The Nuremberg Trials: A Very Brief History

The Nuremberg Trials, often dubbed history’s greatest trial, were the first and the best known of the series of trials c

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The Nuremberg Trials: A Very Brief History

Table of contents :
1. History’s Greatest Trial
2. Background to the Trials
3. Prosecution
4. The Defendants
5. Legacy of the Trials

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THE NUREMBERG TRIALS A Very Brief History Mark Black All Rights Reserved © Very Brief History

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Table of Contents The Very Brief History Series 1. History’s Greatest Trial 2. Background to the Trials 3. Prosecution 4. The Defendants 5. Legacy of the Trials Disclaimer

1. History’s Greatest Trial The Nuremberg Trials, often dubbed history’s greatest trial, were the first and the best known of the series of trials conducted by the Allies between 1945 and 1949 to bring to justice those military and political leaders of the Third Reich and others involved in the perpetration of war crimes. The Nuremberg Trials were conducted from 20 November 1945 to 1 October 1946. The revelations about the Holocaust and the fate of the Jews left the world sickened and aghast at the level of the atrocities and the depths of the horrors. Under Hitler and the Nazi Party, six million Jews – two thirds of the Jewish population of Europe at the time – were murdered. Three million men, two million women and a million children. The impact of the Holocaust was so deep that the physical and emotional scars are still felt today. What exactly was the Holocaust? The Holocaust was the German statesponsored systematic elimination of Jews in Europe by mass murder; using inhumane methods of inflicting pain; conducting unspeakable medical experiments; and forced labor. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, they believed that the Germans was a race superior to everyone else and that other ethnic groups, particularly the Jews, were in some way tainted and therefore inferior. The discrimination was not religious in nature but racial, giving the Nazis the excuse that the Jews presented a threat to the German race. Not only the Jews suffered during the Holocaust. The Nazis also targeted other groups for their supposed inferiority. They discriminated against, Romanies, Slavs, Russians, Poles and others. They persecuted people because of their religion, their political beliefs, their ideologies, any disability and their sexuality. Europe’s Jewish population in 1933 was over nine million. By 1945, the Nazis had exterminated nearly two-thirds of them killing three million men, two million women and one million children. Some 200,000 physically and mentally handicapped civilians, most of them Germans living in institutions, were murdered. Almost the same number of Romani people also became victims of the Nazis. The purge of the so-called inferior race continued, and some two to three

million Soviet POWs died through maltreatment, neglect, disease and starvation. Even the non-Jewish population did not escape, and millions of Soviet and Polish civilians were sent to labor camps in Poland and Germany where inhumane living conditions caused the death of many. Hitler had a grand plan to ensure the purity of the keep the German race. He had the “Final Solution.” This saw the establishment of concentration and labor camps and the creation of ghettos where the Jews were forced to live. After Germany’s invasion of the USSR in 1941 German mobile killing units and special battalions were ordered to start mass murder operations, deporting Jews and other civilians to the ghettos and to the death camps where specially created gas chambers were used to exterminate inmates en masse. The atrocities went on until the very end of the war. Holocaust survivors found shelter in displaced persons’ camps managed by the Allies. Between 1948 and 1951 nearly 700,000 Jews migrated to the newly created state of Israel, about 136,000 of them displaced persons. Others decided to go to the United States or to other countries. Only in 1957 did the last displaced persons’ camp finally close. Four major charges were laid down during the Nuremberg Trials; Conspiracy to Wage Aggressive War; Crimes Against Peace; War Crimes; and Crimes Against Humanity. It was the task of the International Military Tribunal (or IMT) to try 24 of the most prominent military and political leaders of Nazi Germany even though some had already evaded them. Rather than face the consequences of their actions Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler and many other prominent Nazis had committed suicide around the time of the end of the war.

2. Background to the Trials Adolf Hitler joined the German Workers’ Party – precursor to the Nazi Party – in 1919, becoming its leader in 1921. The decorated WWI veteran was appointed Chancellor of Germany by the country’s President in 1933. Hitler was charismatic and ambitious. He dreamt of world domination. He envisioned an empire – or Reich – that would last for a thousand years, the Third Empire of Germany. The leader of Nazi Germany, its Führer und Reichskanzler from 1934 to 1945, was at the core of Nazi Germany, the instigator of the Second World War in Europe and the main advocate of the Holocaust. His vision came to naught, his empire lasted only 12 years and his country was brought to its knees, broken and defeated, in 1945. The Second World War began when Adolf Hitler ordered his troops into Poland on 1 September 1939, prompting France and Britain to declare war on Germany two days later. With German stood Italy, Japan, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Thailand, Finland and Iraq. Collectively they were known as the Axis Powers, although only the first three – the main players – had signed the Triparty Pact of 1940 which founded the Axis. They were opposed initially by an anti-German coalition comprising Poland, Great Britain, France, and the dependencies and colonies of the British and French Empires. They were later joined by the Soviet Union (after it had changed sides following invasion by Germany), the United States of America (after Pearly Harbor), China, Norway, the Netherlands, Mexico, Yugoslavia, Greece, Ethiopia, Brazil, Czechoslovakia and Belgium. Germany was to occupy all of Europe from the Atlantic to the Volga as well as parts of North Africa and Japan was to occupy huge swathes of China, South East Asia and the Pacific. Axis momentum was lost when Germany Japan suffered major defeats in 1942, the Germans in North Africa and Stalingrad and the Japanese at sea in the Pacific. By 1943 Germany was on the defensive in Eastern Europe, the Americans were gaining steadily in the Pacific and Allied Forces were able to invade Italy. The end in the West began with the D-Day invasion on 6 June 1944, but by then Hitler had lost most of his gains in the East back to the Soviets and the outcome of the war was inevitable. Paris was liberated on 24 August.

