Criminal Court on the United Nations War Crimes Commission.

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  • UN - Information concerning HR arising from trials of war criminals

    Official document of the United Nations Economic and Social Council on 'Information Concerning the Human Rights Arising from Trials of War Criminals' (15 May, 1948).

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  • Before Nuremberg: Considering the Work of the United Nations War Crimes Commission of 1943–1948

    Dan Plesch, Shanti Sattler, 2014. This article in the Forum for International Criminal and Humanitarian Law’s Historical Origins of International Criminal Law (Volume 1) expands and builds on earlier work from Plesch and Sattler, drawing upon new information about the intellectual and legal origins and foundations of the Commission, and their impact on its work and structure.

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  • Defining Crimes Against Humanity: The Contribution of the United Nations War Crimes Commission to International Criminal Law, 1944–1947

    Kerstin von Lingen (2014). Part of the Forum for International Criminal and Humanitarian Law’s Historical Origins of International Criminal Law (Volume 1). The UNWCC played a major role in developing the notion of crimes against humanity – crimes within countries as well as between them – and Lingen’s examination of this highlights the important role of Czech legal scholars such as Bohuslav Ecer and Egon Schwelb in formulating this.

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  • Late Republican China and the Development of International Criminal Law: China’s Role in the United Nations War Crimes Commission in London and Chungking

    Anja Bihler (2014). Part of the Forum for International Criminal and Humanitarian Law’s Historical Origins of International Criminal Law (Volume 1). War crimes trials were not a Western, eurocentric phenomenon, but were practiced by a wide range of the Allied powers, including China. Bihler’s piece examines some of the criticisms that China faced – especially with its domestic legal capacity – as well as its contributions to the Commission’s work, and the obstacles preventing its achievements from being more widely known.

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  • History of the UNWCC: Contents

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  • History of the UNWCC - Foreward

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  • History of the UNWCC: Chapter 1 - Introductory Chapter

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  • History of the UNWCC: Chapter 2 - Outline of the Developments of the Laws of War Prior to the First World War

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  • History of the UNWCC: Chapter 3 - Developments of the Laws of War During the First World War

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  • History of the UNWCC: Chapter 4 - Developments in the Laws of War Between the Two World Wars

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  • History of the UNWCC: Chapter 5 - Various Developments in the Concept of War Crimes During the Second World War 1939-1943

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  • History of the UNWCC: Chapter 6 - The Establishment and Organization of the United Nations War Crimes Commission

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  • History of the UNWCC: Chapter 7 - General Historical Survey of the Activities of the Commission

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  • History of the UNWCC: Chapter 8 - Activities on Questions of Substantive Law

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  • History of the UNWCC: Chapter 9 (part 1) - Developments in the Concept of Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes and Crimes Against Peace

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  • History of the UNWCC: Chapter 9 (part 2) - Developments in the Concept of Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes and Crimes Against Peace

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  • History of the UNWCC: Chapter 10 - Developments in the Doctrine of Individual Responsibility of Members of Governments and Administrators, of Acts of State, of Immunity of Heads of State, and of Superior Orders

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  • History of the UNWCC: Chapter 11 - Development of the Law Respecting Criminal Groups and Organisations

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  • History of the UNWCC: Chapter 12 - Machinery for Tracing and Apprehension of War Criminals

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  • History of the UNWCC: Chapter 13 - Arrangements for the Surrender of War Criminals

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  • History of the UNWCC: Chapter 14 - Developments in the Concept and Procedure of Trying War Criminals

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  • History of the UNWCC: Chapter 15 - Committee I. The Examination of Cases and the Listing of War Criminals

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  • History of the UNWCC: Appendix I

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  • History of the UNWCC: Appendix II

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  • History of the UNWCC: Appendix III

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  • History of the UNWCC: Appendix IV

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  • History of the UNWCC: Appendix V

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  • History of the UNWCC: Appendix VI

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  • History of the UNWCC: Appendix VII

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  • History of the UNWCC - Index

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