International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg


Figure 1.--

The Allies decided to try NAZI war criminals in Nuremberg. This was in part a symbolic gesture because Nuremberg was the heart of NAZI Germany, but the palace of justice in Nureberg was on of the few facilities left standing in Germany large enough to accomodate the proceedings. Nuremberg was location of the annual NAZI Party Congresses. The chilling film, Triumph of the Will depicted one of these congresses. There were other reasons for holding the trials in Nuremberg, one in particular was that it wa in the Western zone. The first trial of the NAZI leadership was held from November 20, 1945 to October 1, 1946. The International Military Tribunal (IMT) convened in the principal courtroom for criminal cases (room No. 600) in the Nuremberg Palace of Justice. It was the scene of many NAZI show trials. Allied leaders during the War had agreed to prosecute those responsible for war-crimes. After World War II, the International Military Tribunal at Nurenberg (composed of a judge from Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States) tried NAZI leaders. President Harry S. Truman designated Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson as the U.S. representative and chief counsel. He planned and organized the trial procedure and served as Chief Prosecutor for the United States. It was Jackson who recommended Nuremberg as the site for the trials. The Soviets wanted the trials held in Berlin. A compromise was reached. Berlin was to be the permanent seat of the IMT and that furture IMT trials could be held in Berlin. There were no further IMT trials, however, because of the Cold War. There were further trials, but none cinducted by the Soviets and Western Allies jointly. Each of the four Great Powers (England, France, the Soviet Ynion, and the United States)provided one judge and an alternate as well as the prosecutors. The first session of the International Military Tribunal was opened on October 18, 1945, in the Supreme Court Building in Berlin, which had become the seat of the Allied Control Council. Soviet judge, Iola T. Nikitschenko presided over the opening session. The prosecution presented indictments against 24 "major war criminals" and against six "criminal organizations": Hitler's Cabinet, the leadership corps of the Nazi party, the SS, SD (security police), the Gestapo, the SA and the General Staff and High Command of the Wehrmacht (OKW).

NAZI War Crimes

NAZI crimality is often described as war crimes. There were actual war crimes, but the most horrendous crimes were killing civilians that were not a threat and had nothing to do with the war. German military successes early in the War put the NAZIs in a position to carry out these crimes and the killing was conducted during the War. And not all of the killing was done by NAZI organizations. The Wehrmacht was involved as well doctors iand nurses in civilian hospitals and healt facilities. The ultimate authority for these actions, however was the NAZI government instaled by Reich Führer Adolf Hitler. The most serious war crimes was the mistreatment and muder of POWS. Here there was a destinction between POWs in the East and West. Not only did huge numbers of Russian and Polish POWs perish, but large numbers of prisoners were executed as a result of the Commisar and Commando Orders. Both prisoners and and civilians were killed as a result of the Reprisal order. The NAZI engineered Holocaust of the Jews is the best documented example of mass murder in history. This is because the NAZIs lost World War II and the copious records they took along with the testimony of individuals conducting the Holocust and their surviving victims have left us with a chilling historical record. The NAZI Holocaust succeeded in killing about 6 million Jews. This was not the largest instance of mass murder in history, but is perhaps the most horific because of the way the SS industrialized the killing process. Less well understood is the fsct tht if the NAZIs had succedded in would have been only the first chapter in a terrifying rengineering of the Human race. High on the NAZI list of untermench were the Slavs of Eastern Rurope. The NAZIs killed many more people than Jews in their preliminary efforts to build a new German empire in the Occupied East. There was also the Lebensborn program aimed at children. In all the NAZIs probably killed more than 20 million people. The NAZI penchant for killing was such that they killed millions of people who could have assisted in their war effort. And as a result, before the Allies destroyed German industry in the strategic bombing campaign, there was a severe labor shortage in the Reich. The subject of NAZI war crimes does not address the crimes committed in Germany agaist Germans. Here again, children were one of the main targets. The domestic programs were outgrowths of the German eugenics movement and included the Hereditary Health Courts and sterilization progrm. Here the most horrendous undertaking ws the T-4 Program.

Allied Decesion

Allied leaders during the War had agreed to prosecute those responsible for war-crimes. After World War I, Germany was not occupied and the new German Government was allowed to persue expected war crimes trials. This did not occur and President Roosevelt was determined that the same mistake would not be made again.