Berlin finally fell to the Soviets on 2 May 1945 and Nazi Germany unconditionally surrendered to the Allies on 8 May. Japan fought on alone until being brought low by aerial bombardment culminating in nuclear attack, finally surrendering on 15 August ending the war in Asia and giving the Allies total victory over the Axis powers. Somewhere between 62 and 78 million people had died, including the six million Jews. As early as 1942, the Allied leaders were making plans for retribution against the Nazis for their war atrocities. The first joint declaration on the subject was made by the leaders of Great Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union on 17 December 1942. It noted the genocide of the Jews in Europe and the resolve of the Allied leaders to bring criminal action against those responsible for the violence conducted against civilians. Summary executions were favored by some political leaders but cooler heads prevailed. The Allies decided to form the IMT where the criminals will be tried. For Cordell Hull, U.S. Secretary of State, this was the only viable option as it would meet history’s demand for justice and prevent the Germans from claiming that they were under duress and subject to victors’ justice. The document creating the IMT was the London Charter. It contained four indictments: 1. Conspiracy to commit aggressive war – This count was meant to address the crimes that were committed even before the war began and aimed to show that there had been a plan to commit crimes during the course of the war. 2. Crimes against peace – This charge covered the planning, preparation, initiation and waging of wars, violating international assurances, agreements and treaties. 3. War crimes – Count three was the charge for violations of the laws of war, including the use of to slave labor, outlawed weapons and the ill-treatment of Prisoners of War, seafarers and civilians as well as murder and hostage killing. 4. Crimes against humanity – This charge was about the Holocaust. It covered deportation, enslavement and mass murder before and during the war and included persecution carried out on racial, religious and political grounds.

Each of the four countries involved – the United States, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union – would prosecute one of the counts of the indictment. The charge of crimes against peace was assigned to the British. The Soviets and the French presented East and West sides of the war crimes and crimes against humanity jointly. The United States representatives took charge of the most difficult count – the conspiracy to commit aggressive war. The Moscow Declaration of October 1943 expanded on the plan. It stated that suspects held at the end of the war were to be sent back to the countries where their crimes were alleged to have been committed, and judged under the laws of those countries. It also stated that war criminals of major importance could be judged anywhere, opening the door for the Nuremburg Trials. Six and a half months after Germany’s surrender the trials of the major German war officials began in Nuremberg on 20 November 1945. A judge and prosecution team were provided by each of the four main Allied nations and the presiding judge was Lord Justice Geoffrey Lawrence from Great Britain. Simultaneous translations in English, German, Russian and French were provided and the rules and procedures for the trial were culled from the participants’ legal systems. The IMT was set up on 8 August 1945. According to the Moscow Declaration, any country could host a trial for people accused of war crimes, including the Holocaust. Berlin was favored by the Soviet Union but Nuremberg in Bavaria was chosen for the following reasons: 1. Nuremberg was the place where the Nazi Party had held their annual rallies. It was intended to be the Party’s home and thus hugely symbolic. It was the place where the Nuremberg Laws, which classified Germanic peoples and stripped the Jews of their German citizenship, were passed. It was thus fitting that the trial should be conducted there. 2. The Palace of Justice in the city remained intact despite numerous British and American air raids. It was a large building with its own prison and the courtroom was big enough for the courts needs with only minor alterations. 3. Berlin would become the permanent seat of the IMT as compensation for not being chosen as the trial site. The first trial, as several were planned, would be in Nuremberg, but the succeeding ones in Berlin. However, due to

the Cold War, the rest of the trials never happened.

3. Prosecution United States The main prosecutor was Justice Robert H. Jackson. He was also appointed as Chief Counsel. He was appointed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in 1941 and President Harry S. Truman asked him to represent the United States on the IMT in 1945. When he accepted the position he was sent to London to gain the consensus of the other Allied powers in drafting and publishing the London Charter. Justice Jackson provided the intelligence, leadership and the tireless energy required to get the trials organized, he developed standards for evidence, and he defined the rights of the defendants and the actions the prosecution should take in the conduct of the trials. Great Britain Sir Hartley Shawcross was Attorney General of Britain from 1945 until 1951. He was knighted in 1945 and was appointed as the Chief Prosecutor for Great Britain in the Nuremberg Trials. During the trials he focused on the rule of law and dealt with the defendants’ assertion that they had no idea about the mass murder taking place around them. French Republic The French representative was Attorney General François de Menthon, who was France’s Minister of Justice after liberation, serving under the provisionary government of De Gaulle. He was nominated as the lead prosecutor for France but resigned from his post in January 1946 to pursue a political career. He was replaced by Auguste Champetier de Ribes. Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Lieutenant General Roman Andreyevich Rudenko was the Ukrainian Chief Prosecutor from 1944 to 1953 when he was promoted to Chief Prosecutor for the whole Soviet Union. He was the Chief Prosecutor in the Nuremberg Trials for the USSR. Judges

United States: Francis Beverley Biddle, U.S. Attorney General during WWII but asked by President Truman to resign when President Roosevelt died. He was named the primary judge for the U.S. soon thereafter. Judge John Johnston Parker served as his alternate. France: Professor Henri Donedieu de Vabres was a French jurist and the primary judge for France for the Nuremberg Trials. Robert Falco, was his alternate. Mr. Falco was one of the co-authors of the London Charter, where he had represented France together with international law expert, Professor André Gros. United Kingdom: Sir Geoffrey Lawrence had an illustrious law career. He was a WWI veteran and was appointed to the King’s Bench Division as a judge in 1932 and made Knight Bachelor. In 1944 he was appointed as Lord Justice of Appeal. He was known for giving very clear judgments. Sir William Norman Birkett was his alternate. Like him, Birkett was also appointed to the King’s Bench Division. Although he was not allowed to vote during the trials, his opinions were of great value to the final judgment. USSR: Major General Iona Timofeevich Nikitchenko was one of London Charter’s drafters and served as the main judge for the USSR during the trials. He showed his prejudices against the Germans very early in the proceedings. His alternate was Lieutenant Colonel L.T. Volchkov.

