Hilary Earl is Professor of European History at Nipissing University, North Bay, Ontario, Canada. Her research and teaching interests include comparative genocide, war crimes trials, perpetrator testimony, and the cultural impact of the Holocaust and genocide in the twenty-first century. She has published in a variety of journals and essay collections and is the author of The Nuremberg SS-Einsatzgruppen Trial, 1945-1958: Atrocity, Law, and History, published by Cambridge University press, which won the 2010 Hans Rosenberg prize for best book in German history. She co-edited Lessons and Legacies XI: Expanding Perspectives on the Holocaust in a Changing World published with Northwestern University Press, 2014 and she is also co-editing the Wiley-Blackwell Handbook on the Holocaust expected out in 2018. Currently she is working on an examination of the reintegration of war criminals into German society. She is also developing a pedagogy for reading atrocity photographs, and she is making a documentary film on Nazi perpetrators.
Seventeen million civilians were killed during World War II. Of these, 6 million were Jewish—deliberately targeted by Nazi perpetrators in a European-wide campaign of mass murder. Murdering that many people required thousands of individual perpetrators. Very few of these men were ever fully prosecuted: only 185 were tried and sentenced in the thirteen Nuremberg trials between 1945 and 1949. For a variety of reasons, most of these men were released from prison in the 1950s before their sentences were complete. Using legal and archival sources, this talk explores the means by which convicted war criminals reintegrated into German society, their criminal pasts all but forgotten and ignored. It will assess the factors that enabled such men—perpetrators of genocide—to become ordinary Germans again.