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Courtroom 306 Palace of Justice Nuremberg Germany

Crucifix in Courtroom 306
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Hitler bust, Documentation Centre Nuremberg
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Anti-Semitic poster now in the documentation Centre Nuremberg
photo by Rhonda Spivak


by Rhonda Spivak, September 22, 2013

One of the places I will remember most vividly from my recent trip to Nuremberg, Germany this past June was Courtroom 306 of the Palace of Justice where one of the most important trials in the history of the world was ever held.


In courtroom 306, war criminals from the Nazi leadership were tried before an International Military Tribunal (IMT) between November 20, 1945 and October 1, 1946. After World War II, Germany had surrendered unconditionally and each of the four occupying Powers assigned leading jurists to serve as judges and prosecutors for the International Military Tribunal. It was agreed that the site of the trials would be in Nuremberg, the home of Nazi party rallies.


The Nuremberg Tribunal was given the task of trying 23 of the most important political and military leaders of the Third Reich (not including Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler and Joseph Goebbels, all of whom had committed suicide several months before the indictment was signed).


Since courtroom 306 is in use today, it is often the case that visitors cannot get in to see it. I was lucky that on the day I chose, it was in fact open (I actually went into the  wrong entrance of the Palace of Justice and noticed that those in line, who looked pretty grungy, had and were all smoking, didn't look like tourists but rather petty criminals about to be tried. One of them with tattoos motioned to me to go to the other entrance).


As I walked in with a large group of American tourists,  I was immediately taken aback to see a very large cross hanging over the wall on top of where the judges sit in the courtroom. Actually, it wasn't a cross- but a crucifix, with the body of Jesus crucified on the cross. It is a sign that Christian values are a core part of German society and legal system.


The guide explained that in the district of Bavaria, which has a majority Catholic population, it is permissible to hang a crucifix in the courtroom, although that is not the case in other parts of Germany. During the Nazi period, there were crucifixes in all courtrooms, including courtroom 306.  However, during the Nuremberg trials, the Allies took down the crucifix in the courtroom, and after the trials were over the crucifix went back up. Today, an accused person who isn't Christian can request to have the crucifix taken down. (I am not clear on whether legal counsel , as opposed to an accused, could ask to have it taken down, but based on what the guide in the Courtroom said when I was there, I suspect not). 


In other words, any Jew living in Nuremberg today or elsewhere in the district of Bavaria would have to ask to have the crucifix removed if they were ever to be tried. I can't imagine that too many people would have the guts to ask to have it taken down.


Crucifixes in courtrooms in Bavaria became a subject of controversy in 2013 in the trial of some Muslims, where a Turkish politician demanded the crucifix be removed, calling them a threat to "non-Christians" (


When John Demjanjuk was brought on a stretcher into a courtroom in Munich where he was on trial on charges of being an accessory to the murder of nearly 28,000 Jewish people in a Nazi death camp, the Courtroom had a cross (see this photo of it in…)

Based on my research on the internet, it appears that Crucifixes are also common in Italian courtrooms.  


"When a Jewish judge in the city of Camerino named Luigi Tosti protested the presence of a crucifix in his courtroom, he was fired. His dismissal was later upheld by Italy’s highest court."


Tosti had told ANSA news agency,  “One cannot be forced to submit to a demonstration of faith like the display of the crucifix,” he said. “I was hired to serve a secular court, not an ecclesiastic one."


Although I did see lots of crosses and crucifixes in Nuremberg, I never came upon a mezuzah, although apparently there are a few.  Fifty years after the Shoah, the Jewish community In Nuremberg was almost down to zero. Some eighty to ninety percent of Nuremberg’s Jewish community members are from the former Soviet Union. From 1991-2005, Nuremberg’s Jewish community grew because of the German government’s pledge of support, a move made to strengthen the country’s nearly vanquished Jewish community. Then, in 2005, they weren't so welcome after Germany changed its law, limiting Jewish immigration from the former Soviet Union to German speakers under age 45.


According to an article on the Chabad website, Chabad in Nuremberg had affixed over 100 mezuzahs on the doorposts of Russian Jewish immigrants. "Many were on homes occupied by Jewish families before the Holocaust, their doorposts still marked with grooves from pre-WWII mezuzah cases."

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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