4. The Defendants The Tribunal panel had a long debate on which senior German figures should stand trial, and on which of the four counts of the indictment. In the end, 24 defendants were chosen representing a cross-section of the diplomatic, military, political, and economic leadership of the Nazi state. To dispel the suspicion that Hitler, Himmler and Goebbels were still alive the Tribunal decided against a posthumous trial for the three. As it transpired, only 21 defendants appeared before the court. Gustav Krupp, a German industrialist, was excluded because of his age and poor health, Robert Ley committed suicide the night before the trial started and Martin Bormann was tried and sentenced in absentia. He was believed to have fled Germany. The IMT had established the headlines of the indictment, but there were several sub-clauses included within each indictment. The conspiracy to plan and wage aggressive war was a late addition put there to establish a baseline for crimes committed under local Nazi law before World War Two, thereby allowing subsequent tribunals to have the legal power to prosecute anyone that belonged to organizations that were held to be criminal in nature. It gave the IMT the power to prosecute any member of several criminal Nazi organizations simply for being a member. These included the SS, a German paramilitary organisation; the Gestapo, the Secret State Police; the SD, or security service; the Reich Cabinet; the General Staff and High Command of the German Armed Forces; the SA, the paramilitary branch of the Nazi Party; and the Nazi Party’s own leadership. The defendants were entitled to choose their own legal counsel. Chief Prosecutor Robert Jackson built his case almost entirely on captured documents that the Nazis had themselves produced, rather than of rely on the testimony of eye witnesses. This allowed him to avoid any accusation of bias. During the trial, the world was unprepared for the shock caused by the details of the Holocaust, the Warsaw ghetto destruction and the deaths that occurred in Auschwitz and the other death camps were finally revealed. It was the first time that the world learned that six million Jews perished in the hands of the Nazi Party. The final verdict was delivered on 1 October 1946 and those that received the

death sentence were hanged on 16 October 1946. Hermann Wilhelm Goering was a World War I veteran. He was a politician, a leading member of the Nazi Party and head of the Luftwaffe. In 1930 he founded the Gestapo, the German secret police. An ace pilot, he was the last commander of the fighter wing called Jagdgeschwader 1 once commanded by the “Red Baron,” Manfred von Richthofen. He sustained wounds during a failed coup attempt in 1923 and became addicted to morphine. Goering was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe in 1935 and held the position until late in the war. Hitler placed great trust in him, promoting him to the most senior civil rank, Reichsmarschall. He was in author of the Nazi Party’s Four Year Plan, which aimed to see Germany selfsufficient by 1940, and included the expansion of the military in direct violation of the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler named Goering as his successor and he was, after Hitler, the most influential of all Nazi Party members. He instigated rallies and orchestrated the Kristallnacht, the pogrom against the Jews in Germany and Austria from 9 to 10 November 1938. During Kristallnacht, about 30,000 Jews were arrested and taken to concentration camps. This was the beginning of the Holocaust. By 1942 Hitler’s trust in him had waned due to the operational failures and increasing weakness of the Luftwaffe. Withdrawing from the political and military scene, Goering focused on amassing artwork and property confiscated from the Jews. As Germany’s defeat approached in early 1945, and learning of the intended suicide of Adolf Hitler, he attempted to take power again and even requested control of the Reich from Hitler in early May. Hitler responded by stripping him of all positions, expelling him from the Nazi Party and ordering his arrest. Goering was captured by the Allies and incarcerated in Nuremberg Prison where he began to dominate the other prisoners. He was naturally a big man and his presence – physical and intellectual – was imposing. He assumed the role of the informal spokesman for those arrested and claimed that everything they did was as a result of their loyalty to Germany. Ever the statesman, he carefully prepared for his cross-examinations. He was clever, mocking, derisive and evasive, frustrating American chief prosecutor Robert Jackson. Goering boasted of his successes during the trial proceedings and encouraged the other prisoners to emulate him and he succeeding in cowing most of the