The Judicial Pannel

After World War II, the International Military Tribunal at Nurenberg (composed of a judge from Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States) tried NAZI leaders. These were the four countries that played the greatest role in the Allied victory. Although defeated in the War by Germany, France was still included. President Harry S. Truman designated Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson as the U.S. representative and chief counsel. He planned and organized the trial procedure and served as Chief Prosecutor for the United States. Each of the four Great Powers (England, France, the Soviet Ynion, and the United States)provided one judge and an alternate as well as the prosecutors.

Location

The Allies decided to try NAZI war criminals in Nuremberg. This was in part a symbolic gesture because Nuremberg was the heart of NAZI Germany, but the palace of justice in Nureberg was on of the few facilities left standing in Germany large enough to accomodate the proceedings. Nuremberg was location of the annual NAZI Party Congresses. The chilling film, Triumph of the Will depicted one of these congresses. There were other reasons for holding the trials in Nuremberg, one in particular was that it was in the Western zone. Jackson recommended Nuremberg as the site for the trials. The Soviets wanted the trials held in Berlin. A compromise was reached. Berlin was to be the permanent seat of the IMT and that furture IMT trials could be held in Berlin. There were no further IMT trials, however, because of the Cold War. There were further trials, but none c0nducted by the Soviets and Western Allies jointly.

London Charter


Indictments

The IMT decided to persue four charges and divided the prosecutorial work among the four Allied powers participating in the Tribunal. The indictments and trial were unprecedented in history. The Allies had planned to try the Kaiser after World War I, but he was granted asylum by the Netherlands. Thus there was no presedent for the IMT. The various NAZI crimes were prosecuted within four major charges.

Count One: Conspiracy to Wage Aggressive War

The United States was assigned the complicated and most difficult job of proving Count One -- Conspiracy to Wage Aggressive War. The "common plan or conspiracy" charge was crafted to avoid the problem of how to address the crimes committed by the NAZIs in Germany before the War. The defendants charged under Count One were thus accused of agreeing or planning to commit crimes, not the actual commission of the crimes. This concept of conspiracy was not a part of European continental law and thus remained controversial throughout the trial. Some historians assessing the IMT have argued that this count resulted in the prosecutors giving too much attention to persuong a difficult proposition--the coherence of NAZI policymaking. This enabled the defense lawyers an opening by pointing out the chaotic NAZI command structure. The defendends could not claim that the crimes did not take place, but the beaureacratic confusion did give them the opportunity to claim that they did not know about NAZI brutalities and criminal undertakings.

Count Two: Waging Aggressive War

Count Two was Waging Aggressive War, also referred to as Crimes Against Peace. The British were given the responsibility of presenting the evidence for this charge. The charge was defined as "the planning, preparation, initiation, and waging of wars of aggression, which were also wars in violation of international treaties, agreements, and assurances." This charge also posed problems for the prosecutors. Countries have waged aggresive wars throughout history. Kings who lost such wars were sometimes killed by the victors, but in modern history they were not killed or tried, they merely lost their realms or sometimes exiled. Napoleon had not been tied for waging war, but rather exiled. Hitler and his associates had clearly ininiated and waged an aggressive war, beginning with the invasion of Poland (1939). The historical difference was that Germany has signed international and bilateral agreements commiting the country tomnpeace. The most important of these agreements was the ineffectual Kellog Briand Pact (1928). The Pact was ineffectual, providing no way of enforcing compliance, but the signatories had renounced war as an instrument of national policy. Thus the IMT decided to hold the NAZI responsible for violating it. The Pact was a weak precedentvbecause it did not define "aggressive war" and did establish penalties for its violation. The Austrian Anschluss (1938) and the invasion of Czechoslovakia (1939) were thus not considered to aggressive wars because Hitler had cowed the political leadership to surender before Germany actually launched a military invasion. Another problem was that the Soviet Union also had broken the Kellogg-Briand Pact by invading Finland and Poland. The Soviets like Hitler also cowed the political leadership in the Baltic Republics and Romania to surrder or tuen overterritory. The Soviets had also plotted with Hitler to launch World war II in signing the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact (1939). (Secret provisions essentially carved upmPoland and Eastern Europe). Hitler also violated various bilateral agreements such as non-aggression pacts with Poland and the Munich accords. Chief U.S. prosecutor and Supreme Court justice, Robert Jackson, wanted the IMT to create new international law that would outlaw aggressive war. Defining aggressive war, however, remains a very difficult problem.

