War Crimes Legal Research Guide

Share this article

Following World War II, there were many war crime trials in both the former European and Pacific theatres of war. The University of Iowa College of Law Library has extensive print, online, and microform resources dealing with post-World War II Axis war crime trials involving Germany and Japan. Please see this legal research guide, War Crimes, to the Law Library’s post-World War II war crimes collections.

Print resources include bound volumes of primary law (international statutes and war crime tribunal trial transcripts; documentary evidence; and, court opinions) and secondary resources (mainly scholarly treatises). Likewise, war crimes-related print government documents such as hearings and congressional reports are housed in the collection.

Electronic resources containing both European and Pacific Theater coverage include crime collections in other academic law libraries (war crimes; crimes against humanity; international humanitarian law), academic libraries, and in specialty libraries such as the United States Holocaust Museum Library. Yale Law Library’s Avalon Project website also has extensive documentation from post-World War II war crime trials.

The most famous post-World War II war crime trials took place before the Nuremberg Tribunal, located in the former European theatre of war, and before the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, which handled war crimes committed in the Pacific theatre. In addition, countries such as the Philippines and Poland also conducted post-World War II war crimes trials.

Among the Nazi war crime-related items in the University of Iowa Law Library is a slim, semi-bleached, leather-bound volume entitled Über die drei Arten des rechtswissenschaftlichen Denkens [On the Three Types of Jurisprudential Thought] by the German jurist Carl Schmitt (1888 - 1985), a legal scholar notorious for having cooperated with Hitler's Third Reich.

Schmitt’s book is now housed in the Law Library’s Rare Books Room and is relatively short, at only sixty-seven pages in its German language edition. Unlike many other Nazi period academic publications, Über die drei Arten des rechtswissenschaftlichen Denkens contains Roman typeset, not the attention-getting Fraktur. But the item is nonetheless unique due to a chilling inscription from author Schmitt to another prominent jurist of the Third Reich.

The inscription on the frontispiece reads:
Herrn Reichsjustizkommissar
Dr. Hans Frank
dem Führer der deutschen Rechtsfront
von seinem Gefolgsmann

Carl Schmitt
zum 23. Mai 1934
in Treue und
Verehrung überreicht

To Mr. Justice Commissioner of the Reich
Dr. Hans Frank
the leader of the German legal front
presented by his follower
Carl Schmitt
on the occasion of 23 May 1934 in fidelity and admiration
(Translation from the German by Professor Alexander Somek)

Hans Frank, born in 1900, was a German lawyer who had Adolf Hitler as a client during the early years of the National Socialist movement. Frank was also head of the Federation of National Socialist Jurists.  However, Hans Frank entered history and infamy as the Governor of the Nazi's Generalgouvernement, that part of German-occupied Poland not annexed into the Third Reich or administered by the Soviet Union. After World War II Frank was captured by American troops, was indicted for war crimes, and stood trial before the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg.  Frank was hanged on October 16, 1946.

The Schmitt book was originally in the University of Iowa's Main Library, but was later transferred to the Law Library. The inscription implies that the volume was a gift to Hans Frank, and was thus in his own possession or that of his family. How the book got from Europe to Iowa is a mystery.