accused. On the advice of the court psychologist, Goering was isolated from the others. He ate and exercised alone, and his absence eventually led to the other prisoners talking freely among themselves, destroying the united front that Goering strove to create. To the very end he maintained his loyalty to Hitler, although his confidence began to wane when the court was presented with massive volumes of documents describing the atrocities and crimes committed. On his involvement with the German war atrocities, he was convicted on all four counts and sentenced to death. Scheduled for execution on 15 October 1946, he cheated the noose by committing suicide the night before by taking cyanide, which had probably been smuggled into the prison by one of the guards with whom he had developed a close relationship. Rudolf Walter Richard Hess was the deputy leader of the Nazi Party in the 1930s and 1940s. He enlisted as an infantryman during World War I and was stationed in France, and later took flying lessons but never saw aerial combat. After the war he returned to Germany and was discharged from the armed forces. Back home he joined the anti-Semitic right wing group called the Thule Society, as well as the volunteer paramilitary organization called Freikorps. There were numerous clashes between the right wing and left wing groups in Bavaria early in the 1920s, and Hess was often a participant. He led in the distribution of anti-Semitic pamphlets. Hess enrolled at the University of Munich in 1919 and studied economics and history. This is where he encountered the concept of “Lebensraum” or “living space” from Karl Haushofer, his geopolitics professor. The professor was a proponent of the concept of Germany conquering additional Eastern European territories by force. He came across Hitler in 1920 and was won over by his charisma and by the strength of their common beliefs. Hess joined the Nazi Party and became heavily involved in its organisation and in fund raising. Later he also joined the Sturmabteilung or the Assault Division, the paramilitary section of the Party. It was Hess that introduced the concept of Lebensraum to Hitler, something that later became a major plank of the ideology of the Nazi Party. In 1923 Hess joined Hitler in a failed coup attempt for which they were both imprisoned and their party banned. It was to Hess and a fellow prisoner, Emil Maurice, that Hitler dictated Mein Kampf, his political memoir, with its

message of savage anti-Semitic violence. The book later became the basis for the political platform of their party. After their release from prison, and following the ascendancy of Hitler and the Party, Hess became the third most powerful man in Germany. He had a hand in the creation of the Nuremberg Laws and handled foreign relations for the Party. He developed a respectable reputation as a representative of the Nazi among foreign dignitaries. However, his power in Germany was marginalized, as the focus was on Hitler and Goering. Hess, like Hitler himself, always believed that Great Britain would become an ally in the German struggle against communism and the Jews. After the outbreak of war Hess remained convinced that Britain could be persuaded to seek peace and on 10 May 1941 he flew alone to Britain, landing in Scotland to seek talks with sympathetic politicians and members of the aristocracy. He was captured and became a prisoner of war. Hess’s flight enraged Hitler who ordered that he should be killed on the spot if he ever came back to Germany. While a prisoner Hess was confined to the Maindiff Court Military Hospital where he was treated for insanity. He made a first attempt at suicide on 15 October 1941. The results of his psychiatric interview conducted by John Rawlings Rees revealed that Hess was definitely not insane, but that he was suffering from mental illness and depression, which Rees attributed to his failed mission. He remained in Britain for four years, during which time Soviet leader Joseph Stalin suspected that he was actually engaged in secret meetings to plan an attack by the UK and Germany on the USSR. Hess was adept at foreign relations and his calm demeanor belied his complicity in Hitler’s anti-Semitic activities. There were euthanasia centers during his time where people were trained to kill others – the mentally ill, the handicapped, the homosexual – rendering them desensitized to murder and able to kill without feeling. After graduation they would begin their task of conducting genocide on the Jews, as well as Poles, Czechs, Russians, Slavs and Romani people. Hess led these programs, delegating administration and medical supervision to Dr. Werner Heyde. The development of their techniques caused the deaths of around 100,000 people. They tried various injections and gases noting the speed of death and took photos of and filmed the different effects. Much of the filming was in slow motion. Afterwards the bodies were dissected to study the effects.

He was included in the list of defendants at the insistence of the Soviets. Although not declared insane, his mental health and stability were questioned during the Nuremberg Trails, and he did have periods of forgetfulness and others of lucidity. On 29 November, a week before the trial, a psychiatric and medical evaluation team was brought in and he was declared fit to plead although he suffered at times from amnesia during the trial. Hess was indicted on all four counts but was only convicted on the first and second. He was sentenced to life in prison and incarcerated in Spandau Prison in Berlin where he remained until he committed suicide in 1987 at the age of 92. Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer was, by training, an architect and was Hitler’s chief architect before assuming the post of the Third Reich’s Minister of Armaments and War Production. He joined the Nazi Party in 1930 and was tasked with designing and constructing several buildings, including the Zeppelinfeld Stadium, the huge parade grounds in Nuremberg, the 1936 Summer Olympic stadium and the German Pavilion for the 1937 Paris International Expo. He designed and built the New Chancellery and other significant Nazi landmarks. Speer was a great organizer and this he used to full advantage when he was appointed as Minister of Armaments and War Production. He systematized production work, made the factories specialize and divided the production field by the type of armament each produced. He imposed age requirements on the factory heads. A deputy head should not be beyond 40 years of age while a department head must not be more than 55 years old. These initiatives, amongst others, made possible huge increases in productivity. He was favored by Hitler, causing the development of rivalry with other senior Party members some of whom would circumvent his authority and go directly to Hitler with their requests. He saw the working conditions at the underground factory of Mittelwerk V-2 rocket on 10 December 1943 and was saddened by the condition of the concentration camp laborers. He ordered the construction of the Dora camp located above ground in an attempt to improve the working environment and make the workers more productive. It was not enough and more workers died leaving Speer with a feeling of deep guilt and involvement which he revealed during the trial.

