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The Nuremberg trials (German: die Nrnberger Prozesse) were a series of military tribunals,

held by the Allied forcesafter World War II, which were most notable for the prosecution of
prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of Nazi Germany who
planned, carried out, or otherwise participated in The Holocaust and otherwar crimes. The trials
were held in the city of Nuremberg, Germany.
The first, and best known of these trials, described as "the greatest trial in history" by Norman
Birkett, one of the British judges who presided over it,[1] was the trial of the major war criminals
before the International Military Tribunal (IMT). Held between 20 November 1945 and 1 October
1946,[2] the Tribunal was given the task of trying 23 of the most important political and military
leaders of the Third Reich, though one of the defendants, Martin Bormann, was tried in
absentia, while another, Robert Ley, committed suicide within a week of the trial's
Not included were Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, and Joseph Goebbels, all of whom had
committed suicide in the spring of 1945, well before the indictment was signed.[3]
The second set of trials of lesser war criminals was conducted under Control Council Law No.
10 at the U.S.Nuremberg Military Tribunals (NMT), which included the Doctors' Trial and
the Judges' Trial. This article primarily deals with the IMT; see Subsequent Nuremberg Trials for
details on the NMT (the second set of trials).
A precedent for trying those accused of war crimes had been set at the end of World War I in
the Leipzig War Crimes Trials held in May to July 1921 before the Reichsgericht (German
Supreme Court) in Leipzig, although these had been on a very limited scale and largely
regarded as ineffectual. At the beginning of 1940, the Polish government-in-exile asked the
British and French governments to condemn the German invasion of their country. The British
initially declined to do so; however, in April 1940, a joint British-French-Polish declaration was
issued. Relatively bland because of Anglo-French reservations, it proclaimed the trio's "desire to
make a formal and public protest to the conscience of the world against the action of the
German government whom they must hold responsible for these crimes which cannot remain
Three-and-a-half years later, the stated intention to punish the Germans was much more
trenchant. On 1 November 1943, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States
published their "Declaration on German Atrocities in Occupied Europe", which gave a "full
warning" that, when the Nazis were defeated, the Allies would "pursue them to the uttermost
ends of the earth ... in order that justice may be done. ... The above declaration is without
prejudice to the case of the major war criminals whose offences have no particular geographical
location and who will be punished by a joint decision of the Government of the Allies."[6] This
Allied intention to dispense justice was reiterated at the Yalta Conference and at Berlin in 1945.

British War Cabinet documents, released on 2 January 2006, showed that as early as
December 1944, the Cabinet had discussed their policy for the punishment of the leading Nazis
if captured. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had then advocated a policy of summary
execution in some circumstances, with the use of anAct of Attainder to circumvent legal
obstacles, being dissuaded from this only by talks with US and Soviet leaders later in the war.[8]

In late 1943, during the Tripartite Dinner Meeting at the Tehran Conference, the Soviet
leader, Joseph Stalin, proposed executing 50,000100,000 German staff officers. US
President Franklin D. Roosevelt joked that perhaps 49,000 would do. Churchill, believing them
to be serious, denounced the idea of "the cold blooded execution of soldiers who fought for their
country" and that he'd rather be "taken out in the courtyard and shot" himself than partake in
any such action.[9] However, he also stated that war criminals must pay for their crimes and that
in accordance with the Moscow Document which he himself had written, they should be tried at
the places where the crimes were committed. Churchill was vigorously opposed to executions
"for political purposes."[10][11] According to the minutes of a Roosevelt-Stalin meeting at Yalta, on
4 February 1945, at the Livadia Palace, President Roosevelt "said that he had been very much
struck by the extent of German destruction in the Crimea and therefore he was more
bloodthirsty in regard to the Germans than he had been a year ago, and he hoped that Marshal
Stalin would again propose a toast to the execution of 50,000 officers of the German Army."[12]
US Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr. suggested a plan for the
total denazification of Germany;[13] this was known as the Morgenthau Plan. The plan advocated
the forced de-industrialisation of Germany and the summary execution of so-called "archcriminals", i.e. the major war criminals.[14] Roosevelt initially supported this plan, and managed to
convince Churchill to support it in a less drastic form. Later, details were leaked to the public,
generating widespread protest.[clarification needed] Roosevelt, aware of strong public disapproval,
abandoned the plan, but did not adopt an alternative position on the matter. The demise of the
Morgenthau Plan created the need for an alternative method of dealing with the Nazi leadership.
The plan for the "Trial of European War Criminals" was drafted by Secretary of War Henry L.
Stimson and the War Department. Following Roosevelt's death in April 1945, the new
president,Harry S. Truman, gave strong approval for a judicial process. After a series of
negotiations between Britain, the US, Soviet Union and France, details of the trial were worked
out. The trials were to commence on 20 November 1945, in the Bavarian city of Nuremberg.
[citation needed]

