<p><a href="/narrative/10415">Thomas Buergenthal</a> at Auschwitz in 1995, fifty years to the day after his forced march out of the camp as a child. Poland, 1995.</p>
<p>With the end of World War II and collapse of the Nazi regime, survivors of the Holocaust faced the daunting task of <a href="/narrative/10475">rebuilding their lives</a>. With little in the way of financial resources and few, if any, surviving family members, most eventually emigrated from Europe to start their lives again. Between 1945 and 1952, more than 80,000 Holocaust survivors immigrated to the United States. Thomas was one of them. </p>

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.

Thomas Buergenthal describes the liberation of the Sachsenhausen camp

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 has 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 has served as chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Committee on Conscience. He has also taught at several leading law schools. He has written 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 shape his unique perspective on the nature of justice after genocide.

Thomas Buergenthal: Oral History Excerpts

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?

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