This lecture looks at a number of criminal trials that
focused on crimes committed in the concentration, labor, and death camp
Auschwitz and were held in Germany over the course of seventy years. It addresses
the challenges of the legal conceptualization and prosecution of Nazi crimes
while exploring the roles played by Jewish Holocaust survivors in bringing Nazi
perpetrators to justice. Starting with the so-called “Belsen trial” in fall
1945, just four months after Germany’s unconditional surrender, the first
Auschwitz-related trial ever it concludes with the trial of the former SS
officer and accountant Oskar Groening, which occurred in spring and summer 2015
as one of the last Auschwitz trials we are likely to see. Although the trials
took place in completely different contexts—one under British military
occupation, before a military tribunal, and under military law, the other in a
sovereign, democratic, and reunited Germany, before a German court, based on
German criminal law—both dealt with Auschwitz and addressed perennial questions
of agency, intent, and responsibility of the perpetrators and the suffering,
memory, and authority of the victims.
Professor Jockusch’s research and teaching focus on the social, political, cultural, and legal histories of European Jews before, during, and after the Holocaust and engage in comparative, transnational, and cross-disciplinary perspectives.
Her first book studied the beginnings of Holocaust research by Jews and from a Jewish perspective immediately after the liberation from Nazi rule. Based on unpublished archival records in various languages, it is the first comparative history of a number of documentation centers and historical commissions that pioneered Holocaust research in the wake of the Second World War. Comparing the cases of France, Poland, Germany, Austria, and Italy, it retrieved from oblivion these first endeavors by Jews across Europe to write the history of the Holocaust and reappraised the earliest attempts to raise research questions and methodological problems that still have relevance for Holocaust and genocide studies today.
Jockusch’s ongoing research project investigates how Jews conceptualized legal redress after the unprecedented crime of the Nazi genocide of European Jews. It explores how Jewish individuals and organizations related to the Nuremberg trials and other Allied war crime trials in occupied Germany, and examines the multifaceted ways in which Jews sought to implement their ideas of justice in and outside of the Allied tribunals.