Nuremberg Trials

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Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal November 14, 1945 - October 1, 1946

At the meetings in Tehran (1943), Yalta (1945) and Potsdam (1945), the three major wartime powers of the USA, USSR and Britain had agreed the format to punish those responsible for war-crimes during WW II. France managed to gain a place on the tribunal too.

Nuremberg (Nürnberg) was site for the trials for several reasons. The Palace of Justice was spacious and largely undamaged and a large prison was part of the complex. The Soviet Union had wanted the trials to take place in Berlin. But a compromise agreed that Berlin would be the permanent seat of the IMT and that the first trial (several were planned) would take place in Nuremberg. Because of the Cold War there were no subsequent trials.

Each of the four countries provided one judge and an alternate; and the prosecutors. The defendants were not allowed to complain about the selection of judges.


The main trial
The International Military Tribunal was opened on October 18, 1945, in the Supreme Court Building in Berlin. The first session was presided over by the Soviet judge, Iola T. Nikitschenko. The prosecution entered indictments against 24 major war criminals and six "criminal organizations" - the leadership of the Nazi party, the SS and SD, the Gestapo, the SA and the High Command of the army. The indictments were for:

1. Conspiracy to commit crimes against peace
2. Planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression
3. War-Crimes
4. Crimes against humanity

The twenty-four accused were (and to ruin the suspense their sentences at Nuremberg; some were subsequently jailed later):

  • Martin Bormann. Indicted for 1,3 and 4, he was found guilty of 3 and 4 and sentenced in absentia to death.
  • Karl Doenitz. Indicted for 1, 2 and 3, he was found guilty of 2 and 3 and sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment.
  • Hans Frank. Indicted for 1, 3 and 4, he was found guilty of 3 and 4 and sentenced to death.
  • Wilhelm Frick. Indicted on all counts, he was found guilty of 2, 3 and 4 and sentenced to death.
  • Walter Funk. Indicted on all counts, he was found guilty of 2, 3 and 4 and sentenced to life imprisonment.
  • Hermann Goering. Indicted on all four counts, he was found guilty and sentenced to death. On the night before his execution he committed suicide.
  • Rudolf Hess. Indicted on all four counts, he was found guilty of 1 and 2 and sentenced to life imprisonment.
  • Alfred Jodl. Indicted and found guilty on all four counts, he was sentenced to death.
  • Ernst Kaltenbrunner. Indicted for 1, 3 and 4, he was found guilty of 3 and 4 and sentenced to death.
  • Wilhelm Keitel. Indicted and found guilty on all four counts, he was sentenced to death.
  • Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach. He was indicted on all four counts as representative of German heavy industry and for armament production. Charges against him were dropped. But the "Krupp Trial" took place before a US military court in Nuremberg in 1948. Krupp's son Alfried was sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment.
  • Robert Ley. Indicted on all four counts, he committed suicide on October 26, 1945.
  • Konstantin von Neurath. Indicted and convicted on all four counts, he was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment.
  • Erich Raeder. Indicted on 1, 2 and 3, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.
  • Alfred Rosenberg. Indicted and found guilty on all four counts, he was sentenced to death.
  • Fritz Sauckel. Indicted on all four counts, he was found guilty of 3 and 4 and sentenced to death.
  • Baldur von Schirach. Indicted on 1 and 4, he was found guilty and sentenced to from four to twenty years of imprisonment. Served twenty.
  • Arthur Seyss-lnquart. Indicted on all four counts, he was found guilty of 2, 3 and 4 and sentenced to death.
  • Albert Speer. Indicted on all four counts, he was found guilty of 3 and 4 and sentenced to from four to twenty years of imprisonment. Served twenty.


The medical experiments conducted by German doctors lead to the creation of the Nuremberg Code to control future trials involving human subjects.

Influence on the development of international criminal law

The Nuremberg trials had a great influence on the development of international criminal law. The International Law Commission, acting on the request of the United Nations General Assembly, produced in 1950 the report Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter of the Nürnberg Tribunal and in the Judgment of the Tribunal (Yearbook of the International Law Commission, 1950, vol. III). The influence of the tribunal can also be seen in the proposals for a permanent international criminal court, and the draft international criminal codes, later prepared by the International Law Commission.

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.

/IQ of Nazi Leaders at the Nuremberg Trials