Count Three: War Crimes

Count Three was War Crimes which was a much easier matter to prove. The evidence of attricities on an unimaginable scale was overwealmng. The prosecutorial task was to connect the individuals with the crimes. The Soviet and French prosecutors presented the evidence. The Soviet prosecutor presented the evidence of attricities in the East. Thec French prosecutor did the same for the attrocuties committed in the West. This count was designed to address the criminal acts which violated traditional concepts of the law of war. Included here were the use of slave labor and bombing civilian populations. A major charge was the Reprisal Order signed by Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel. The order required that 50 Soviet soldiers be shot for every German killed by partisans. The Commando Order also issued by Keitel ordered that Allied commandos as well as downed airmen be shot rather than treated as POWs. Here there was a much more clearly established precedent for Count Three than the the other four counts. International laws concerning the conduct of war had developed in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries. The Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907) focused on the conduct of war and outlawing specific types of weapons (dum-dum bullets). Poison gas was outlawed following World War I. Conventions also established rules for the treatment of POWs and civilians. The Geneva Conventions (1864 and 1906) estblished rules concerning the treatment of the sick and wounded. Also after World war I, the treatment of POWs was promulgated by the Geneva Convention. There was also a strong body of international law concerning naval matters. Naval law had developed separately from the Hague and Geneva Conventiins. Early naval law addressed issues like piracy, rescue, flying false flags, and other matters. War crimes were defined under the London Charter. This was a the document created by the Allies before the trial began. It listed "murder, ill treatment or deportation to slave labor or for any other purpose of civilian population or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners-of-war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages or devastation not justified by military necessity." One problem encountered here was that the Allies had bombed German civilians (onlt after the Germans began the practice in Poland). Also prosecucting German admirals for the U-boat campaign was complicated by the fact that the United states had waged a submarine commerce war in the Pacific. Unknown at the time was Admiral Dönitz's knowledge of the Holocaust. (He destributed gold watches from murdered Jews to his men an because of the engraved insriptions they knew where they had come from.) The Soviets had committed crimes intheir occupation (especially Poland) and killed and mistreated POWs.

Count Four: Crimes Against Humanity

Count Four was Crimes Against Humanity, The Soviets and French again as with Count Three again divided responsibility for presenting the evidence. Count Four was was the charge made against defendants involved with the death camps, concentration camps, and mass killing in the East. At first, crimes against humanity were understood to be crimes committed by a government against its own people, and there was some question as to whether the concept could be applied at the internal level. The Allies decided to include them in the London Charter. This was an unprecedented extension of the concept. The London Charter defined these crimes as "murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population before or during the war, or persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crimes within the jurisdiction of the International Military Tribunal, whether or not in violation of domestic law of the country where perpetrated." At the time of the trial, the term Holocaust was not used and the Allied understanding of the NAZI killing campaign and personal involvement was still incomplete. Count Four differeed from Count Three in that it addressed crimes committed unconnedcted with the war itself. Killing civilians offering no resistance after a country was occupied or in Axis countries was not a war crime, but certainly was a crime. It was thus a crime created expressly for the IMT prosecutions.

Trial

The first session of the International Military Tribunal convened by the victorious Allied powers was opened in the Supreme Court Building in Berlin, which had become the seat of the Allied Control Council (October 18, 1945). Soviet judge, Iola T. Nikitschenko presided over the opening session. The prosecution presented indictments against 24 "major war criminals" and against 6 "criminal organizations": Hitler's Cabinet, the leadership corps of the NAZI party, the SS (party police) and SD (security police), the Gestapo, the SA, and the General Staff and High Command of the Wehrmacht (OKW). The first trial of the NAZI leadership was held from November 20, 1945 to October 1, 1946. The International Military Tribunal (IMT) convened for thectrials in the principal courtroom for criminal cases (room No. 600) in the Nuremberg Palace of Justice. All \24 defendendants were tried together. The courtroom had been the scene of many NAZI show trials.

