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25 Legal Stud. 627 (2005)
Executioners, Bystanders and Victims: Collective Guilt, the Legacy of Denazification and the Birth of Twentieth-Century Transitional Justice

handle is hein.journals/legstd25 and id is 633 raw text is: Executioners, bystanders and victims:
collective guilt, the legacy of
denazification and the birth of
twentieth-century transitional justice
Therese O'Donnell*
Lecturer, Strathclyde University
'We did not go into the streets when our Jewish friends were led away; we
did not scream until we too were destroyed ... We are guilty of being alive.'
Karl Jaspers The Question of German Guilt, p 66
The following scene as recounted by the English writer James Stern occurred
in a German town one week after Germany's unconditional surrender in May
1945. A crowd is gathered around a series of photographs which though
initially seeming to depict garbage instead reveal dead human bodies. Each
photograph has a heading 'WHO IS GUILTY?'. The spectators are silent,
appearing hypnotised, and eventually retreat one by one. The placards are
later replaced with clearer photographs and placards proclaiming 'THIS
In the 1990s a tidal wave seemed inexorably to sweep across the landscape
comprising the institutions of international criminal justice. That tidal wave
of transitional justice, the implementation of notions of justice in eras of
political change, sought a multi-faceted approach in restoring societies riven
by violence in the recent past.2 Its ultimate aim was often to facilitate the co-
*   A variety of individuals offered helpful feedback on earlier drafts of this article,
most particularly I must mention Dino Kritsiotis of Nottingham University, Dominic
McGoldrick of Liverpool University, Phil Rumney of Sheffield Hallam University and
Donald Nicolson and Claire McDiarmid both of Strathclyde University. Helpful comments
were also offered by anonymous reviewers. All responsibility for errors remains with
the author. I must also thank both the British Academy Small Research Awards Scheme
and the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland for facilitating sabbatical leave at
the Lauterpacht Research Centre for International Law at Cambridge University where
the bulk of research for this article was carried out.
1. Stern also described detailed radio broadcasts regarding crimes. C FitzGibbon
Denazification (London: Joseph, 1969) pp 96-97. Jaspers draws significance from the
anonymity of the accuser: K Jaspers The Question of German Guilt (trans E B Ashton)
(New York: Fordham University Press, 2000) p 41.
2. See B B Ghali 'Agenda for Peace' which refers to peace-building and post-conflict
societal reconstruction: An Agendafor Peace: Preventive Diplomacy, Peacemaking and
Peace-keeping A/47/277, S/24 111 (1992).

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