Nations will agree to uphold a certain set of human rights that include the rights to freedom, justice, and equality

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Truman on Trial: U.S. History Project
It is October 25, 1945. With the axis powers defeated, the Allied nations have met to form a new world government to create a lasting peace. Unlike the failed League of Nations, the U.S. has vowed to commit itself to the new organization, known as the United Nations (or U.N.).
WWII has been the single most devastating war in human history. Though Europeans liked to think of themselves as a well-mannered, moral people, the Holocaust has exposed the myth of European civility. No longer do Europeans simply trust each other to uphold certain standards of decency in war-time. Over 6 million Jews and Gypsies have been murdered by the German government and Europe is still reeling from the thought that it happened “here.” Many have already sworn that it will never happen again. But how can we ensure that the Holocaust is the last genocide?
Even more frightening, because of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is understood that the new atomic technology can wipe out 100,000 people with the push of a button. The Western powers know now that the next war may be their last. Since the Soviet Union is already working on developing atomic weapons of its own, many fear that an arms race between the two major world superpowers will lead to a kind of nuclear holocaust from which the world may never recover.
To prevent genocide and preserve the peace, the Allied powers decided to create a new set of laws by which the world would be governed. Rather than allowing one nation to enforce these laws, the Allies decided that all nations together ought to have a stake in maintaining a stable and peaceful world. Of course, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. have set aside for themselves a dominant role in the new United Nations. Still, under the United Nations charter, all nations will agree to uphold a certain set of human rights that include the rights to freedom, justice, and equality.
Though this universal declaration of human rights is to be formed in three years, the U.S. government is worried about the possibility that it might be taken to the United Nation’s International Court of Justice for violating human rights by its actions in Japan. President Truman has no doubts that he was right in bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in spite of the 150,000 deaths he caused. However, it would look awfully bad for the U.S. if the president were challenged for his decision. Just in case the United Nations declares it a human rights crime to bomb civilians in times of war, the President has decided to assemble a mock trial to test his rationale for dropping the Atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
For this project, you will act as a prosecuting lawyer, a defense attorney, a defendant, or a witness in the trial. Truman has called you to testify to either support or contest his decision to use weapons of mass destruction on Japan. You are to use the primary sources you are given to prepare yourself to represent your position in class. Your assertions will be questioned and challenged in the mock trial, so be sure to understand your position.

Everyone in the class must take a role in the trial. We will need:

__ prosecuting attorneys

Douglas MacArthur and his attorney

Harry Truman and his attorney

Josef Stalin and his attorney

A white soldier and his attorney

A Japanese survivor and her attorney

__ jurors
Prosecuting attorneys must work with the primary sources to come up with at least five questions for the witness they will be cross-examining. There should be at least one prosecutor per each defendant. It is the prosecutor’s job to assume that ALL defendants are at least somewhat responsible for the deaths of Japanese civilians. Prosecuting attorneys should share their questions with each other by e-mail just in case one of them happens to be absent.
Defendants/Witnesses must use primary sources to blame someone else in their answers to the questions of prosecuting and defense attorneys.
Defense attorneys must use primary sources to ask at least five questions of their client and protect their clients from historically inaccurate claims. Defense attorneys should share their questions with their clients by e-mail just in case they happen to be absent.
Jurors must write up a 1 page paper in which they use at least 1 primary source and 1 in-class quote to find at least one of the defendants guilty of crimes against humanity.
All students must understand their character’s position and speak in the trial. Bonus points will be given to students who dress in character.

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