EU Today

Nov 22, 2020


As the world marks the 75th anniversary of the Nuremberg trials, there is much discussion about the legacy of the court, convened on the basis of the London Charter, issued on August 8, 1945 for the purpose of “punishment of the major war criminals of the European Axis countries”.


Far from being a mere detail of history, Nuremberg set important precedents that are valid to this day.


The trials were to establish the legal definition of what actually constitutes a “war crime” setting a precedent for today’s war crimes tribunal in The Hague, which commenced its work on July 1, 2002.


Vladimir Putin has commented on the anniversary, saying that the Nuremberg trials were important “to counteract the intentional distortions and falsifications of the events of the Second World War… especially the unscrupulous dishonest attempts to justify and even glorify Nazi criminals and their accomplices.”


The nowadays seldom-seen in public Russian president has himself been at the centre of “revisionism” controversy as he has attempted to airbrush from history the Soviet Union’s shameful collaboration with Nazi Germany, heavily criticising the European Parliament for a resolution condemning the alliance.


The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, signed between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union on August 23, 1939, contained a so-called secret protocol setting out how Hitler and Stalin would divide Europe between themselves. The carve-up of Poland following the invasion and occupation by both the Nazis and Soviets in September 1939 reflected the protocol exactly.


On Friday, speaking to the Nuremberg Lessons international conference and workshop Putin referred to “the merciless Nazi regime that unleashed the criminal war and committed atrocities of an unprecedented scale,” completely ignoring Soviet involvement in the opening act of WW2 – the invasion of Poland.


Following the Allied victory Latvia, Estonia, and Finland went to the Soviets as planned in the 1939 pact. While Lithuania and the western part of Poland had been assigned to the Nazis, they of course were not around to collect their spoils, and so went to Stalin by default where they remained under the Soviet yoke until the long-awaited collapse of “The Evil Empire.” The hideous Soviet war crimes did not come under the remit of Nuremberg of course.