Analyze, Digitize, Make Accessible Trial 3 of the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials

Project Summary

Submitted by Paul Deschner of Harvard Law School Library.

The Harvard Law School Library would like to receive funding for a two-year project to analyze, digitize and make online accessible the contents of Trial 3 (The Judges Trial) of the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, to supplement Trials 1, 2 and 4 already accessible on its website

The original project was designed to meet the goals of access and preservation. After 50 years, the documents had become too brittle for continued physical access. Through high-resolution digital reproductions and flexible inter-linking between document images, descriptive document metadata and accompanying trial transcripts, a strategy was developed for preserving the collection's 650,000 document pages as well as giving open digital access to a collection unrivalled in its scope and richness anywhere in the world.

By the time the website launched in 2003, the Library had implemented the technological infrastructure and workflows necessary for scaling the project to accommodate the posting of all 13 trials. Contents analysis, metadata schema, database, website functionality and design, server infrastructure, and digitization specifications and logistics were all worked out during the sub-projects encompassing the project's first three trials. While the basic framework has remained in place, new optimizations have been developed with each successive trial by folding in new technologies and workflows.

We would require funds to hire a half-time document analyst to analyze all of Trial 3's evidentiary documents. Our excellent previous analyst, who requires no ramp-up training, has expressed a strong interest in doing this for us.

Amount requested is $110,000.

Expected Results with Partial Funding

If it were not possible to fund the full analysis of the Trial 3's evidentiary documents, it would still be beneficial to fund the analysis of the so-called "Case Files," which are the documents introduced into evidence in the proceedings. They are the core documents of the trial, and their analysis could be completed within the first year of the two-year project, with half the requested funding. The "Evidence File" documents form the second document set. These are the documents, existing in any of four different versions, from which the Case File documents were drawn by the trial attorneys. They are important in two ways: they sometimes can be substituted for any missing Case File documents in the collection, and they can supplement the selected Case File version with other versions (original German typescript, or facsimile, etc.).

Estimated Follow-on Activities and/or Costs

The main continuing costs involved with this project are to sustain the digital reproductions. The existing support of HLS ITS and HLS Library budgets for website server and application maintenance will be sustained. The Library would also continue to use existing budget lines for the maintenance of Nuremberg data deposited to the DRS.

Benefit to Harvard Scholars and Patrons

Trial 3 is the Judges Trial, concerning the collusion between the German judicial system and the Nazi regime, is a trial with clear thematic connections to the research interests of faculty, such as the Harvard Law School Dean, and students here at the Law School. Beyond that, the fundamental importance of the Trials as the model for international criminal law and their role in creating a comprehensive and objective evidentiary record for such a central historical regime should be extremely useful to the broadest range of scholars.

Ways the Project Supports Cross-Unit or Cross-Discipline Activities

The subject matter of the Nuremberg Trials, including Trial 3, cuts across multiple academic disciplines: history, law, political science, medicine, economics, ethics, philosophy, psychology, as can be seen in any literature survey of these trials and the issues they raise. These primary source materials are in the public domain, so the digital reproductions will be available to all without restriction. The website's search interface gives access to the materials via rich metadata which goes well beyond simple date, author and title documentation to subject relatedness and full-text transcript searching.

Resources the Sponsoring Library Can Support or Will Need Support For

The Law Library will contribute staff time, technical infrastructure, and full costs of outsourced digitization, including: Paul Deschner (Web Developer and implementer of the Nuremberg website and backend processes), Steve Chapman (Manager, Digital Strategy For Collections), and Ed Moloy (Curator of Manuscripts) will manage the technical and workflow sides of the project and digitization logistics, as well as supervise project staff. The Law Library will fund 100% of the outsourced costs to digitize all of Trial 3 (evidentiary materials and trial transcript). Harvard’s Imaging Services estimate for this collection amounts to $49,350.

The amount requested in this proposal would pay the salary + fringe benefits for a half-time Document Analyst, and 10% of the time of the Library’s existing Digital Project Archivist to batch materials for digitization and undertake quality control.

Other Approaches to Achieving Goal or Result

The Harvard Law School Library is the only institution with the complete documentary record of the 13 Nuremberg Trials and a digital platform to make them openly accessible. It would be difficult, if not impossible, for other institutions to collaborate in providing access to distributed holdings of this world-class academic resource. Given the highly fragile state of the original documents, access requires digitization, so we would not propose eliminating that component. Regarding approaches to analysis and digitization: we benefit from new tools and lessons learned from the previous phases of the Nuremberg Trials to achieve greater efficiencies in each subsequent stage.

Risks If Proposal Is Not Approved

The most prominent risk of any delay in continuing with this project is the greater expense in harvesting digital images from materials which with every passing year become more brittle and difficult to handle. Also, as digital access is the only access into this unique collection, delay in posting futher materials simply keeps them hidden for that much longer. Numerous emails and phone calls into our Special Collections Department inquiring about timelines for mounting further trials attest to this.

Additional Information

A couple words on the reception and usage of the Nuremberg Trials Project website so far. When it originally launched in 2003, the local, national and international press (including television interviews from Boston and visiting German TV) were quick to pick up the event and write about its importance, particularly its making available online for the first time the documentary record of the Trials. The reception emphasized the importance of having the original digital versions of these documents accessible, making it that much more difficult to refute the events they can be clearly seen to authorize.

Since the website's launch, the website has consistently attracted 400-500 visitors daily during the academic year, even though the website currently only provides access to three of the Trials. A further indication of the site's importance is the over 200 other websites dealing with the Trials and the Holocaust which link to and describe it.

Evaluate Proposal

Please evaluate this project by the four criteria below and provide comments in the comment field.