Speer was open and helpful during the trial, providing detailed information on German weaponry and on the country’s strategies and economic performance. He went against the advice of his defense lawyer and admitted his responsibility for the crimes of Hitler and his minions. He did not admit personal guilt, but rather stated that it was collective, he being only a part of the whole. He also hated Goering and welcomed the move to isolate him during the trial proceedings. Before his trial he sent a letter to Chief Prosecutor Robert Jackson, reminding him of his usefulness in providing technical and intelligence information. He also admitted early in the trial his part in the unsuccessful July 1944 assassination attempt on Hitler. His admission suggested to the prosecution that he was different from the other accused officials, although it did not extinguish his culpability in exploiting forced labor. Speer was indicted on all four counts but was only convicted of counts 3 and 4. He was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment and flown from Nuremberg to Spandau Prison in Berlin on 18 July 1947 where he served his full sentence. He was released at midnight of 1 October 1966 and died in 1981 at the age of 76. Hans Michael Frank was a German lawyer who rose to become the chief jurist of Nazi Germany under Hitler. He was later appointed Poland’s Governor General and oversaw the brutalization of following population there and the virtual annihilation of all Polish Jews. He supervised their segregation into ghettos and sent Polish civilians into forced labor camps. A series of speeches he delivered in Heidelberg, Berlin and Vienna did not endear him to Hitler, causing him to lose much of his influence, partly because of his rivalry with Friedrich Wilhelm Krüger, head of the SS and police in occupied Poland and the State Secretary for Security there. He announced the impending annihilation of the Jews when he met his senior officials on 16 December 1941. He urged them to not have any pity on the Jews and to kill them wherever they were found. He survived an assassination attempt by the Polish Resistance at the end of January 1944. During the trials it was revealed that four of the six extermination camps were located in Poland. Frank claimed that the genocide performed on the Jews was controlled entirely by the SS and by Heinrich Himmler, denying any personal responsibility. He also claimed that it was only in 1944 that he became aware of the existence of the extermination camps and that he made

14 attempts to resign from his position but was denied by Hitler each time. Hans Frank was indicted on three counts (1, 3 and 4) and found guilty on counts 3 and 4. Although it was found that he was not deeply involved in the war plans, he was guilty of complicity in the attack on Poland and of implementing slave labor. He was sentenced to death. Nazi Party politician Wilhelm Frick joined the Nazi Party in 1923, and was the Interior Minister under Hitler from 1933 until 1943, when he was ousted by Himmler. He was deeply involved in the establishment of the racial laws and the legislation of anti-Semitism. He implemented forced sterilizations, euthanasia and the re-armament of Germany, in direct violation of the Treaty of Versailles. Like Goering, he later amassed assets looted from the Jews during the pogrom. Wilhelm Frick was found guilty on three counts (2, 3 and 4) after his indictment on all four counts. He received the death penalty and was hanged on 16 October 1946. Julius Streicher founded and published Der Stürmer, a newspaper that became the central propaganda instrument of the Nazi Party. He was deeply anti-Semitic and became the most venomous and outspoken machine used by the Nazi, and received strong backing from Hitler. Streicher was a propagandist through and through and joined the Nazi Party in 1921 afterwards working to substantially increase the Party’s membership. He grew quite bold, relishing his power and knowing that Hitler would back him up. He published numerous articles and conducted extensive research to find information to show that ancient Jewish leaders were cruel. One of his more physical actions was to order the destruction of the Great Synagogue in Nuremberg, his hometown, claiming that he was dissatisfied with the architecture of the sacred place of worship. His excesses soon caught the attention of the other Nazi officials, particularly Goering. Several accusations were thrown at him, including keeping looted Jewish properties and spreading unfounded rumors about Goering. Vanity and power got the better of him and he was brought to book for his abusive behavior, his adultery, his verbal attacks on other senior Nazi officials and his habit of walking down the streets with a bullwhip. His party positions were stripped from him in early 1940.

He was not a military man but did illustrate that that the pen is mightier than the sword. He had no participation in the war plans and had no part in the invasions of Poland or elsewhere. Despite his rabid hatred of Jews he had no hand in the Holocaust other than his involvement in drafting the Nuremberg Laws, but he was clearly guilty of inciting hatred towards the them and for calling for their extermination in numerous books and publications. Streicher was indicted on counts 1 and 4. He was acquitted on count 1 but convicted on count 4 and sentenced to death. Walther Funk was a journalist and close friend of Germany’s president, Paul von Hindenburg. He was an anti-Marxist and nationalist who resigned from his newspaper post to join the Nazi Party in 1931. He met Hitler through Gregor Strasser, a prominent member of the Party. His interest in economic policy gave him the opportunity to be elected to the position of Reichstag deputy in 1932 and in December that year he was appointed chairman of the Committee on Economic Policy. With Hitler’s rise to power he became the Third Reich’s Chief Press Officer and in 1933 was appointed the State Secretary at the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. His rise within the Party was rapid. By 1938 he assumed the post of Chief Plenipotentiary for Economics and the same year became the Minister of Economics. That year Funk claimed that the State had stolen properties worth two million marks from the Jews. At the beginning of the following year he was appointed Reichsbank president by Hitler and became a member of the board of directors of the Switzerland-based Bank for International Settlements. In 1943 he was appointed to the Central Planning Board of the Reich. Funk attended the high-level meeting after Kristallnacht where it was decided that the Jews should be held responsible for the attack and that they should be excluded from the economy and society of Germany. During the trial, it came to light that Funk assisted in the planning for the attack on Russia; in the planning of the exclusion of the Jews from German society; in the seizure of Jewish property; and in planning to take the gold reserves from the banks in Czechoslovakia. He denied any knowledge of the bags of jewelry and other valuable items taken from Jews that were deposited at the Reichsbank, and the prosecutors were not able to produce conclusive evidence to negate his claim.

