The Nuremberg Trials

Untitled Document

The scope and size of the German genocide against Jews, gypsies, communists, intellectuals, homosexuals and Slavs shocked the world even before the end of World War II. At every major conference starting in Teheran, Iran in 1943, the Allies pledged to prosecute those responsible for war crimes.

With the end of the war, the liberation of concentration camps and the meticulous Nazi record keeping gave the Allies plenty of evidence. In London in August 1945, the International Military Tribunal (IMT) was formed to exact justice for the victims of Nazi aggression.

The Soviets wanted the trials to be held in Berlin, but due to bomb damage, it was agreed to hold the trials in Nuremberg, Germany. A large court facility with a jail was little damaged by the war. The trials convened on October 18, 1945, with evidence being heard first. Each of the four powers, France, England, the United States and the Soviet Union, sent one judge and one alternate. Prosecutors also came from the Four Powers. The court rules were based on Anglo-American legal procedures.

The court investigated and indicted twenty-four “major war criminals” and against six “criminal organizations.” The organizations were Hitler's Cabinet, the Nazi party, the SS, SD, the Gestapo, the SA and the General Staff and High Command of the Wehrmacht.

The defendants were indicted on November 20, 1945, on four counts: conspiracy to commit crimes against peace; planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression; war crimes; and crimes against humanity.

The defendants were Nazi leaders that were still surviving. Only Martin Bormann's whereabouts was unknown; his body was found in 1972 in a Berlin sewer. Goering especially was recalcitrant; he angrily argued with the court. Most of the defendants did not speak. Lawyers from the four powers were appointed as defendants. 236 live witnesses, photographs and film of the concentration camps, and testimony from 124 other people were submitted. Some of the observers, most of whom had never seen the film of the concentration camps, were moved to tears. In alphabetical order, the defendants were:


Name Life Dates Role in Nazi Administration Sentence
Martin Bormann June 17, 1900 – c. May 2, 1945 Successor to Hess as Nazi Party Secretary. Closest advisor of Hitler at the Führer's headquarters sentenced in absentia to death
Karl Dönitz September 16, 1891 – December 24, 1980 Grand Admiral of the Fleet. Leader of the Kriegsmarine from 1943, succeeded Raeder. sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment
Hans Frank May 23, 1900 – October 16, 1946 Reich Law Leader 1933–45 and Governor-General of the General Government in occupied Poland 1939–45. sentenced to death
Wilhelm Frick March 12, 1877 – October 16, 1946 Hitler's Minister of the Interior 1933–43 and Reich Protector of Bohemia-Moravia 1943–45. Co-authored the Nuremberg Race Laws. sentenced to death
Hans Fritzsche April 21, 1900 – September 27, 1953 Head of the news service section in the Press Division of the Ministry for Propaganda since May, 1933. At the trial he was in a way a substitute for Goebbels, who had committed suicide. acquitted. In the subsequent denazification procedures, he was sentenced to 9 years of imprisonment. eleased early in 1950.
Walther Funk August 18, 1890 – May 31, 1960 Hitler's Minister of Economics; succeeded Schacht as head of the Reichsbank. sentenced to life imprisonment. Released because of ill health on May 16, 1957.
Hermann Goering January 2, 1893 – October 15, 1946 Reichsmarschall, Commander of the Luftwaffe 1935–45, Chief of the 4-Year Plan 1936–45, and original head of the Gestapo before turning it over to the SS in April 1934. Originally the second-highest-ranked member of the Nazi Party and Hitler's designated successor, he fell out of favor with Hitler in April 1945. Highest ranking Nazi official to be tried at Nuremberg. As Prussian Minister for Internal Affairs he created the Secret Police, which later developed into the Gestapo. He was responsible for the mobilization of the economic resources of the Reich for rearmament. Head of the Luftwaffe. as Indicted and found guilty on all four counts, he was sentenced to death. On the night before his execution, he committed suicide by taking cyanide of potassium. The source of the poison is not entirely clear
Rudolf Hess April 26, 1894 – August 17, 1987 The Führer's deputy in the NSDAP since 1933. On May 10, 1941, he flew on a personal mission to Scotland, where he was captured and interred. sentenced to life imprisonment. He committed suicide in 1987 in the allies' prison for war criminals in Berlin-Spandau.

