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Nuremberg trial attorney Whitney Harris to speak

by Beth Krane - April 3, 2006

Whitney Harris, one of only three surviving prosecutors who helped bring Nazi Germany’s leaders to justice after World War II, will deliver a lecture titled “The 60th Anniversary of the Judgment at Nuremberg,” on Monday, April 10.

The talk will begin at 4 p.m. in Konover Auditorium.

It will be followed by a question and answer period, book signing, and reception.

During the Nuremberg trials, high-ranking Nazis faced a panel of judges that represented the victorious Allies – the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France.

For three days, Harris, a young U.S. naval officer at the time, questioned Rudolph Hess, commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.

He also interrogated Otto Ohlendorf, a chief of the Einsatzgruppe – Gestapo units charged with eliminating Jews, gypsies, and other “undesirables” as the German army moved through Poland.

For his services at Nuremberg, Harris was awarded the Legion of Merit, the highest decoration for a trial counsel.

After the war, he became a professor at Southern Methodist University School of Law. Later he engaged in the general practice of law, until he retired in 1989.

He has published many books, including Tyranny on Trial, about the Nuremberg trials, and more recently The Tragedy of War and King of Killers: Rudolf Hess at Auschwitz.

Harris, now 93, is an advocate of the International Criminal Court at The Hague in the Netherlands, which tries cases of aggressive war, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, and was established to replace ad hoc tribunals established by the United Nations.

The idea for a permanent international court is rooted in the aftermath of World War II, when the United Nations sought to formalize the legal principles established at the Nuremberg war crimes trials.

Harris’ lecture, which is free and open to the University community, is sponsored by UConn’s Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Life and the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.  

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