The Nuremberg Trials Germany 1945

The Nuremberg Trials Germany 1945
The Nuremberg Trials Germany 1945 – Reichsmarschall and Luftwaffe Commander Hermann G ring at trial in Nuremberg, 1946.

The Nuremberg Trials Germany 1945

The Nürnberg trials, commonly known as the Nuremberg trials, were a series of war crimes proceedings held at Nürnberg, Germany, in 1945–46. Former Nazi officials were accused and tried as war criminals by the International Military Tribunal. The four counts in the indictment were: (1) crimes against peace (i.e., planning, initiating, and waging wars of aggression in violation of international treaties and agreements), (2) crimes against humanity (i.e., exterminations, deportations, and genocide), (3) war crimes (i.e., violations of the laws of war), and (4) “a common plan or conspiracy to commit” the crimes listed in the first three counts.

The London Agreement on August 8, 1945 gave the International Military Tribunal the authority to conduct these cases. On that date, representatives from the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and France’s provisional government signed an agreement that included a charter for an international military tribunal to try major Axis war criminals whose crimes were not limited to a specific geographic location. The contents of this agreement were later ratified by 19 other countries.

The tribunal was given the power to find anyone guilty of war crimes (counts 1–3) and to declare any group or organization criminal in nature. If a group or organization is found to be criminal, the prosecution may prosecute individuals who were members, and the group’s or organization’s illegal nature will no longer be questioned. A defendant had the right to get a copy of the indictment, to provide any applicable defense to the charges leveled against him, to be represented by counsel, and to confront and cross-examine the witnesses.

Each of the four signatory countries picked a member and an alternate for the tribunal. The inaugural session, presided over by Soviet member Gen. I.T. Nikitchenko, took place in Berlin on October 18, 1945.

At this period, 24 former Nazi officials were charged with war crimes, and numerous organizations (such as the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police) were accused of acting criminally. All sessions of the tribunal were held in Nürnberg beginning November 20, 1945, under the president of Lord Justice Geoffrey Lawrence (later Baron Trevethin and Oaksey), the British member.

On October 1, 1946, the judgement on 22 of the original 24 defendants was handed down after 216 court sessions. (While in prison, Robert Ley committed himself, and Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach’s mental and physical state prohibited him from being tried.) Hjalmar Schacht, Franz von Papen, and Hans Fritzsche were three of the defendants who were acquitted.

Karl Dönitz, Baldur von Schirach, Albert Speer, and Konstantin von Neurath were all condemned to prison terms ranging from 10 to 20 years. Rudolf Hess, Walther Funk, and Erich Raeder were all given life sentences. The death penalty was imposed on 12 of the accused. On October 16, 1946, ten of them were hanged: Hans Frank, Wilhelm Frick, Julius Streicher, Alfred Rosenberg, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Fritz Sauckel, Alfred Jodl, Wilhelm Keitel, and Arthur Seyss-Inquart. Hermann Göring committed suicide before he could be executed, and Martin Bormann was tried and sentenced to death in his absence.

The panel dismissed the defendants’ primary defenses in reaching these conclusions. First, it rejected the argument that only a state, not people, could be found guilty of war crimes; the tribunal concluded that international law crimes are perpetrated by men, and that the norms of international law can only be enforced by punishing individuals who commit such crimes. Second, it rejected the claim that the trial and decision were made after the fact. Prior to World War II, such activities were considered unlawful, according to the tribunal.

 

SEE ALSO:

The Geneva Convention (1864);

Hitler’s Rise to Power (1933);

The Nuremberg Laws (1935);

The International Criminal Court (2002).

 

SOURCES:

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The Law Book: From Hammurabi to the International Criminal Court, 250 Milestones in the History of Law (Sterling Milestones) Hardcover – Illustrated, 22 Oct. 2015, English edition by Michael H. Roffer (Autor)

The Nuremberg Trials Germany 1945

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