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The Memory of Judgment: Making Law and…

The Memory of Judgment: Making Law and History in the Trials of the…

by Lawrence Douglas

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I am somewhat suprise about the low ratings other readers give this book, it is tech. and very detailed about the law. Still the theme of the book, expanding the concept of the law to deal with injustice on such a large scale is powerful and needed ( )
  michaelbartley | Jan 1, 2011 |
Lawrence Douglas offers a legal critique of the most notorious Holocaust trials both from the point of view of legal development and problems, but also asking the question whether these trials did justice to the representation of the Holocaust and to the sufferings of the survivors.

The book certainly seems to be a little one-sided. Douglas often throws in sideways jabs at scholars he disagrees with - most notably Hannah Arendt. While refuting her arguments certainly has a place in this sort of work, his jabs when her theories were not being directly discussed got tiresome and made me question his objectivity and commitment to a balanced representation (rather than simply a repudiation of Arendt).

Douglas' resentment toward the Nuremberg tribunal for focusing on Nazi war crimes rather than on crimes against humanity (and crimes against the Jews in particular) seems to be a little misplaced given the horrors visited upon the world in World War I and the honest belief most of the participants in the Tribunal had that these heinous crimes were caused by the hatred stirred up by war. Not to mention the potentially disastrous (and counter-productive) consequences of turning this trial into a German v. Jew battle given the several years of brainwashing the public had undergone).

His single-minded carping on the conflation of war crimes with crimes against the Jews also irritated me - because while the crimes against the Jews were the most extensive and the most brutal(which did need to be recognized), I didn't really buy his argument that they were qualitatively more heinous because they were directed at this particular group (as opposed to, apparently, political dissidents, homosexuals, people without ID). It annoyed me that while he was insisting that lumping these groups together diminished the importance of the suffering of the Jews, he treated as inconsequential the suffering of the other groups.

Several of his arguments regarding the importance of the didactic spectacle in trials of war crimes were very interesting, but at others I felt his arguments lacked any sort of support or explanation (in the text at least). For example, he argues that laws criminalizing Holocaust denials somehow shore up the legitimacy of the state, but he never explains satisfactorily how such denials by isolated individuals endanger the state (unless coupled with incitement to violence).

While there are some very interesting points here, I was disappointed with this book. The chapter division seemed arbitrary and without closure, the organization of the book jumped around. Often the author seemed to have said the same thing several times at different points at the book, which proved frustrating. There were also numerous typos - including in simple French and German phrases. The entire first chapter deals extensively with the use of Nazi Concentration Camps the film shown before the Nuremberg tribunal. It definitely helps to have seen this recently. Personally I watched the HBO film Nuremberg which includes excerpts which sort of gave a feel for the film. Without that visual, the first chapter can be difficult to plow through.

There are some valuable ideas and criticisms here, but the lack of objectivity and the insistence on the author's agenda (not stated up front) made this book an exercise in frustration for me. ( )
  Caramellunacy | Mar 26, 2008 |
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Yale University Press

2 editions of this book were published by Yale University Press.

Editions: 0300084366, 0300109849

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