Considering the Basis for and Purpose of Another Nuremberg
Explaining the findings of the German Corona Investigative Committee regarding the so-called Covid-19 pandemic, attorney-at-law Dr. Reiner Fuellmich, in October 2020, spoke of “crimes against humanity“. The filmed statement has been shared widely and was watched millions of times. At the same time, there were first demands in the resistance movement for “another Nuremberg”, a tribunal that would legally investigate the Corona complex. A first article in February 2021 told the story how I myself arrived at the conclusion that such a tribunal is badly needed. This second article deals with preconditions and possible objectives of such trials.
Early in 2021, the call for a comprehensive legal reappraisal of the injustices of the Corona régime became increasingly audible. One driver was of course the enormous extent of the “collateral damage” of the measures to contain the alleged pandemic. Another source for the demands was the hard-headed refusal of decision makers to take seriously indications of the complete disproportionality of their actions. The request to take note of alternative opinions and expert reports was and to this day still is answered with a constantly intensifying volley of measures, with unjustified defamation against dissenters and persistent silence about differing information. In those few trials in which judges around the world have ruled on pandemic facts rather than administrative correctness it has turned out time and again that the governments’ files contained no documentation of factual evidence. At the same time, indications are mounting that the adverse consequences of the measures were consciously accepted, and in some cases must even have been the actual goal of administrative decisions. Critics of the Corona régime have pointed to the structural similarities to the emergence of totalitarian societies, especially of course during the transition from the Weimar Republic to the Third Reich. That some kind of denazification as well as “another Nuremberg” is needed to put a society gone rogue back in its place quickly seems almost obvious. Numerous furious comments on internet platforms demanding the harshest punishments for perpetrators and intellectual arsonists testify to this.
On the question of necessity
For its illegal, unconstitutional and destructive measures the Corona state – more precisely, its agents – must be called to account before a special court; thorough reappraisal is necessary for a number of reasons, legal and other.
Firstly, the Corona complex is about crimes that occurred in lockstep worldwide; they affected billions of people in a similar way. We faced – and still face – the systematic breach of fundamental moral, legal, professional and conduct norms. Therefore, there must also be a systematic analysis that looks into the question of how it could come to this and by which factors, structures and actors this onslaught of harm was triggered and fuelled. How was it possible for all government agencies, parliaments, administrations, courts, associations, institutions, organisations, corporations and media in large parts of the world to be brought into line? How could the collective psychosis develop? How could the inhumane measures have been tolerated or supported or even actively enforced by the majority of the population? Which participants acted deliberately, and who acted indifferently or negligently, and for what reasons?
Secondly, the tribunals are necessary for practical reasons because individual sentences on a mere case-to-case basis would generate a labyrinth of contradictory legal decisions that would shroud the causes and mechanisms in twilight rather than shine a spotlight on them. Due to their high number, the proceedings would drag on for several decades; many of the aggrieved would pass before the verdict was pronounced, and some would fail to get through with their complaints. The timely clarification of historical events and the legal assessment through landmark judgments can help the law to prevail while it is still relevant to the victims.
Thirdly, the tribunals are of course a matter of justice. This includes the recognition of the damage that has been done. The suffering of the victims of measures becomes public. Getting heard plays a crucial role in justice perception, and this in turn allows the victims to let go of negative feelings; one becomes free to heal one’s psychological trauma and seek reconciliation with the perpetrators. As I have written elsewhere, I consider this to be one of the central arguments for “another Nuremberg”, because it was only because of the unprocessed psychological traumas of earlier catastrophes – Wars, Imperialism, Slavery, Industrialism, “Development”, Ecocide – that the world once again sank into wholesale barbarism. Justice also requires that the perpetrators be confronted with the victims so that they have the opportunity to become aware of their personal responsibility for what happened. This is often enough neglected, on the one hand because the perpetrators usually refuse to accept it, and on the other hand because trials are often brought for the purpose of deterrence and retribution only.
