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Home arrow Law arrow United States law and policy on transitional justice : principles, politics, and pragmatics


In addition to prosecuting many Nazis (through the multilateral IMT and unilateral military tribunals) and providing de facto conditional amnesty to others, the Allies implemented lustration in post-WWII Germany. The basis of this official purge was the Potsdam Agreement of August 1, 1945. Through this agreement, which concluded a conference held in Potsdam, Germany, from July 17 to August 2, 1945, the leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union agreed in part that:

All members of the Nazi Party who have been more than nominal participants in its activities and all other persons hostile to Allied purposes shall be removed from public and semi-public office, and from positions of responsibility in important private undertakings. Such persons shall be replaced by persons who, by their political and moral qualities, are deemed capable of assisting in developing genuine democratic institutions in Germany.110

Denazification was a widespread policy enacted by the United States and its allies, though pursued to different degrees by each of the quadripartite Allied powers.111

The IMT trials thus occured simultaneously with or before other transitional justice options: unilateral prosecution through military commissions (e.g., NMT); domestic unilateral prosecution through civilian courts, either by trying individuals under a state’s established jurisdiction (e.g., Barbie and Papon in France) or under a claim of universal jurisdiction (e.g., Eichmann in Israel); conditional amnesty; and lustration (denazification).

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