Thursday, February 1, 2007

Barrett Remembers Bernard Meltzer, Holocaust Prosecutor


John Q. Barrett of St. Johns Law School and the Jackson Center circulated a post this week to his Jackson list, remembering Bernard Meltzer. Meltzer served on Robert Jackson's staff in the Nuremburg trials, and was the youngest U.S. prosecutor to address the tribunal. He joined the University of Chicago law faculty in 1946. Meltzer died January 4 at the age of 92, will be remembered at a memorial event at the University of Chicago Law School tomorrow. For details, click here.
Here's an excerpt from Barrett's post:
Bernie Meltzer’s “Nuremberg” began when he arrived in ondon on August 3, 1945, and joined Justice Jackson’s team. Within days, the four allied nations—the U.S., the United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union—signed the London Agreement to create an international tribunal to adjudicate Nazi crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Bernie then worked on evidence gathering, on analyzing evidence against prospective defendants and on draft charges. In September he moved to Nuremberg, where he worked on the draft indictment, on prisoner interrogation and on the evidence, particularly on the “economic case” against Nazi finance and banking officials. Bernie was present in court when the trial began on November 20th and the next day when Justice Jackson delivered his opening statement. (For a 1:20 Jackson Center video clip of Bernie Meltzer discussing Jackson’s opening statement, click here.)

On January 11, 1946, Lt. Meltzer presented to the IMT the evidence against defendant Walther Funk, formerly Nazi Germany’s Minister of Economics and head of the Reichsbank. Funk was charged with conspiracy to seize power, establish a totalitarian regime and wage wars of aggression (Count One), with waging wars of aggression (Count Two), with war crimes (Count Three) and with crimes against humanity (Count Four). Meltzer’s presentation, available in transcript form through Yale’s Avalon Project (click here), was interrupted a number of times that morning by the impatient chief judge, Geoffrey Lawrence of the United Kingdom. Meltzer parried these interruptions quite well, at times explaining his purpose, at others adjusting his presentation to get to the point that interested Lawrence, and in one spot just pressing on, pretending not to understand Lawrence’s gripe and getting back to the evidentiary point that Meltzer, the prosecutor, wished to make. In the afternoon, Lord Lawrence receded, permitting Bernie to conclude his powerful presentation without substantive interruption. The IMT ultimately acquitted Funk of the conspiracy charge, convicted him of waging aggressive war, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and sentenced him to prison for life.
Barrett closed his post this way:
Bernie Meltzer was a phenomenal teacher, a great person and a very kind, generous friend. In his fall 2004 Albany Law Review article, he closed by quoting, and endorsing, a passage from Justice Jackson’s July 26, 1946, closing argument at Nuremberg. These words are, at least on the topic of Nuremberg, a well-deserved epitaph for both men:

It is possible that strife and suspicion will lead to new aggressions and that the nations are not yet ready to receive and abide by the Nuremberg law. But those who gave some of the best efforts of their lives to this trial are sustained by a confidence that in place of what might have been mere acts of vengeance we wrote a civilized legal precedent and one that will lie close to the foundations of that body of international law that will prevail when the world becomes sufficiently civilized.
For the full post, which appears on H-Law, click here. For a link to Barrett's Jackson post page, with selected posts on Justice Jackson and on Nuremburg, click here.

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