Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

David Shneer

Second Advisor

David Ciarlo

Third Advisor

Justin Desautels-Stein

Fourth Advisor

Mithi Mukherjee

Fifth Advisor

Jeffrey Veidlinger


This dissertation examines the life and work of Soviet Jewish lawyer Aron Trainin, placing him in conversation with his better-known contemporaries, the founder of the concept of genocide Raphael Lemkin, and human rights advocate Hersch Lauterpacht. Together these three legal minds—who differed widely in temperament and approaches to law but possessed similar backgrounds as Jewish lawyers from the eastern European borderlands, developed concepts foundations to the Nuremberg Tribunal and, subsequently, modern international criminal law. By situating Trainin’s work with Lemkin’s and Lauterpacht’s, this dissertation acknowledges the central role Trainin played in the development of international criminal law on the international stage. Trainin’s work also played a significant role in how the events of the Holocaust were conceptualized and portrayed in the Soviet Union. Trainin’s concept of “crimes against peace” was instrumental in portraying the crimes of the Nazis and their accomplices as crimes against “peaceful Soviet citizens.” Finally, this dissertation reveals that rather than rejecting international law, the Soviet Union provided critiques and an alternative approach to international law.