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Nuremberg defense



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An allusion to a defense used by former Nazi officials prosecuted during the Nuremberg trials after World War II.


Nuremberg defense (plural Nuremberg defenses)

  1. (idiomatic, law, ethics, American) An explanation offered as an intended excuse for behaving in a criminal or wrongful manner, claiming that one behaved in that manner because one was ordered by others to do so.
    • 1978, Stephen M. Kristovich, “United States v. Barker: Misapplication of the Reliance on an Official Interpretation of the Law Defense”, in California Law Review, volume 66, number 44, page 840:
      Recognition of the reliance on an official interpretation of the law defense for government officials and private citizens may initially seem to be the same as the Nuremberg defense of “I was just following orders.”
    • 1985, Jules Lobel, “The Limits of Constitutional Power: Conflicts between Foreign Policy and International Law”, in Virginia Law Review, volume 71, number 7, page 1158, note 452:
      Even during the Vietnam War, in the Pentagon Papers case, a standing objection would not have barred the assertion of a Nuremberg defense by those who committed the civil disobedience.
    • 2005 January 6, Laura Parker, “Court-martial begins for Abu Ghraib figure”, in USA Today[1], retrieved 15 June 2009:
      “It seems like he's wanting to do the Nuremberg defense: ‘I was following orders,’” says Thomas Moran, a Houston attorney and a former military lawyer.