Franziska Exeler (University of Cambridge / Free University Berlin)

Soviet War Crimes Trials of Axis Soldiers: Means and Meanings of Illiberal Justice

As World War II came to an end, hundreds of thousands of individuals were prosecuted for their wartime activities in almost all former belligerent countries. Apart from the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg and the International Military Tribunal for the Far East at Tokyo, this included thousands of war crimes trials of Axis soldiers that the Allies conducted individually throughout Europe and Asia. It also included even more treason or collaboration trials, in which a country that had been under Japanese or German occupation during the war prosecuted its own nationals. In my paper, I analyze one Soviet war crimes trial, namely the trial of thirteen Hungarian and three German nationals that took place in November 1947 in Chernihiv, Soviet Ukraine. I examine how the trial was connected to the global moment of post-World War II justice, in particular the Soviet participation at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg and the countless Soviet treason trials. Through a micro-historical analysis of the trial, the paper also investigates the different means and meanings of Soviet justice in the particular post-Nazi occupation setting.