Nels Erickson

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art & Design


This thesis examines the War Crimes Trials conducted in Nuremberg, Germany during the period 1945 to 1948. It specifically analyzes the crimes of conspiracy to commit aggression and crimes against peace. It interprets the indictments, proceedings, and judgments of the International Military Tribunal from the perspective of natural law, that is the innate moral feeling or inherent sense of right and wrong held to characterize mankind.

The thesis also examines the German "guestion," again in terms of the international morality manifested at Nuremberg. Particular emphasis is placed on the opposing concepts of loyalty to one's nation and one's duty to humanity. The sense of loyalty and the feeling of devotion of the German Officer Corps and the German people to Hitler and National Socialism are analyzed— and judged— also in terms of natural law.

Finally, criticisms of the Trials are examined and ultimately regarded as secondary to Nuremberg's primary importance as a statement regarding the primacy of man's moral obligation to humanity. The statement of natural law made at Nuremberg transcends the legal, political, and historiographical criticisms of the Trials. Only in terms of natural law are the verdicts rendered at Nuremberg coherent., logical, and honest.