Nuremberg Trials

Nuremberg Trials
   The trials of the 22 major Nazi war criminals were held from October 1945 to October 1946 in the German city of Nuremberg. The court’s legal designation was the International Military Tribunal (IMT). The court, consisting of judges and prosecutors from France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States, brought charges against the 22 defendants who were major officials in the hierarchy of the Nazi Party. They were accused of war crimes against humanity and peace, by planning, executing, and organizing crimes as well as ordering others to do so during World War II. The Nuremberg Trials were unprecedented in history and established the principle that wars of aggression in any form are forbidden. The Nazi leaders tried at Nuremberg were found guilty of crimes against humanity and having engaged in a criminal conspiracy by virtue of their membership in a criminal organization, the Nazi Party. Of the 22 defendants, 12 were sentenced to death: Martin Bormann, head of the Chancellery and Adolf Hitler’s secretary; Hans Frank, governorgeneral of the General-Gouvernement; Wilhelm Frick, minister of the interior; Hermann Goering, Reich marshal and commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe; Ernst Kaltenbrunner, head of the Reich Security Main Office; Wilhelm Keitel, chief of the armed forces; Alfred Jodl, Hitler’s chief adviser on military operations; Joachim von Ribbentrop, Reich foreign minister; Alfred Rosenberg, Reich minister for the eastern occupied territories; Fritz Sauckel, plenipotentiary general for manpower; Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Reich commissioner for the occupied Netherlands; and Julius Streicher, founder of Der Sturmer. Sentenced to life imprisonment were Walther Funk, president of the Reichsbank; Rudolf Hess, deputy fuhrer; and Erich Raeder, commander of the navy. Lesser sentences were meted out to Karl Donitz, the head of the navy (10 years); Baldur von Shirach, leader of the Hitler Youth and Gauleiter of Vienna (20 years); Konstantin von Neurath, Reich protector of Bohemia and Moravia (15 years); and Albert Speer, minister for armaments and war production (20 years). Only Hans Fritzche (head of the Radio Division, Propaganda Ministry), Franz von Papen (the ambassador to Turkey), and Hjalmar Schacht (president of the Reichsbank until 1939) were acquitted. Subsequent Nuremberg proceedings against lower-echelon Nazis were enacted in a series of trials that continued from 1946 through 1948. Among the more sensational of the trials that disclosed the full horror of the Nazi regime were the prosecution of physicians who performed medical experiments in the concentration camps (1946), the trial of I. G. Farben (1947), the Krupp case (1947), and the trial of the Einsatzgruppen (1947).
   The revelation that the Nazi regime was responsible for the murder of millions of innocent people made it imperative to conduct additional trials in order to bring to justice the Nazi perpetrators and their accomplices in mass murder. Despite the overwhelming nature of the task, the trials of the Nazis and their collaborators continued in Great Britain in the 1950s, and in the following decades in Poland, Israel, and more recently France, with the trial of Maurice Papon (1998). The trials of the Nazis and their collaborators for complicity in the murder of millions of Jews and others have become an ongoing legacy of the Holocaust.
   Because many of the Nazis tried by the Nuremberg Tribunals were among the second tier of those who implemented criminal acts, questions arose in regard to personal responsibility. Were those involved in mass murder acting under orders from their superiors, thus exculpating them from charges of participating in genocide? The judgment at Nuremberg was an emphatic no! The trials at Nuremberg established the principle that under international law an individual is responsible for disobeying an order that entails committing a war crime.

Historical dictionary of the Holocaust. . 2014.

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