Nuremberg Trials

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Nuremberg Trials


the trials of a group of the principal Nazi war criminals, held in Nuremberg (Nürnberg), Germany, from Nov. 20, 1945, to Oct. 1, 1946, before the International Military Tribunal.

The highest government and military figures of fascist Germany were put on trial, including H. Göring, R. Hess, J. von Ribbentrop, W. Keitel, E. Kaltenbrunner, A. Rosenberg, H. Frank, W. Frick, J. Streicher, W. Funk, K. Doenitz, E. Raeder, B. von Schirach, F. Sauckel, A. Jodl, A. Seyss-Inquart, A. Speer, K. von Neurath, H. Fritzsche, H. Schacht, and F. von Papen. Before the trials began, R. Ley hung himself. The trial of G. Krupp, who was diagnosed as incurably ill, was suspended. M. Bormann, who had escaped and had not been apprehended, was tried in absentia.

All of the accused were charged with committing the gravest war crimes and with planning and carrying out a plot against peace and humanity—the murder and brutal treatment of prisoners of war and civilians, the plundering of private and public property, and the establishment of a system of slave labor. In addition, the tribunal raised the question of branding as criminal various organizations of fascist Germany, such as the leadership of the National Socialist Party, the Storm Troopers (SA), security detachments of the National Socialist Party (the SS), the security services (SD), the secret police (Gestapo), the Nazi government (the cabinet), and the General Staff.

During the trials, 403 open judicial sessions were held, 116 witnesses were questioned, and numerous written depositions and documentary materials were examined, chiefly the official documents of the German ministries and departments, the General Staff, military industrial enterprises, and banks.

To coordinate the investigation and substantiate the charges, a committee of the chief prosecutors was formed: R. A. Rudenko (the USSR), Robert Jackson (the USA), H. Shawcross (Great Britain), and F. de Menthon and later, C. de Ribes (France).

Sentences were pronounced from Sept. 30 to Oct. 1, 1946. With the exception of Schacht, Fritzsche, and Papen, all of the accused were found guilty. Goring, Ribbentrop, Keitel, Kaltenbrunner, Rosenberg, Frank, Frick, Streicher, Sauckel, Jodl, Seyss-Inquart, and Bormann (in absentia) were sentenced to death by hanging; Hess, Funk, and Raeder, to life imprisonment; Schirach and Speer, to 20 years in prison; Neurath, to 15; and Doenitz, to ten. The tribunal declared the SS, the Gestapo, the SD, and the leadership of the Nazi Party to be criminal organizations. The member of the tribunal from the USSR presented a separate opinion expressing his disagreement with the acquittal of Schacht, Fritzsche, and Papen and with the refusal to declare the Nazi cabinet and General Staff to be criminal organizations. The appeals of the condemned for pardons were rejected by the Control Council, and the death sentences were carried out in the early hours of Oct. 16, 1946. Goring committed suicide shortly before his scheduled execution.

The Nuremberg Trials, the first international trials in history, recognized aggression as a grave crime; punished as criminals those government figures guilty of planning, unleashing, and waging aggressive wars; and justly and deservedly punished the organizers and executors of the criminal plans for the extermination of millions of innocent people and for the subjugation of entire nations. The principles of international law contained in the Charter of the Tribunal and expressed in the sentence were affirmed by a resolution passed by the UN General Assembly on Dec. 11, 1946.


Niurnbergskii protsess nad glavnymi voennymi prestupnikami, vols. 1–7. (Collection of materials.) Moscow, 1957–61.
Poltorak, A. I. Niumbergskii protsess. Moscow, 1966.


Nuremberg Trials

surviving Nazi leaders put on trial (1946). [Eur. Hist.: Van Doren, 512]
See: Justice
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