The United Nations War Crimes Commission – history of the institution, archival resources, research potential | Workshop - Instytut Pileckiego


18.05.2023 (Thu) 10:30

The United Nations War Crimes Commission – history of the institution, archival resources, research potential | Workshop

Center for Totalitarian Studies at the Pilecki Institute invites for the workshop: The United Nations War Crimes Commission – history of the institution, archival resources, research potential with prof. Daniel Plesch (SOAS, University of London).

(May 18, 2023, 10.00 - 15:30, Pilecki Institute, Foksal 17, Warszawa)

The United Nations War Crimes Commission was established in the fall of 1943 and was the first international body established by the Allied governments to collect and verify evidence of war crimes committed during the Second World War. The achievements of the Commission consisted in the coordination of investigative work involving the cooperation of the Allied nations, as well as the promotion of the concept of international justice and of new principles of international law, such as the principle of personal responsibility for international crimes, the principle of complementarity, and the concept of crimes against humanity. By the end of its work in March 1948, the Commission had examined a total of 8,178 indictments for war crimes and breaches of international law in Europe, Africa and the Far East, and had compiled 80 lists of suspects with a total of 36,529 names. After the war, delegates of the United Nations Commission participated in over 2,000 trials of Nazi criminals before the courts of the Allied countries.

Until 2017, the archives of the United Nations Commission on War Crimes were classified, and the history and achievements of this institution had only a slight presence in research on justice for perpetrators of mass crimes and international cooperation in the field of their prosecution after 1945. The purpose of this workshop is to provide an introduction to the history of the United Nations War Crimes Commission and to the collections of documents gathered in its archives, as well as a discussion on the importance of the legacy of the UNWCC for contemporary challenges in the organization of justice for perpetrators of international crimes, with a particular emphasis on the war in Ukraine.

Workshop schedule:

10.00 -12.00: History of UNWCC and its archives
Workshop session with Dan Plesch
moderation: Dominika Uczkiewicz

12.00 -13.15:  How to approach (and work with) the UNWCC archives?

  • Krzysztof Wiśniewski: The UNWCC records in the archives of the Pilecki Institute
  • Dominika Uczkiewicz: The UNWCC & intellectual history. Reading the "minutes of meetings" and selected charge files. 
  • John Cornell: Forced Labour in the UNWCC indictments. 
  • discussion

moderation: Krystian Wiciarz

14:15 - 15.45:   A lecture by prof. Dan Plesch and discussion with prof. Patrycja Grzebyk: Precedents and Practice for Ukraine: the legacy of the United Nations War Crimes Commission and related domestic and international indictments after the Second World War.

moderation: Alina Nowobilska

See also