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Introduction

The Promise and Perils of Transitional Justice

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 September 2020

Devin O. Pendas
Affiliation:
Boston College, Massachusetts
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Summary

The introduction discusses the development and substance of transitional justice theory. It shows the main assumptions embedded in this theory, which posits a direct and necessary link between criminal trials for past atrocities and post-authoritarian transitions to democracy. In a nutshell, the theory assumes that better trials lead to better democracy. Transitional justice theory has three main presuppositions. First, the theory assumes that criminal trials have a deterrent effect that prevents new authoritarian atrocities. Second, it asserts that trials offer democratizing lessons in history. Finally, it assumes that trials for past atrocities are necessarily and inherently democratizing because they promote liberal due process rights. The German case calls into question all three of these assumptions. In western Germany, liberalization occurred, but mainly as a way to avoid justice for Nazi crimes. And in the east, fair trials led not to democracy, but to a new authoritarianism.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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  • Introduction
  • Devin O. Pendas, Boston College, Massachusetts
  • Book: Democracy, Nazi Trials, and Transitional Justice in Germany, 1945–1950
  • Online publication: 11 September 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781139021074.001
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  • Introduction
  • Devin O. Pendas, Boston College, Massachusetts
  • Book: Democracy, Nazi Trials, and Transitional Justice in Germany, 1945–1950
  • Online publication: 11 September 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781139021074.001
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Introduction
  • Devin O. Pendas, Boston College, Massachusetts
  • Book: Democracy, Nazi Trials, and Transitional Justice in Germany, 1945–1950
  • Online publication: 11 September 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781139021074.001
Available formats
×