No procedures existed in international law for the Allies to use to seek justice for the destruction caused by World War II and the slaughter of millions of civilians by Nazi Germany. This chapter describes the Allies’ efforts to hold Germany accountable and how those efforts raised important questions about how to restore order in the world, compensate victims, and prevent such violent chaos in the future. These efforts also raised questions about the very nature of justice itself.

Essential Questions

  • What is justice? Can justice be achieved after mass murder on the enormous scale of the Holocaust? How can we know whether or not justice has been achieved?
  • What role, if any, do vengeance and forgiveness play in seeking justice after mass atrocities?  
  • What is the purpose of a trial? What role might trials play in achieving justice after war and genocide?
  • Are there standards of right and wrong that are more important than the laws of any country?



Before you explore our readings on judgment and justice after the Holocaust, get familiar with the chapter’s central themes and concepts.

Reading 1 of 14


Reflect on the desire for revenge that many victorious troops held at the end of World War II.

Reading 2 of 14

How to Bring Nazi Leaders to Justice?

Learn about how the Allies sought to bring German leaders to justice after World War II and the Holocaust.

Reading 3 of 14

Establishing the Nuremberg Tribunal

Learn about how the Allies established the international tribunal that was responsible for conducting the trials of Germany’s leaders after World War II.

Reading 4 of 14

The First Trial at Nuremberg

Learn about the international tribunal that tried and sentenced German leaders at the end of World War II.

Reading 5 of 14

Betraying the Youth

Former Nazi youth member Alfons Heck reflects on coming to terms with Germany’s role and his own part in the Holocaust.

Reading 6 of 14

Obeying Orders

Learn how the Nuremberg defendants' argued that German leaders were following orders when committing atrocities during the Holocaust.

Reading 7 of 14

The Technology of Mass Murder

Learn about the doctors, engineers, and technicians who helped develop the tools that were instrumental in the mass murder of millions of people during the Holocaust.

Reading 8 of 14

Dogma Makes Obedient Ghosts

Consider the connection between science and human values, and reflect on how the Nazis used their beliefs to justify making mass murder as efficient as possible.

Reading 9 of 14

The Business of Slave Labor

Learn about the use of slave labor by German companies and manufacturers during World War II.

Reading 10 of 14

The Tokyo Trials

Examine the international tribunal held by the Allies at the end of World War II that tried and sentenced Japanese leaders for war crimes.

Reading 11 of 14

The Last Chance for Justice

Learn about the trials of former Nazi perpetrators taking place in the 21st century and consider the motivation behind them and the challenges they pose.

Reading 12 of 14

Choices that Define Us

Explore three stories of choices people made during World War II and consider their complexities, their impact, and what they can teach about human behavior.

Reading 13 of 14

Moral Luck and Dilemmas of Judgment

Reflect on the challenges posed by making moral judgments about the actions of people in the past.

Analysis & Reflection

Analysis & Reflection

Enhance your students’ understanding of our readings on judgment and justice after the Holocaust with these follow-up questions and prompts.

Get Our Companion Unit: Teaching Holocaust and Human Behavior

Lead your middle and high school students through a thorough examination of the history of the Holocaust. Over the course of the unit, students will learn to:

  • Craft an argumentative essay
  • Explore primary sources, videos, and readings that lead them through an in-depth study of the Holocaust
  • Recognize the societal consequences of "we" and "they" thinking
  • Understand the historical context in which the Nazi party rose to power and committed genocide

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