Funk was indicted on all counts and found guilty for counts 2, 3 and 4. He received a sentence of life imprisonment but was released on health grounds in 1957. He died on 31 May 1960 at the age of 70. Fritz Sauckel worked directly on the Four Year Plan. He was appointed as the General Plenipotentiary for Labor Deployment by Hitler in 1942 on Martin Bormann’s recommendation. His position gave him the power to direct and control laborers, and he was responsible for the organization of a systematic method to force millions of civilians from Germany’s occupied territories into labor. He met the requirements for additional laborers through different means. A few came voluntarily but the majority were drafted, treated harshly and coerced to work. Almost five million foreign workers from the occupied Eastern territories were brought to Germany during his tenure. At Nuremberg, Fritz Sauckel was indicted on all four counts but convicted only of charges 3 and 4. Slave labor was a clear violation of the 1930 Geneva Convention. He received a death sentence and was executed on 16 October 1946. Alfred Jodl was a military commander. In the Second World War he held the position of Chief of the Operations Staff of the Armed Forces High Command, and acted as Wilhelm Keitel’s deputy. Jodl was a signatory to Germany’s surrender, representing Karl Dönitz, by then Germany’s president. At Nuremberg, Jodl was accused of several war crimes including conspiracy to commit crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the planning and implementation of wars of aggression. He was involved in the sacking of Czechoslovakia, something evidenced by his signature on the Commissar and Commando Orders, which directed the summary execution of particular groups of prisoners. Additional charges included abetting execution, unlawful deportation and his signed order to transfer civilians to concentration camps and he was implicated in the promotion of forced labor, especially civilians from Belgium, Holland, France and Denmark. He was found guilty of all charges him and was hanged for his crimes. Martin Bormann served Hitler closely in his capacity as the leader’s private secretary. He was an active member of the Nazi Party and became deputy leader when Hess flew to Britain. As Hitler did not give written orders, it was

the Bormann’s role to convey some of his orders personally. Through his position he was able to control access and the flow of information to Hitler, something which never made him want for enemies. He gained Hitler’s complete trust and took charge of the Führer’s personal finances, appointments and paperwork. He was able to establish offshore holding companies and other business interests outside Germany in cooperation with companies that helped in Hitler’s rise to power when the Third Reich was beginning to crumble. Bormann was a strong advocate of the total and permanent elimination of the Jews from Germany and its occupied territories and issued several decrees on the subject. He believed that merely deporting them would not be enough and that ruthless force should be used in the special Eastern camps. One of his decrees gave the Gestapo exclusive and absolute jurisdiction over the Jews. There was strong evidence linking Bormann to the Holocaust, on enforcing the slave labor programs and on the mistreatment of Prisoners or War, particularly Soviet prisoners. Witnesses testified that Bormann passed on Hitler’s order to exterminate the Jews, and telephone operators testifying to hearing a conversation between Bormann and Himmler, during which the latter reported that 40,000 Polish Jews had been exterminated, only to be rebuked by Bormann for failing to use the euphemism, resettled, rather than exterminated. His defense lawyers were not able to refute any of the evidence and Bormann was convicted in abstentia on all counts and sentenced to death. The hunt for Bormann lasted for 26 years and spanned the globe only to finish where it had started. Witnesses had claimed that Bormann had died a few hundred yards from the Chancellery in a railway yard while trying to escape Berlin. No body had been identified and so the claim was generally discounted, leading to a massive hunt for him and hundreds of sightings. Skeletal remains were found on 7 December 1972 in West Berlin only a few meters from where the original witness had claimed to see Bormann’s body, and dental records identified the skeleton as him. Glass fragments between the teeth indicated that Bormann had died after biting into a cyanide capsule, presumably to avoid capture. That said, conspiracy theories over where and when he died abound. German politician Franz von Papen was appointed by Hitler as Germany’s Vice-Chancellor in 1933. Although he was in Hitler’s cabinet, he was not

fully supportive of Nazi plans and worked behind the scenes to have Hitler ousted through the influence of his conservative political friends. He did not foresee Hitler’s rise to power and his own subsequent marginalization. He was vocal about the Nazi excesses but while Hitler was able to eliminate most of his political enemies he was not able to remove von Papen from office, out of deference to President Hindenburg - the Vice-Chancellor was the President’s confidant. Instead, Hitler appointed him first as ambassador to Vienna and later to Turkey where he served until 1944. Through his years as an ambassador he survived numerous attempts on his life. The International Military Tribunal accused Papen of using his diplomatic position to promote the Nazi ideologies and occupation of other European territories by Nazi forces. The Tribunal though was unable to make the conspiracy to initiate aggressive war stick, and he was finally acquitted. Ulrich Friedrich Wilhelm Joachim von Ribbentrop was a well-traveled man, and Hitler took notice of his knowledge of the outside world, something which most senior Nazi officials lacked. He further endeared himself to Hitler when he allowed his house to be the venue for Party secret meetings in 1933, and was rewarded with appointment as Party Chancellor by Hitler. He soon became a close confidant of the Führer, something which irked many senior Nazi officials. In 1936 he was appointed as German ambassador to Great Britain and two years later promoted to Foreign Minister, a post he held until the end of the war. He might have been well traveled but his insights on foreign relations were flawed. He was able to broker both the Pact of Steel with Italy and the NonAggression Pact with the Soviet Union, but his diplomatic record was otherwise uninspiring. He failed to persuade Franco to threaten Gibraltar or to allow German troops to do so, and in aligning Germany with Japan he alienated China. He deemed that the United States was not a military threat to Germany and that Great Britain and France would not honor their guarantees to help Poland. This aside, his influence was reduced further when it was known that he was anti-British and pro-Russian, which was the reverse of Hitler’s views. Many senior Nazi officers looked down on Ribbentrop, and an entry in Joseph Goebbels’s diary revealed that he thought Ribbentrop had “swindled his way into office, married into money and bought his name.” Perhaps

