Seeking Justice for the Holocaust
Herbert C. Pell, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the Limits of International Law
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
356 Pages | 6 x 9 | 3 b&w illus.
The Nuremberg War Crimes Trial has become a symbol of justice, the pivotal moment when the civilized world stood up for Europe’s Jews and, ultimately, for human rights. Yet the world, represented at the time by the Allied powers, almost did not stand up despite the magnitude of the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis. Seeking justice for the Holocaust had not been an automatic—or an obvious—mission for the Allies to pursue. In this book, Graham Cox recounts the remarkable negotiations and calculations that brought the United States and its allies to this point.
At the center of this story is the collaboration between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Herbert C. Pell, Roosevelt’s appointee as U.S. representative to the United Nations War Crimes Commission, in creating an international legal protocol to prosecute Nazi officials for war crimes and genocide. Pell emerges here as an unheralded force in pursuing justice and in framing human rights as an international concern. The book also enlarges our perspective on Roosevelt’s policies regarding European Jews by revealing the depth of his commitment to postwar justice in the face of staunch opposition, even from some within his administration.
What made the international effort especially contentious was a debate over its focus—how to punish for aggressive warfare and crimes against humanity. Cox exposes the internal contradictions and contortions behind the U.S. position and the maneuverings of numerous officials negotiating the legal parameters of the trials. Most telling perhaps were the efforts of Robert H. Jackson, the chief U.S. prosecutor at Nuremberg, to circumscribe the scope of new international law—for fear of setting precedents that might boomerang on the United States because of its own racial segregation practices.
With its broad new examination of the background and context of the Nuremberg trials, and its expanded view of the roles played by Roosevelt and his unlikely deputy Pell, Seeking Justice for the Holocaust offers a deeper and more nuanced understanding of how the Allies came to hold Nazis accountable for their crimes against humanity.
Graham Cox is a Professor of History at North Central Texas College.
“Graham Cox demonstrates that Herbert C. Pell served as FDR’s personal representative in the deliberations over war crimes trials and, in many ways, provided a voice of conscience in a roomful of legal experts more worried about precedents than the basic concepts of right and wrong. In so doing, Cox completely transforms the discussion of Pell’s role, FDR’s position on war crimes, and the intransigence of the State Department. By breaking new ground, Seeking Justice for the Holocaust will open up new avenues of investigation.”—Paul J. Springer, author of America’s Captives: Treatment of POWs from the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror
“This is the untold story of an American human rights hero without whom the Nuremberg Trials would likely never have occurred as they did.”—Dan Plesch, author of Human Rights after Hitler: The Lost History of Prosecuting Axis War Crimes