The Nuremberg Trials were a series of 13 trials
held in Nuremberg, Germany, from 1945 to 1949. In these
trials, leaders of Nazi Germany were accused of crimes against international law. Some of the defendants were charged with causing World War II
deliberately, and with waging aggressive wars of
conquest. Nearly all were charged with murder,
enslavement, looting, and other atrocities against
soliders and civilians of occupied countries. Some were
also charged with responsibility for the persecution of
Jews and other racial and national groups.
The International Military Tribunal,
the body responsible for conducting the trials, was set
up under an agreement signed by representatives of the
United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet
Union at London in August 1945. Each nation designated
one chief judge and one chief prosecutor, as well as
one alternate for each position.
President Harry S. Truman designated Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson
as U.S. representative and chief counsel. Jackson planned
and organized the trial procedure and served as Chief
Prosecutor for the United States. He recommended
Nuremberg because the city's Palace of Justice was
spacious (about 22,000 square meters of usable space, 530
offices, and 80 courtrooms), had suffered minimal damage
during the war, and included a large, undestroyed prison
within its confines.
the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg
The International Military Tribunal
held its first session on October 18, 1945, in the
Supreme Court Building in Berlin. At this session, which
was presided over by Soviet judge Iola T. Nikitschenko,
indictiments were entered against 24 individuals and 6
The first trial began on November 20,
1945, and lasted through September 29, 1946. During this
period some 360 witnesses were either heard from, and
about 200,000 affidavits were evaluated as evidence.
Verdicts were announced on September 30 and October 1 --
19 individuals and 3 organizations were found guilty, 2
individuals and 3 organizations were acquitted, charges
against 1 individual were dropped due to his ill health,
and 1 man committed suicide the day before the trial
began. Of those individuals who were convicted, 7 were
sentenced to prison and 9 to death by hanging. The
executions were carried out at Nuremberg on October 16,
1946. Prison sentences were served at Berlin's Spandau
Count One: Conspiracy to Wage
Aggressive War Accused various individuals of
plotting to commit war crimes even before war was ever
declared. Evidence for this crime was presented by the
Count Two: Waging Aggressive War, or "Crimes
Against Peace" "The planning,
preparation, initiation, and waging of wars of
aggression, which were also wars in violation of
international treaties, agreements, and assurances";
based on allegations that the Germans had violated
international agreements such as the Kellogg-Briand Pact
of 1928, despite the fact that no treaty or pact actually
defined "aggressive war," nor provided
penalties for violation. Evidence was presented by the
Count Three: War Crimes For acts that
violated traditional concepts of the law of war -- use of
slave labor, bombing of civilian populations, ill
treatment of prisoners of war, refusal to aid survivors
of ship attacks, plunder of public or private property,
wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages or
devastation not justified by military necessity, etc.
Evidence was presented by Russian and French prosecutors.
Count Four: Crimes Against Humanity
Applied to defendants responsible for death camps,
concentration camps, labor camps, and killing rampages in
the East. Evidence was presented by the Russians and
the principal defendants at the
Nuremberg War Crimes Trial
Martin Bormann Head of
the staff of Rudolf Hess and Chief of the Party
Chancellery -- indicted on counts 1, 3 and 4 -- found
guilty of 3 and 4 -- sentenced to death. Bormann was
tried and sentenced in absentia. He was believed to have
been killed when the Soviets entered Berlin, but his
remains were not found until 1972.
Karl Doenitz Supreme Commander of the Navy -- Hitler's
last will and testament made him Third Reich President
and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces --
indicted on counts 1, 2 and 3 -- found guilty of 2 and 3
-- sentenced to 10 years in prison -- released in 1956.
Hans Frank Governor-General of occupied
Poland -- indicted on counts 1, 3 and 4 -- found guilty
of 3 and 4 -- sentenced to death.
Wilhelm Frick Minister of the Interior
-- indicted on all four counts -- found guilty of 2, 3
and 4 -- sentenced to death.
Hans Fritzsche Ministerial Director and
head of the radio division of the Propoganda Ministry --
indicted on counts 1, 3 and 4 -- acquitted of all charges
-- subsequently tried in a military court and
sentenced to 9 years -- released in 1950.
Walther Funk Minister for Economic
Affairs and President of the Reichsbank -- indicted on
all four counts -- found guilty of 2, 3 and 4 --
sentenced to life -- released for health reasons in 1957.
Hermann Goering Reichsmarschall, Chief
of the Air Force, creator of the Gestapo -- indicted on
all four counts -- found guilty of all charges --
sentenced to death -- committed suicide night before
Rudolf Hess Deputy to Hitler -- indicted
on all four counts -- found guilty of 1 and 2 --
sentenced to life -- committed suicide in 1987.
Alfred Jodl Chief of Army Operations --
indicted on all four counts -- found guilty of all
charges -- sentenced to death.
Ernst Kaltenbrunner Chief of Reich Main
Security Office (Gestapo and SS) -- indicted on counts 1,
3 and 4 found guilty of 3 and 4 -- sentenced to death,
Wilhelm Keitel Chief of Staff of the
High Command of the Armed Forces -- indicted on all four
counts -- found guilty of all charges -- sentenced to
Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach industrialist
-- judged too frail to stand trial.
Robert Ley Head of the German Labor Front --
hanged himself the day before the trial began.