Defendants

Three of the most imprtant NAZI leaders committed suicide and thus could not be tried at Nuremberg. Adolf Hitler commited suiside in his bunker in Berlin. After Hitler killed himself, Propaganda Minister odef Goebels and his wife commited suicide. Tragically they also killed their children. Incomprehensively, SS Commander Heinrich Himmler appears to have thought he could survive the War. Aftr the British captured him, he seems to have second thoughts and bit down on a cynanide pill. The Allies did try 24 other NAZI leaders. The most important was Reichsmarschall Herman Göring. Others included both high ranking NAZIs and three military commanders. Most of the individuals, except for the military commanders, tried were virtually unknown outside of Germany. The public faces of NAZI-dom had been Hitler, Göring, Goebels, and Himmler.

Missing Defendants

Three of the 24 indited NAZI war criminals were missing in court. Labor leader Robert Ley hanged himself before the trial began. Industrialist Gustav Krupp was dertermined too frail to stand trial. Martin Bormann who was Adolf Hitler's private secretary and NAZI Party Secretary was one of the most powerful Nazi leaders during the leaders could not be found. It is now believed to have been killed during the battkle for Berlin (April 1945). His remains were identified in Berlin during 972 and he was officially declared dead by a German court the following year.

Verdicts

The IMT handed down verdicts for both the top individual NAZIs and NAZI organizations.

Individuals

The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg after 216 court sessions finally delivered its verdicts (October 1, 1946. Of the 24 high-ranking NAZI defendants, 12 (including Bormann tried in absentia) were sentenced to death by hanging. Martin Bormann was NAZI Partty Secretary after Hess flew to Britain. He was tried in absentia and sentenced to hang. He was, however, concluded to be dead. Admiral Karl Doenitz had led the German U-boat campaign. Hitler before commiting suiside appointed him Third Reich President and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison NAZI jurist Hans Frank was the Governor-General of the General Government (occupied Poland). He was sentenced to hang. Wilhelm Frick was NAZI Minister of the Interior (police). He was sentenced to hang. Hans Fritzsche was Ministerial Director and head of the radio division in the Propaganda Ministry. He was acquitted. Walter Funk was President of the Reichsbank. He was sentenced to life in prison. Hermann Goering was Reichsmarschall and Commander of the Luftwaffe. He played a central role in the Holocaust. Göring was sentenced to hang. He objected because he considered a firing squad more appropriate and managed to kill himself by poison. Rudolf Hess was Hitler's Deputy. He had flown to Britain in an effort to preventva two-frint war. He was sentenced to life in prison. Alfred Jodl was Chief of Army Operations at OKW. He was sentenced to hang. Ernst Kaltenbrunner was Chief of Reich Main Security Office whose departments included the Gestapo and SS security units. He was sentenced to hang. Wilhelm Keitel, Chief of Staff of the High Command of the Armed Forces (OKW). He was sentenced to hang. Erich Raeder was the Grand Admiral of the Navy. He was sentenced to life in prison. Alfred Rosenberg was Minister of the Occupied Eastern Territories. He was sentenced to hang. Fritz Sauckel was the NAZI labor leader who organized Germany's war-time forced labor programs. He was sentenced to hang. Hjalmar Schacht was the NAZI pre-War Minister of Economics. He was acquitted. Artur Seyss-Inquart orchestrated the NAZI take over of Austria and served as Commisar of the Netherlands. He was sentenced to hang. Albert Speer was NAZI Minister of Armaments and War Production. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Julius Streicher was editor of the NAZI newspaper Der Sturmer and Director of the Central Committee for the Defence against Jewish Atrocity and Boycott Propaganda. He was sentenced to hang. Diplomat Constantin Von Neurath was Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia before being replaced by Reinhard Heydrich. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Former Chacellor Franz Von Papen was acquitted. Joachim von Ribbentrop was Minister of Foreign Affairs. He was sentenced to hang. Baldur Von Schirach was the Reich youth leader. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Organizations

The IMT indicted six NAZI oganizations. The IMT found three organizations guilty: 1) the SS, 2) the Gestapo, 3) the Corps of the Political Leaders of the Nazi Party. It declined to find the other three NAZI organizations guilty. The SA (Stormtroopers) had played a major role in the NAZI seizure of power. Hitler had, however, broken the power of tghe SA in the Night of the Long Knoves (1934). Thus the SA had noy played any important role in the War. As regards the eichsregierung (Reich Cabinet) and General Staff and High Command of the German Armed Forces (OKW), the IMT decided that they involved only a small number of individuals who it was better to try as individuals.







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Created: 6:00 PM 4/21/2008
Last updated: 10:04 PM 10/14/2010