Alfred Jodl

May 10, 1890 – October 16, 1946 Wehrmacht General and advisor of Hitler in strategic and operative matters. Keitel's subordinate and Chief of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW)'s Operations Division 1938–45. Signed orders for the summary execution of Allied commandos and Soviet commissars. Signed the instruments of unconditional surrender on 7 May 1945 in Reims as the representative of Karl Dönitz. sentenced to death
Ernst Kaltenbrunner October 4, 1903 – October 16, 1946 Highest-ranking SS leader to be tried at Nuremberg. Chief of the RSHA and President of Interpol. overall command over the Einsatzgruppen. sentenced to death
Wilhelm Keitel September 22, 1882 – October 16, 1946 Generalfeldmarschall, Head of Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW). de facto defence minister 1938–45. Known for his unquestioning loyalty to Hitler. sentenced to death
Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach August 7, 1870 - January 16, 1950 German Industrialist. Chief Executive Officer of Friedrich Krupp AG 1912–45. charges dropped due to health. His son Alfried was tried in a separate Nuremberg trial (the Krupp Trial) for slave labor, thereby escaping worse charges and possible execution.
Robert Ley February 15, 1890 – October 25, 1945 eliminated the free labor unions in 1933 and established the rigidly ideological Deustche Arbeitsfront (Labor Front) committed suicide in the Nuremberg jail on October 26, 1945
Konstantin von Neurath February 2, 1873 – August 14, 1956 Minister of Foreign Affairs 1932–38, succeeded by Ribbentrop. Gauleiter of Bohemia and Moravia 139-1943. sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment
Franz von Papen October 29, 1879 – May 2, 1969 Chancellor of Germany in 1932. Vice-Chancellor in the first cabinet of Hitler in 1933 and later ambassador in Vienna and Ankar. acquitted. In the subsequent denazification procedures, he was sentenced to eight years of imprisonment.
Erich Raeder April 24, 1876 – November 6, 1960 Kriegmarine admiral and Commander-in-Chief of the Navy 1928-1943. Succeeded by Dönitz. sentenced to life imprisonment
Joachim von Ribbentrop April 30, 1893 – October 16, 1946 Ambassador-Plenipotentiary 1935–36. Ambassador to the United Kingdom 1936–38. Minister of Foreign Affairs 1938–45. sentenced to death
Alfred Rosenberg January 12, 1893 – October 16, 1946 Racial theory ideologist. Later, Minister of the Eastern Occupied Territories 1941–45. sentenced to death
Fritz Sauckel October 27, 1894 – October 16, 1946 Gauleiter of Thuringia 1927–45. Plenipotentiary of the Nazi slave labor program 1942–45. sentenced to death
Hjalmar Schacht January 22, 1877 – June 3, 1970 President of the Reichsbank and Minister of Economics acquitted. German officials imprisoned him until 1948
Baldur von Schirach May 9, 1907 – August 8, 1974 Head of the Ministry for Youth, and after 1940 Gauleiter of Vienna sentenced to between four to twenty years of imprisonment
Arthur Seyss-lnquart July 22, 1892 – October 16, 1946 Instrumental in the Anschluss and briefly Austrian Chancellor 1938. Gauleiter of the Netherlands sentenced to death

Albert Speer

March 19, 1905 – September 1, 1981 Reichminister for Armaments and War Production sentenced to between four to twenty years of imprisonment
Julius Streicher February 12, 1885 – October 16, 1946 Gauleiter of Franconia 1922–40. Publisher of the virulently anti-Semitic Nazi weekly newspaper Der Stürmer, founded in 1923 sentenced to death

The condemned were hanged on October 16, 1946. Their bodies were taken to Dachau, where the ovens that had consumed so many were fed for the last time with the bodies of the men that had built them. The ashes were scattered over the Isar River. The sentence of imprisonment was carried out at Berlin's Spandau prison, which was entirely populated by Nazis. The last prisoner, Rudolph Hess, committed suicide in 1987.

After the International Military Tribunal, at Nuremberg and elsewhere, the four powers tried and convicted thousands of Nazis all over Germany. They would try Nazis separately, not as an international court. In trials that lasted from 1947 through 1949, the US Military held twelve trials at Nuremberg that investigated Nazi lawyers, doctors, industrialists, and others that directly or indirectly committed war crimes. Thousands of Germans were thrown out of civil service. New governments were set up in both East and West Germany, supporting either the western Allies or the Soviets.

Throughout this time, Europe dealt with the consequences of World War II. Displaced Persons, or DPs, were on the march everywhere, trying to get home or trying to get out. The wartime alliance of the Soviet Union and the western Allies was beginning to crumble, and a new, low-intensity conflict called the Cold War was beginning, unbeknownst to average citizens of the East and West.