Legal Sightseeing: Nuremberg

Courtroom 600 and Memorium Nürnberger Prozesse

by Valeria Posada Villada & Dion Kramer

The Nuremberg Palace of Justice, constructed in 1916, was the location where the famous Nuremberg trials against surviving Nazi leaders took place. Courtroom 600, the room used for the trials, hosts visitors since 2000, when the establishment of international criminal tribunals such as the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia renewed interest in historical precedents and the Nuremberg Palace of Justice was ‘rediscovered’ as a venue of world history. The attractiveness of Nuremberg as a place for ‘legal sightseeing’ was boosted in 2010, when a permanent exhibition (Memorium Nürnberger Prozesse  or ‘Memorium Nuremberg Trials’) opened on the previously unused attic of the Palace of Justice.  

As soon as one goes inside Courtroom 600, it is hard to imagine that the Nuremberg Trials took place in the same place. The courtroom underwent profound structural modifications in order to prepare the space for prosecutors, the defence attorneys, press, and visitors alike. These adjustments were largely reverted after 1949 however.

As part of the modifications before the Nuremberg trials, the back part of the room was teared down to make room for press correspondents. A balcony was constructed on the upper floor for visitors as well. The view from the balcony can be ‘re-experienced’ from the exhibition on the 3rd floor of the Palace.
The main entrance to the Courtroom, which dates from before the Nuremberg trials, is decorated with striking symbolism. Two figures, one holding a sword and the other a Roman fasces, flank an icon of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. One interpretation could be that justice (the sword) and authority (fasces) restrain human frailty and temptation. A different, perhaps more creative interpretation, would be to see the decorations as representations of Germanic, Roman and Divine law. Particularly striking however, is the bust of Medusa.
These benches are one of the few remaining traces of the accused. Displayed in the Memorium Nürnberger Prozesse exhibition, the benches are placed alongside photographs and names of each of the accused. Here, one can also find such information about the indictments and final sentences.
After the Nuremberg Trials, the modifications made to Courtroom 600 were reverted. The space is still in use and visitors are only able to go inside before midday when the court is not in session.   

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