because of such criticisms Ribbentrop became a fanatic Nazi and strident anti-Semite, something which surprised many of his business colleagues, who knew that some of the businesses Ribbentrop had established had been supported with Jewish financing. Ribbentrop became involved in waging aggressive war and supported and promoted the deportation of French and Italian Jews to the eastern camps and their eventual extermination. In Nuremberg he admitted to his knowledge of Hitler’s plans for the Jews and that he assisted in the process of murdering. He was convicted on all four counts of the indictment and became the first German politician to receive a death sentence. Wilhelm Bodewin Johann Gustav Keitel was a German Field Marshal who became War Minister under Hitler as well as head of the German Armed Forces. To begin with he often confronted and challenged Hitler when advising on the Führer’s war plans but later he simply acquiesced in them all and soon became labeled a lackey. Although he left Himmler and the SS to execute the terror campaign in the East, his hands were far from clean. During the war he signed several illegal orders, including the Commissar Order that allowed Russian political commissars to be shot out of hand; the Night and Fog Decree that allowed resistance fighters and political prisoners to be executed without trial; and a document ordering that French pilots from Normandie-Niemen regiment fighting in the Russian air force were to be killed rather than taken as POWs. The IMT found Keitel guilty of all the charges against him and was executed by hanging. Ernst Kaltenbrunner was a senior Nazi officer and close to Hitler. He was the Chief of the Reich Main Security Office, Interpol President and the highest ranking officer of the SS to be tried at Nuremberg. Although he was not directly involved in the war plans, he was guilty of crimes against humanity for ordering harsh treatment of Prisoners of War, slave laborers and most of all Jews. His later positions made him so powerful that even Himmler was afraid of him. He was intimately involved in the planning and execution of the “Final Solution” and under his command four million Jews confined in concentration camps died. He was found guilty of the mass murders of civilian, the persecution of gypsies, the execution or starvation of Prisoners of War, and the murder of civilians for racial and political reasons. Likewise he

was accused of forcing civilians into slave labor, establishing concentration camps, and of conducting secret trials followed by summary executions. He was also deemed responsible for the seizure and destruction of private and public property as well as persecution of religions, churches and Jews. Kaltenbrunner did perform at least one good deed. Very late in the war he stopped the destruction of huge collection of artworks which were being stored in a salt mine, and which were intended for a museum to be built by Hitler after the war. The curator was determined to destroy them rather than let them fall into the hands of Bolsheviks and Jews. Kaltenbrunner stepped in and prevented the destruction. Among the works saved were The Astronomer and The Art of Painting by Vermeer, Ghent Altarpiece by Jan van Eyck and Madonna of Bruges by Michaelangelo. He was sentenced to death. Alfred Rosenberg was a highly intellectual person, certainly in his own view. He was one of the principal authors of core Nazi ideologies including the persecution of Jews, the doctrine of Lebensraum and the Nazi Party’s racial theories. He also espoused the nullification of the Treaty of Versailles. Full of the cultural arrogance of many senior Nazis, he ordered that the best musical instruments and musical scores seized from Jews destined for the camps were to be stored later used at a university to be built in Austria after the war. He was the chief racial ideologist for Hitler. Rosenberg believed that the Russian Revolution was an international conspiracy headed by Jews. He was Hitler’s deputy when the former was in jail and was involved in the formulation of the plans to invade Norway. He was found guilty of knowing and participating in the Holocaust. Rosenberg was indicted and found guilty on all four counts and received the death penalty. Horace Greeley Hjalmar Schacht was a banker and economist. He was also the German Democratic Party co-founder. He supported Hitler’s Nazi Party, became president of the Reichsbank and later served as Minister of Economics. It was believed that he had knowledge of and played a major role in the implementation of Hitler’s policies. It was widely known that Schacht was supportive of anti-Semitism, that he disliked the Treaty of Versailles and that he believed in the strength of the German military. He also approved of the exclusion of Jews from civil and governmental positions.

While he received indictments for counts 1 and 2, he was acquitted of each. Karl Doenitz was a naval commander during the Second World War. Initially commander of the German submarine fleet, he became Rear Admiral in 1939 and Vice Admiral the following year. He replaced Erich Raeder as Naval Commander-in-Chief on 30 January 1943 and was promoted to Grand Admiral. In the last will and testament of Hitler, Doenitz was named as his successor, bypassing both Goering and Himmler. He did assume the post until it was abolished by the Allies. In the Nuremberg Trials he was indicted on counts 1, 2 and 3 for war crimes on the seas related to the sinking of British merchant ships. There was no strong evidence to link him to the planning of the war but he was implicated in forced labor and the murder of civilians. He was sentenced to ten years imprisonment and released from Spandau Prison on 1 October 1956. He died in 1980. Erich Johann Albert Raeder was head of the German Navy until 1943 and, like Doenitz’s, was charged with counts 1, 2 and 3 of the indictment and in particular the activities of German U-Boats. Unlike Doenitz, he was also charged with planning and implementation of a war of aggression, which clearly violated the existing treaties and international law. For this Raeder was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was sent to Spandau Prison in 1946 but released in 1955 due to his failing health. He was able to write his autobiography before he died in 1960 at the age of 84. Baldur von Schirach was only ten years old when he joined the military cadet group, Wehrjugendgruppe. By 1931 he was a youth leader in the NSDAP and head of the Hitler Youth in 1933. He became a State Secretary by 1936. He was anti-Christian as well as anti-Semitic. He was responsible for sending Viennese Jews to death camps and was reportedly responsible for deporting 65,000 to camps in Poland. Oddly, he later denounced the conditions in which the Jews were transported and even pleaded to have them treated with some respect. Von Shirach was indicted on counts 1 and 4, although the evidence for the first count was weak, and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He served the full term of his sentence in Spandau and was released on 30 September 1966. Shirach led a quiet life in Southern Germany and was able to publish his