Schopenhauer once said: “To forgive and forget is to throw precious experience out the window.” So should one never forgive? That would be neither wise nor humane. At the latest when those who have acted show insight into the consequences of their actions and when they seek to make amends, it is advisable to let go of the pain inflicted. But we should not forget, either personally or socially, because it goes without saying that valuable life lessons must not be lost. The enormity of the Corona complex therefore deserves – fourthly – a memorial. A sign must be set that we are determined to learn lessons from history. This historical phase must be given a special marker in the collective consciousness that will have a positive impact beyond the generation concerned. Humanity is currently going through an apocalyptic crisis, the successful overcoming of which the tribunals will stand for as boundary markers and monuments. A new era is beginning, a new form of society is dawning on the horizon. Understanding the deeper causes of the crisis will be of enormous importance in building a more humane way of life. The very way in which the tribunals are conducted and the outcomes they produce could set an example for our future togetherness.
Therefore, “another Nuremberg” cannot be primarily about punishment. I believe, given deeply held humanist and spiritual values in much of the resistance movement, that we will not go for death sentences or public executions, even. This would only add another traumatic wound to the nightmare already experienced. Instead, the tribunals should serve the primary purpose of restoring justice and peaceful coexistence. Perpetrators, victims, applauders, acquiescents, silent onlookers and those somewhere in between can use the insights gained with the help of psychologists, sociologists, historians, economists, medical experts and so on to gain understanding of each other’s motives. The new state must promote personal, national and international reconciliation through various programmes; it must give every individual the opportunity to learn conflict management strategies, awareness and techniques for handling uncomfortable feelings or information. Still, perpetrators have to be liable with all their assets, lose their unlawful privileges and must be stripped of their decision-making power over people. Only where perpetrators refuse to restore peace with their victims arises the need for their removal from society through appropriate means, such as imprisonment or banishment.
Would the trials take place in Nuremberg again? If they are so different in focus, scope and purpose from the war crimes trials of the 1940s, why evoke this historical setting?
It is questionable whether the city of Nuremberg can provide the appropriate setting that such an elaborate undertaking requires. Probably one would conduct several series of negotiations in different places all over the world, separated according to problem areas, levels of responsibility and cultural aspects of the Corona complex, and one will probably coin a new name for it. Preliminarily, however, the word “Nuremberg” is a suitably short term for communicating the idea of having a tribunal that is investigating crimes of unheard-of proportions. Now and then, an ideologically hypnotised majority of the population supported unlawful government action that has claimed the lives of many millions of people and ruined the lives of countless others; it is not quite impossible that the same currents and circles of people are behind it, i.e. that there is continuity with the crimes of the twentieth century, as Holocaust survivor Vera Sharav, for example, believes.
Does recourse to historical events of the 1930s and 40s trivialise Nazi crimes? Some are of this opinion, but I myself believe that no inadmissible identity is being claimed here. The crimes of the Third Reich and its collaborators were unique in their historical dimension. The Corona crimes are not to be equated with them, because they have their own character and context. However, in my view, the reappraisal will undoubtedly make the structural parallels of both events visible and adequately acknowledge the suffering of those affected. The documentation of the Corona complex might help to prevent future generations from making similar mistakes. Numerous Jews, for example, pointed out that Holocaust remembrance must above all help preventing the beginnings of another genocide. For decades it was “Never Again!” Well, if we are to succeed with stopping the train to Auschwitz, “Never Again” has arrived. It took eight years for the targeted discrimination against Jews to culminate in systematic extermination. Comparisons are not equations, they are the necessary juxtaposition of events, in this case for the purpose of keeping history from repeating itself.
While the first Nuremberg Trials could not prevent the re-emergence of a totalitarian regime – more comprehensive and profound even than its fascist predecessor – they have been the inspiration for a far greater, quicker and more determined resistance movement as compared to the 1930s. We do not yet know whether the tide can be turned in time, but the day will come when the régime collapses. We’d better prepare for it.
Is there a sufficient data basis?
