What happens in Mission of Nuremberg by Tim Townsend? What are the moral implications of the trials?

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poetrymfa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mission of Nuremberg: An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis is a journalistic description of the Nuremberg Trials as written by author Tim Townsend. The book tells the story of Henry Gerecke, a chaplain in the U.S. Army and Lutheran minister who was sent to counsel twenty-one Nazi leaders imprisoned at Nuremberg. The objective of this mission was to save the souls of some of the most evil men to ever live--men who had committed horrific crimes of war against humanity. 

The Nuremberg Trials, more specifically, were military tribunals used to prosecute the leaders of the Nazi party and those who aided in the unspeakable atrocities of the Holocaust. Ultimately, out of the twenty-one men who were put on trial at these tribunals, eleven were sentenced to death (one of which committed suicide before this sentence could be carried out), three received life sentences in prison, four received sentences of ten to twenty years in prison, and three were acquitted. Gerecke's final assessment was that four of the twenty-one man managed to die "as penitent sinners trusting God's mercy for forgiveness." 

The ethical and moral implications of these trials--and of Gerecke's agreement to minister to these men--were largely concerned with the notions of good versus evil, the nature of the soul, and the role of compassion in the face of atrocity. Gerecke's actions, though pure in intention, were not always received kindly by many of the parties who were hurt most by the Holocaust and World War II. Many Jewish people believe that attempting to "save" the souls of these Nazis was an act of flagrant disrespect toward the Jews who had died at their hands and a signifier of Anti-Semitism. Others criticized this choice from a more patriotic or nationalistic perspective, claiming that this ministering resembled treason. For Gerecke himself, this was a matter of commitment to Christ over all else--even in the face of evil. 

More information on the Nuremberg trials and the book itself can be found in the article, "Would You Share the Gospel with Hitler's Worst Henchmen?" I have included the link to this piece below. 

skolrgipsy eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Nuremberg trials, the first of which began in November of 1945, dealt with some of the most monstrous crimes in human history, and brought to the fore numerous moral issues. Once again the world was faced with the moral question of the use of war, this time on a massive scale, to implement the policies of a nation, in this case the heinous policies of Nazi Germany.

What emerged as another central focus of the trials was the following: do individuals, in this case officials within the Nazi government, those working in the Nazi death camps, or those in the German military, et al, bear responsibility for the monstrous crimes that they committed; or, as many defendants claimed at the trials, are they guiltless of the crimes they committed, since they were merely obeying orders from superiors?

The verdicts from the Allied Powers concluded that the defendants were in fact guilty of the crimes they committed, and in addition were morally bound to defy immoral orders, even to the point of death.

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