The "definitive one-volume study of Nuremberg," The Trial of the Germans is now available in paperback. An astute observer of the Nuremberg trial, Eugene Davidson has struggled with the issues it raised: Was it a necessary response to the heinous crimes of the Third Reich? How were Germany and the Germans capable of such extraordinary evil? Was the trial just, given the claims that the defendants were simply serving their country, doing as they had been told to do? And if not just, was it nonetheless necessary as a warning to prevent future crimes against humanity?
Davidson's approach to these and other large questions of justice is made through examination of each of the defendants in the trial. His reluctant, but firm, conclusion is: "In a world of mixed human affairs where a rough justice is done that is better than lynching or being shot out of hand, Nuremberg may be defended as a political event if not as a court." Some sentences may have seemed too severe, but none was harsher than the punishments meted out to innocent people by the regime these men served. "In a certain sense," says Davidson, "the trial succeeded in doing what judicial proceedings are supposed to do: it convinced even the guilty that the verdict against them was just."
Faulty as the trial was from the legal point of view, a catharsis of the pent-up emotions of millions of people had to be provided and a record of what had taken place duly preserved for whatever use later generations would make of it.