On 20 April 1942, representatives from the nine countries occupied by Germany met in London
to draft the "Inter-Allied Resolution on German War Crimes". At the meetings
in Tehran (1943), Yalta (1945) and Potsdam (1945), the three major wartime powers, the United
Kingdom, United States, and the Soviet Union, agreed on the format of punishment for those
responsible for war crimes during World War II. France was also awarded a place on the
tribunal. The legal basis for the trial was established by the London Charter, which was agreed
upon by the four so-called Great Powers on 8 August 1945, [15] and which restricted the trial to
"punishment of the major war criminals of the European Axis countries"
Some 200 German war crimes defendants were tried at Nuremberg, and 1,600 others were
tried under the traditional channels of military justice. The legal basis for the jurisdiction of the
court was that defined by the Instrument of Surrender of Germany. Political authority for
Germany had been transferred to the Allied Control Council which, having sovereign power over
Germany, could choose to punish violations of international law and the laws of war. Because
the court was limited to violations of the laws of war, it did not have jurisdiction over crimes that
took place before the outbreak of war on 1 September 1939.
Leipzig and Luxembourg were briefly considered as the location for the trial.[16] The Soviet Union
had wanted the trials to take place in Berlin, as the capital city of the 'fascist conspirators',[16] but
Nuremberg was chosen as the site for two reasons, with the first one having been the decisive

1. The Palace of Justice was spacious and largely undamaged (one of the few buildings
that had remained largely intact through extensive Allied bombing of Germany), and a
large prison was also part of the complex.
2. Nuremberg was considered the ceremonial birthplace of the Nazi Party. It had hosted
the Party's annual propaganda rallies[16] and the Reichstag session that passed
the Nuremberg Laws.[17] Thus it was considered a fitting place to mark the Party's
symbolic demise.
As a compromise with the Soviets, it was agreed that while the location of the trial would be
Nuremberg, Berlin would be the official home of the Tribunal authorities.[18][19][20] It was also
agreed that France would become the permanent seat of the IMT[21] and that the first trial
(several were planned) would take place in Nuremberg.[18][20]
Most of the accused had previously been detained at Camp Ashcan, a processing station and
interrogation center in Luxembourg, and were moved to Nuremberg for the trial.

20 November 1945: Start of the trial.

21 November 1945: Judge Robert H. Jackson opens for the prosecution with a speech
lasting several hours, leaving a deep impression on both the court and the public.

26 November 1945: The Hossbach Memorandum (of a conference in which Hitler

explained his war plans) is presented.

29 November 1945: The film "Nazi concentration camps" is screened.

30 November 1945: Witness Erwin von Lahousen testifies that Keitel and von
Ribbentrop gave orders for the murder of Poles, Jews, and Russian prisoners of war.

12 December 1945: The film The Nazi Plan is screened, showing long-term planning
and preparations for war by the Nazis.

3 January 1946: Witness Otto Ohlendorf, former head of Einsatzgruppe D, detachedly

admits to the murder of around 90,000 Jews.

3 January 1946: Witness Dieter Wisliceny describes the organisation

of RSHA Department IV-B-4, in charge of the Final Solution.

7 January 1946: Witness and former SS-Obergruppenfhrer Erich von dem BachZelewski admits to the organized mass murder of Jews and other groups in the Soviet

28 January 1946: Witness Marie-Claude Vaillant-Couturier, member of the French

Resistance and concentration camp survivor, testifies on the Holocaust, becoming the first
Holocaust survivor to do so.

1112 February 1946: Witness and former Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus, who had
been secretly brought to Nuremberg, testifies on the question of waging a war of

14 February 1946: The Soviet prosecutors try to blame the Katyn massacre on the

19 February 1946: The film Cruelties of the German-Fascist Intruders, detailing the
atrocities which took place in theextermination camps, is screened.

27 February 1946: Witness Abraham Sutzkever testifies on the murder of almost 80,000
Jews in Vilnius by the Germans occupying the city.

8 March 1946: The first witness for the defense testifies former General Karl

1322 March 1946: Hermann Gring takes the stand.

15 April 1946: Witness Rudolf Hss, former commandant of Auschwitz, confirms that
Kaltenbrunner had never been there, but admits to having carried out mass murder.

21 May 1946: Witness Ernst von Weizscker explains the German-Soviet NonAggression Pact of 1939, including its secret protocol detailing the division of Eastern
Europe between Germany and the Soviet Union.

20 June 1946: Albert Speer takes the stand. He is the only defendant to take personal
responsibility for his actions.

29 June 1946: The defense for Martin Bormann testifies.

12 July 1946: The court hears six witnesses testifying on the Katyn massacre; the
Soviets fail to pin the blame for the event on Germany.