memoirs before his death in 1974. Arthur Seyss-Inquart worked in Poland as the Deputy Governor General during the occupation. In that capacity he formed the Lublin Plan for the deportation of the Jews. He was also appointed as the Reichskommisar in the Netherlands in 1940. Seyss-Inquart worked on economic cooperation with the Netherlands and strengthened the Reich’s interests there. He banned other political parties and introduced special court martial procedures. There were two small concentration camps in the Netherlands and he was responsible for forcing 530,000 Dutch civilians to work there as well as deporting a further 250,000 to work in factories in Germany. Seyss-Inquart was known for his staunch anti-Semitic stance. He removed all Jews from office when he arrived in the Netherlands and ordered their registration. About 140,000 Dutch Jews that were initially registered and the majority were sent to the death camps at Buchenwald, Mauthausen and Auschwitz. Only 30,000 of the registered Jews survived the war. Seyss-Inquart had intimate knowledge of Hitler’s plans and during the Nuremberg Trials he was indicted on all four counts. He was convicted on three (2, 3 and 4) and sentenced to death. Konstantin von Neurath was a diplomat and served as Germany’s Foreign Minister from 1932 until 1938. He supported Hitler’s plans for territorial expansion and the repudiation of the humiliating Treaty of Versailles. While he gained some power through his involvement in forging the Anglo-German Naval Accord in 1935, the remilitarization of Rhineland and the withdrawal of Germany from the League of Nations (1933), he only joined the Nazi Party in 1937. Although he was Foreign Minister, he felt that his office was marginalized. He did not support Hitler’s aggressive war plans and was eventually sacked in 1938. Neurath was appointed as Hitler’s representative in Moravia and Bohemia in 1939. He immediately instituted press censorship, banned political parties and stopped student protests. Some protesters were executed and more than a thousand students were sent to concentration camps. He also persecuted Jews, following the diktats of the Nuremberg Laws. He was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment. While some argue that his sentence was harsh, likening his crimes to those of

Schacht and Papen, he had a personal hand in persecuting Jews. Likewise his knowledge of Hitler’s plans for aggressive war was extensive and he was found guilty on all four counts. He served only 8 of the 15 years of his sentence before being released on health grounds in 1954. He died two years later. Hans Georg Fritzsche was a radio broadcaster for Germany’s Reich Ministry. While he disseminated propaganda and information that were vital to the Nazi Party, it was clear that he did not produce the material and in fact there was a record of him trying to stop anti-Semitic publications in Der Stürmer twice. It was Goebbels who controlled the release of propaganda materials, as he was the head of the Ministry of Propaganda. Fritzsche was acquitted. Robert Ley was head of the German Labor Front from 1933 to 1945 and was also a senior Nazi official. When he came to power he was incredibly corrupt and violently abusive and had no qualms in being conspicuous about either. The large profits of the newspaper Westdeutsche Beobachter went directly into his pockets and he freely embezzled the funds of the German Labor Front. He amassed great wealth and was able to have several villas, cars, an art collection and a luxurious estate. His department became notorious for its endemic corruption since his staff followed his example. While his influence and power was greatly diminished after the war broke out, he was involved in the mistreatment of slave workers brought in from other countries and was aware of the regime’s plans for Jewish extermination. He supported those plans in numerous speeches and publications. He was indicted on counts 1, 3 and 4 during the Nuremberg Trials. Three days after he received his indictment he committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell using strips of torn towel.

5. Legacy of the Trials The International Military Tribunal’s trial at Nuremberg was the first and most famous of the war crime tribunals after the Second World War but not the only ones. Several other trials were held at which lower level officers and officials answered for their crimes. These include police officers, doctors, members of the mobile killing units and concentration camp commandants and guards. Trials were held in military courts throughout Germany, Italy and Austria. Following the resignation of Robert Jackson in October 1946, Brigadier General Telford Taylor was appointed by President Harry Truman as the chief war crimes prosecutor for the United States. In the 12 separate trials that he conducted, Taylor prosecuted 200 high-raking German officials and secured 163 convictions. Others were tried by the courts in the countries where the crimes were committed. Rudolph Hoess, the camp commandant of Auschwitz was sentenced to death in Poland. German businessmen and others that were implicated in the war crimes that were tried in West German courts received lighter sentences and were able to rejoin mainstream German society. The search for Nazi criminals did not stop after these trials but continued under the leadership of Nazi hunters like Beate Klarsfeld and Simon Wiesenthal. Their efforts led to the capture, extradition and subsequent trial of several Nazis that managed to escape after the war in Europe. One of the major organizers of the Holocaust – Adolf Eichmann – was found in Argentina. He was kidnapped by Mossad agents and taken to Israel where he was tried in Jerusalem in 1961 and sentenced to death. To this day he remains the only person to have been executed in Israel following conviction in a civil court. The Nuremberg Trials were far from perfect. There were questions about their validity and have been seen as controversial by some historians, political analysts, lawyers and judges. It was the first time that an attempt of mass prosecution and under multiple jurisdictions was attempted.

The Nuremberg Trials set a precedent for the use of international law to punish people who claim to perpetrate atrocities against nations and peoples because of their nationalistic principles. It was significant because it brought to justice several people who had a hand in committing the most egregious crimes against peace and against humanity in history.

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