Judging War Crimes Today
Thomas Buergenthal: A View from the Bench
Born in Czechoslovakia, Thomas Buergenthal was one of the youngest survivors of the Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen concentration camps.
He emigrated to the United States at the age of 17.
Judge Thomas Buergenthal Buergenthal was a judge at the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. He served as judge, vice president, and president of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (1979–1991); as well as judge, vice president, and president of the Administrative Tribunal of the Inter-American Development Bank (1989–1994). From 1992–1993, he served on the United Nations Truth Commission for El Salvador.
Judge Buergenthal served as chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Committee on Conscience. He also taught at several leading law schools. He wrote more than a dozen books and numerous articles on international law, human rights, and comparative law.
Buergenthal's experiences as both a Holocaust survivor and an international judge shaped his unique perspective on the nature of justice after genocide.
Critical Thinking Questions
- Beyond the verdicts, what impact can trials have?
- How did national histories, agendas, and priorities affect the effort to try war criminals after the war?
- The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg is among the best known postwar trials. Investigate trials conducted by other countries after the Holocaust.
- Is it ever too late for accountability?