Constantin von Neurath Prosecutor of
Bohemia and Moravia -- indicted on all four counts --
found guilty of all charges -- sentenced to 15 years --
released for health reasons in 1954.
Franz von Papen one-time Vice-Chancellor
of Germany -- indicted on counts 1 and 2 -- acquitted on
both charges -- subsequently tried in a military
court and sentenced to 8 years -- released in 1949.
Erich Raeder Grand Admiral of the Navy
-- indicted on counts 1, 2 and 3 -- found guilty of all
charges -- sentenced to life -- released for health
reasons in 1955.
Joachim von Ribbentrop Minister of
Foreign Affairs -- indicted on all four counts -- found
guilty of all charges -- sentenced to death.
Alfred Rosenberg Minister of the
Occupied Eastern Territories -- indicted on all four
counts -- found guilty of all charges -- sentenced to
Fritz Sauckel plenipotentiary for the
mobilization of labor (forced labor camps) -- indicted on
all four counts -- found guilty of 3 and 4 -- sentenced
Horace Greely Hjalmar Schacht Minister
of the Economics -- indicted on counts 1 and 2 --
acquitted of all charges -- subsequently imprisoned
by German officials until 1948.
Baldur von Schirach Reich Youth leader
-- indicted on counts 1 and 4 -- found guilty of all
charges -- sentenced to 20 years -- released in 1966.
Arthur Seyss-Inquart Commissar of the
Netherlands -- indicted on all four counts -- found
guilty of 2, 3 and 4 -- sentenced to death.
Albert Speer Minister of Armaments and
War Production -- indicted on all four counts; found
guilty of 3 and 4 -- sentenced to 4-20 years -- released
Julius Streicher editor of newspaper Der
Sturmer, Director of the Central Committee for the
Defense Against Jewish Atrocity and Boycott Propaganda --
indicted on counts 1 and 4 -- found guilty of all charges
-- sentenced to death.
Corps of the Political Leaders
of the Nazi Party found guilty
General Staff and High Command of the German
Armed Forces acquitted
Gestapo found guilty
Reichsregierung (Cabinet) acquitted
SA (Brownshirts) acquitted
SS found guilty
Colonel Right Honourable Sir
Geoffrey Lawrence British main and President of
Sir Norman Birkett British alternate
Francis Biddle U.S.
John Parker U.S. alternate
Professor Henri Donnedieu de
Vabres French main
Robert Falco French alternate
Major-General Iona Nikitchenko
Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Volchkov
Robert H. Jackson
Chief U.S. prosecutor
Thomas J. Dodd Associate and later Deputy U.S.
William Baldwin Assistant U.S. prosecutor
Whitney Harris Assistant U.S. prosecutor
Thomas Lambert Assistant U.S. prosecutor
Daniel Margolies Assistant U.S. prosecutor
Drexel Sprecher Assistant U.S. prosecutor, later
prosecutor at subsequent war crimes trials
Sir Hartley Shawcross
Chief British prosecutor
Major Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe assistant
Sir John Wheeler-Bennett assistant
Anthony Marreco assistant
Lieutenant-General R.A. Rudenko
Chief Russian prosecutor
V.Y. Pokrovsky Deputy Soviet prosecutor
François de Menthon
Chief French prosecutor
Auguste Champetier de Ribes assistant
The Defense Attorneys
Rudolf Dix for Hjalmar Schacht
Franz Exner for Alfred Jodl
Hans Flachsner for Albert Speer
Martin Horn for Joachim von Ribbentrop (second
Kurt Kauffmann for Ernst Kaltenbrunner
Otto Kranzbuehler for Karl Doenitz
Otto Nelte for Wilhelm Keitel
Gunther von Rohrscheidt for Rudolf Hess
Fritz Sauter for Joachim von Ribbentrop, Walther
Funk and Baldur von Schirach
Alfred Seidl for Rudolf Hess (second chair) and
Otto Stahmer for Hermann Goering
John Harlan Amen U.S.
Colonel, associate trial counsel, head of interrogations
Murray Bernays War Department lawyer who drafted
the initial proposal for prosecuting international war
Daniel Kiley Office of Strategic Services officer,
architect who restored the Palace of Justice
James Rowe Legal advisor to Francis Biddle
Robert Stewart U.S. major, legal advisor to
alternate justice John Parker
Robert Storey U.S. colonel, head of the U.S.
prosecution team under Robert Jackson
Telford Taylor U.S. general, prosecutor of the
High Command case, later chief prosecutor at subsequent
Herbet Wechsler Chief legal advisor to American
justice Francis Biddle
The four nations occupying Germany decided that
additional war crimes trials should be held in each of
the occupation zones. In the American zone, 12 trials
were held in Nuremberg from 1946 to 1949. There were 3
trials of military leaders, 3 of principal
SS officers, 3 of industrialists, 1 of government
officials and diplomats, 1 of Nazi judges, and 1 of
doctors who had conducted "medical experiments"
in concentration camps. Altogether about 200 defendants
were tried. Many were convicted and either sentenced to
prison or death, and a few were acquitted.
21 German industrialists on trial
at Nuremberg after pleading not guilty on August 14, 1947
Famous World Trials: Nuremberg Trials,
The Nuremberg War Crimes Trials
President Harry S. Truman
World War II
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