The documentation of the crimes around the Corona complex is especially important to the German resistance. Since July 2020, the Stiftung Corona-Ausschuss (Corona Investigative Committee Foundation) is working on establishing the factual basis for the pandemic and the measures implemented to combat it. Another initiative called Corona Cases has recently started to collect relevant judgments and legal opinions. Corresponding lawsuits are sometimes deliberately initiated by lawyers in order to have core questions of the critics of the measures clarified or to highlight weaknesses in the current functioning of society. At the beginning of December 2021, a Centre for Reappraisal, Clarification, Legal Prosecution and Prevention of Crimes against Humanity Based on the Corona Measures (ZAAVV) was founded as a necessary main pillar for collecting evidence that can be used in court. They will not run out of work for a long time. The number of publicly accessible materials alone is incredibly large. The film testimonies of victims of the measures, for example, probably count in the tens of thousands already. Tragically, the mounting “collateral” goes unnoticed by large sections of a population which clings frantically to the story of a new kind of killer virus.
Is there a legal basis?
Lawyers will be able to provide far more in-depth answers about the legal basis of Corona tribunals than could be discussed in a cursory examination like mine. Nevertheless, several noteworthy points stick out.
As already mentioned, obvious fundamental violations of laws and national constitutions have been committed by numerous actors, ranging from false statements about a drug, incitement, corruption, profiteering, medical malpractice, abuse of office, obstruction of justice and bending of the law to dehumanizing treatment, deprivation of liberty, child abuse and homicide. Criminal and civil law, as well as state and national constitutions, already provide sufficient basis to initiate investigations in all countries.
The Nuremberg Trials themselves provide the precedent for a tribunal of international stature. They also created – at the time – new law, first and foremost the Nuremberg Code, the worldwide ethical standard for medical experiments, which emerged from the medical trials. A whole series of other international treaties resulting from the experiences of the 1930s and 1940s would have to be directly applicable, including the United Nations Charter. The UN, for all the criticism that can be levelled at its role in undermining our communities, also holds relevant norms such as the Convention against Torture, or the Convention on the Rights of Children. Whereas in the 1940s, international ethical regulations existed only with regard to war crimes and breaches of treaties, meaning that Allied judges had to retroactively declare obeying immoral orders unlawful, most of the ethical norms relevant to the Corona complex have long since been transformed into applicable law in most countries. In Germany, for example, there is a duty for state employees, such as teachers, police officers and soldiers, to refuse unconstitutional orders. The Constitution itself, Article 20.4 enshrines a general right to resistance when the democratic order as a whole is in danger:
In the absence of other means, all Germans have the right to resist anyone attempting to do away with this [constitutional] order.
So the judges of the Corona tribunals do not need to refer to some fictitious universal morality, which the perpetrators would not share anyway; they can judge on the basis of existing law that applied at the time of the crime. Therefore the perpetrators cannot plead ignorance, they cannot claim that they simply followed orders and they could in principle be held accountable in any country in the world.
Since the considerations of having “another Nuremberg” already arrived in places outside lawyers’ forums – some take tribunals almost for granted – it seems to me that the time has come to discuss the idea publicly and, if necessary, to flesh it out. If it’s just a matter of settling accounts with the regime, there’s no need to go to great lengths. Kangaroos can’t make mistakes. However, a unique opportunity opens up here to use the instrument of the tribunal for the improved reconstruction of our societies. The “Nuremberg” reference may seem exaggerated or inappropriate; admittedly. But it is the most memorable term at the moment for addressing the necessary reappraisal of the Corona complex.
Of course, in a short essay like this, no conclusive recommendations can be made and certainly not all questions can be answered. For example, it must remain open how to seize hold of the perpetrators, who the judges will be, whether juries will be involved, in which places the sessions will be held and who should decide on all these things in the first place. As a very general recommendation it might be good advice to seek broad international consensus, including from non-lawyers. Principles of humanism and compassion would have to be the benchmark from the beginning.
[Title image: The Nuremberg Palace of Justice at the time of the Tribunals, 1945-46; US Army photograph, public domain]