2 July 1946: Admiral Chester W. Nimitz provides written testimony regarding attacks on
merchant vessels without warning, admitting that Germany was not alone in these attacks,
as the US did the same.

4 July 1946: Final statements for the defense.

26 July 1946: Final statements for the prosecution.

30 July 1946: Start of the trial of the "criminal organizations".

31 August 1946: Last statements by the defendants.

1 September 1946: The court adjourns.

30 September1 October 1946: The sentencing occurs, taking two days, with the
individual sentences read out on the afternoon of October 1.[42]

The accusers were successful in unveiling the background of developments leading to the
outbreak of World War II, which cost at least 40 million lives in Europe alone,[43] as well as the
extent of the atrocities committed in the name of the Hitler regime. Twelve of the accused were
sentenced to death, seven received prison sentences (ranging from 10 years to life in prison),
three were acquitted, and two were not charged.[44]
Main article: Nuremberg executions
The death sentences were carried out on 16 October 1946 by hanging using the standard drop
method instead of long drop. The U.S. army denied claims that the drop length was too short
which caused the condemned to die slowly from strangulation instead of quickly from a broken
neck.[45] But evidence remains that some of the condemned men died agonizingly slowly taking
from between 14 minutes to choke to death to as long as struggling for 28 minutes.[46][47] The
executioner wasJohn C. Woods. Woods had hanged 34 U.S. soldiers during the war, botching
several of them.[48] The executions took place in the gymnasium of the court building
(demolished in 1983).[49]
Although the rumor has long persisted that the bodies were taken to Dachau and burned there,
they were actually incinerated in a crematorium in Munich, and the ashes scattered over the
river Isar.[50] The French judges suggested that the military condemned (Gring, Keitel and Jodl)
be shot by a firing squad, as is standard for military courts-martial, but this was opposed by
Biddle and the Soviet judges, who argued that the military officers had violated their military
ethos and were not worthy of death by being shot, which was considered to be more dignified.
[citation needed]
The prisoners sentenced to incarceration were transferred to Spandau Prison in 1947.
Of the 12 defendants sentenced to death by hanging, two were not hanged: Martin Bormann
was convicted in absentia (he had been, unknown to the Allies, killed while trying to escape from
Berlin in May 1945), and Hermann Gring committed suicide the night before the execution. The
remaining 10 defendants sentenced to death were hanged.
The definition of what constitutes a war crime is described by the Nuremberg principles, a set of
guidelines document which was created as a result of the trial. The medical experiments
conducted by German doctors and prosecuted in the so-called Doctors' Trial led to the creation
of the Nuremberg Code to control future trials involving human subjects, a set of research ethics
principles for human experimentation.
Of the indicted organizations the following were found not to be criminal:

Reichsregierung (de)
"The General Staff and High Command" was found not to comprise a group or
organization as defined by Article 9 of the London Charter

The American authorities conducted subsequent Nuremberg Trials in their occupied zone.
Other trials conducted after the Nuremberg Trials include the following:

Auschwitz Trial

Belsen Trial

Belzec Trial before the 1st Munich District Court in the mid-1960s, of eight SS-men of
the Belzec extermination camp

Chemno trials of the Chemno extermination camp personnel, held in Poland and in
Germany. The cases were decided almost twenty years apart

Dachau Trials

Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials

Majdanek trials, the longest Nazi war crimes trial in history, spanning over 30 years

Mauthausen-Gusen camp trials

Ravensbrck Trial

Sobibor trial held in Hagen, Germany in 1965 against the SS-men of the Sobibor
extermination camp
Treblinka trials in Dsseldorf, Germany

The Nuremberg trials initiated a movement for the prompt establishment of a permanent
international criminal court, eventually leading over fifty years later to the adoption of the Statute
of the International Criminal Court. This movement was brought about because during the trials,
there were conflicting court methods between the German court system and the U.S. court
system. The crime of conspiracy was unheard of in the civil law systems of the Continent.
Therefore, the German defense found it unfair to charge the defendants with conspiracy to
commit crimes, while the judges from common-law countries were used to doing so.[64]
That the defendants at Nuremberg were held responsible, condemned and punished, will seem
to most of us initially as a kind of historical justice. However, no one who takes the question of
guilt seriously, above all no responsibly thoughtful jurist, will be content with this sensibility nor
should they be allowed to be. Justice is not served when the guilty parties are punished in any
old way, even if this seems appropriate with regard to their measure of guilt. Justice is only
served when the guilty are punished in a way that carefully and conscientiously considers their
criminal errors according to the provisions of valid law under the jurisdiction of a legally
appointed judge.[77]