“The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated.”
—Robert H. Jackson
Chief of Counsel for the United States
From the Opening Statement at the Nuremberg Trials; Nov. 21, 1945
“From Nuremberg to The Hague” is the name of Creighton University School of Law’s summer program in which students spend the month of July in Germany and the Netherlands studying international criminal law. Students have the opportunity to learn firsthand how events like the Holocaust impact the law.
The monthlong program combines classroom instruction with trips to actual crime scenes, places of conspiracy and current trials.
Now in its sixth summer, this year’s participants included 19 Creighton law students, as well as one student from the College of Arts and Sciences, one from the College of Nursing, nine from other universities throughout the U.S., and nine German students.
Michael Kelly, JD, LLM, Interim Dean of the School of Law, is one of the professors (the other is Sean Watts, JD, LLM) accompanying students on the annual trip.
“It’s great to have non-law students on the program this year,” Kelly said. “The questions they ask and the points they make both outside and inside class often draw discussions to interesting policy and history aspects that law students might not gravitate toward.
“It definitely enriches the experience for everyone,” he added.
Katherine Wenman, a College of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in philosophy, is one of these participants.
“I have always been interested in World War II—specifically the Holocaust—because it shows the heights and depths of humanity—the incredible strength and resilience of the human spirit and the dangers of fear and power,” she said.
Wenman is planning to apply to law school once her undergraduate degree is complete.
“The idea of international law as a whole, from a political philosophy perspective, is really interesting,” she said. “I also have a focus on ethics in my major, which has obvious ties to the law and the events before, during and after World War II.
“Thinking about intent, accountability and value are inherently philosophical, so there are obvious connections from the legal and historical coursework to my classwork at Creighton,” she added.
The other non-law student from Creighton taking part this year is College of Nursing student Alissa Geonzon, a senior. She joined the group as she is completing a research paper on medical experiments conducted by Dr. Josef Mengele, “the Angel of Death,” on Auschwitz concentration camp victims.
For many, the trip to Auschwitz was powerful and the most memorable. Third-year law student Shayla Slaymaker (shown) said visiting this concentration camp, as well as Dachau, outside of Munich, helped her put things into perspective.
“Seeing both camps solidified what we discussed in class and made history real,” she said.
Becca Ronayne, a second-year law student, said seeing the concentration camps in person was more moving and emotional than she anticipated. “Learning about [the camps] in class is one thing, but seeing the exhibits at the camps really hit home and realize the enormity of how many people were affected.”
Participants in the program also had the opportunity to watch two trials at The Hague.
“We had the opportunity to watch trials at the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia,” Ronayne said. “This was a really unique experience that really put everything we’ve been learning into a big picture and made the concepts easier to grasp.”
New to the program this year was also a chance to tour the Special Chambers of the Special Court of Kosovo and the International Court of Justice. Creighton University School of Law alumni Charles Smith, JD’70, was recently one of 19 judges—and the only American—appointed to be a judge of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers.
While learning took precedence, participants also had ample free time to explore on their own. Strolling through picturesque European cities, viewing Hitler’s retreat, “Eagle’s Nest,” in the Alps, and socializing in German beer gardens were among the most popular activities.
Interacting with the German students on the trip was also a highlight.
“I was surprised what [the Germans] knew about current U.S. cultural affairs. It has been incredible to get an outside perspective of the U.S. and its dealings with other countries around the world,” Slaymaker said.
“It has truly made me realize that what we do and the decisions we make on the world stage need to be taken into consideration when making policy decisions about the future,” she added.