December 16, 2003
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.-Lawrence Douglas, associate professor of law, jurisprudence and social thought at Amherst College, insists that the legal response to crimes as extraordinary as those of the Nazis, Milosevic, and now, Saddam Hussein must take the form of a show trial. Such a trial, he argues, can serve both the interest of justice, conventionally conceived, and a broader didactic purpose. "At the heart of these [Holocaust] trials," he wrote in The Memory of Judgement: Making Law and History in the Trials of the Holocaust, "lay competing conceptions of the law itself. On one hand, the trials sought to introduce sober, rule-bound authority into a terrain of lawlessness by bringing perpetrators of atrocity to justice. On the other hand, the trials sought to serve the interests of history and memory."
Douglas's 2001 book considered the leading trials of the perpetrators and deniers of the Holocaust-the first Nuremberg trial, the trials of Adolf Eichmann and Ivan Demjanuk in Israel, the French trial of Klaus Barbie and the Canadian trials of Holocaust negationist Ernst Zundel. He demonstrated that some trials, such as Nuremberg and Eichmann's, succeeded in serving both justice and history, while others, such as the Zundel and Demjanuk trials, failed. As prosecutors now prepare the case against Saddam Hussein, Douglas defends such trials of "traumatic history" as "dramatic and necessary acts of legal and social will."
A professor at Amherst since 1990, Douglas received an A.B. degree from Brown University, an M.A. from Columbia and a J.D. from Yale Law School. His essays and commentary have appeared in numerous publications, including The Washington Post, The Boston Globe Magazine and The New Republic.