Justice Undone: Women Accused of Nazi-Era War Crimes

February 23, 2024

Jessica Trisko Darden
Jessica Trisko Darden

Work-in-Progress Seminar

Start time: 12:00 p.m.

End time: 1:00 p.m

Location: Virtual

View event recording


Portrayed as helpless victims, women have long been seen as vulnerable in times of war. But what of the women who defy this characterization and seize moments of opportunity and power to commit horrific crimes? Some of the most heinous acts committed in the name of Nazism were perpetrated by women–young and old, single and married, mothers and childless–going about their everyday lives. This lecture contends that the relationship between gender, race, and power in Nazi Germany gave rise to four different constellations of women war criminals: empowered perpetrators; subjected servants; opportunistic beneficiaries; and entangled victims. After the war, these women war criminals were judged by legal systems in a divided Germany that were themselves products of a gendered upheaval. Disparities in sentencing seen between men and women and between East and West can only be explained through keen attention to how gender norms allowed women to escape justice. Proceedings in Germany will be compared to those in Israel and elsewhere to examine the transnational dynamics of these gendered disparities.

About the Speaker

Jessica Trisko Darden is a tenured Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the (In)Security Lab at VCU. She additionally directs the Security & Foreign Policy Initiative at William & Mary’s Global Research Institute and is a Non-resident Fellow at the George Washington University's Program on Extremism. Dr. Trisko Darden was previously an Assistant Professor at American University's School of International Service, a Jeane Kirkpatrick Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a Visiting Scholar at Yale University's Program on Order, Conflict and Violence. She has served as a consultant to the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism. 

Dr. Trisko Darden's research focuses on the relationship between gender, conflict, law, and international development. She is the author of three university press books and is currently completing her fourth, The Accused: How Women Escaped Justice for Nazi War Crimes. Her first book, Aiding and Abetting: U.S. Foreign Assistance and State Violence (Stanford, 2020) is described by William Easterly as "a critical book at a time when the U.S. approach to human rights is in deep crisis and global human rights are in grave danger." Dr. Trisko Darden has published peer-reviewed articles on gender and conflict, political violence, legal accountability for perpetrators, and alliance dynamics.

Dr. Trisko Darden has contributed op-eds and commentary on international politics and conflict to The Baltimore Sun, The Conversation, The Economist, The Guardian, Newsweek, The New York Times, US News and World Report and The Washington Post, among others. She has been interviewed by numerous media organizations and podcasts, including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, BBC World Service, CNN, The Globe and Mail, NPR On Point, The Today Show, and The Wall Street Journal.