Criminal Law Forum

, Volume 25, Issue 1–2, pp 77–110 | Cite as

Seeking Justice for the Holocaust: Herbert C. Pell Versus the US State Department

  • Graham Cox


Herbert C. Pell served his nation as an Ambassador and member of the US House of Representatives, as well as US Representative on the United Nations War Crimes Commission (UNWCC). This article presents his struggle with the US State department and the bureaucratic and legalistic dispute that developed over the UNWCC particularly with respect to policy considerations surrounding whether or not to prosecute crimes against humanity committed by the Nazis in Germany and satellite territories. The article traces Pell’s initial difficulty engaging with the work of the UNWCC due to the State Department’s delaying techniques and the absence of clear instructions from either the State Department or the President. Moreover, it is shown how Pell struggled to convince the State Department and his fellow UNWCC members to include the above-mentioned crimes. This debate and Pell’s role has remained largely unknown to a public that considers the post-war Nuremberg war crimes trials an achievement in the advancement of international law and justice. To whatever extent those trials were such, particularly in advancing international human rights law by adjudicating Axis war criminals for crimes against humanity, it is singularly noteworthy that Axis war criminals might not have been prosecuted at all for these crimes were it not for the efforts of Herbert Pell.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of North TexasDentonUSA

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