On this day in 1945, a series of trials of accused Nazi war criminals, conducted by a U.S., French, and Soviet military tribunal based in Nuremberg, Germany, begins. Twenty-four former Nazi officials were tried, and when it was all over, one year later, half would be sentenced to death by hanging.
These trials of accused war criminals were authorized by the London Agreement, signed in August 1945 by the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the provisional government of France. It was agreed at that time that those Axis officials whose war crimes extended beyond a particular geographic area would be tried by an international war tribunal (a trial for accused Japanese war criminals would be held in Tokyo). Nineteen other nations would eventually sign on to the provisions of the agreement.
The charges against the 24 accused at Nuremberg were as follows: (1) crimes against peace, that is, the planning and waging of wars that violated international treaties; (2) crimes against humanity, that is, the deportation, extermination, and genocide of various populations; (3) war crimes, that is, those activities that violated the "rules" of war that had been laid down in light of the First World War and later international agreements; and (4) conspiracy to commit any and all of the crimes listed in the first three counts.
The tribunal had the authority to find both individuals and organizations criminal; in the event of the latter, individual members of that organization could then be tried. Each of the four original signatories of the London Agreement picked one member and an alternate to sit on the tribunal. The chief prosecutor was U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, who was asked by President Harry S. Truman to create a structure for the proceedings. The defendants were arrayed in two rows of seats; each of the indicted listened to a simultaneous translation of the arguments through a headset.
There were 216 court sessions. On October 1, 1946, verdicts on 22 of the 24 defendants were handed down (two were not present; one had committed suicide in his prison cell, another was ultimately deemed mentally unfit): 12 of the defendants were sentenced to be hanged, including Julius Streicher (propagandist), Alfred Rosenberg (anti-Semitic ideologue and minister of the occupied eastern territories), Joachim von Ribbentrop (foreign affairs minister), Martin Bormann (Nazi Party secretary), and Herman Goering (Luftwaffe commander and Gestapo head). Ten of the 12 were hanged on October 16. Bormann was tried and sentenced in absentia (he was thought to have died trying to escape Hitler's bunker at the close of the war, but was only declared officially dead in 1973). Goering committed suicide before he could be hanged. The rest of the defendants received prison sentences ranging from 10 years to life. All of the defenses offered by the accused were rejected, including the notion that only a state, not an individual, could commit a war crime proper.
The 24 accused were, with respect to each charge, either indicted but not convicted (I), indicted and found guilty (G), or not charged (-), as listed below by defendant, charge, and eventual outcome:
|I||—||G||G||Death||Successor to Hess as Nazi Party Secretary. Sentenced to death in absentia.[avalon 2] Remains found in Berlin in 1972 and dated to 1945; thought to have been killed trying to flee Berlin in the last few days of the war.|
|I||G||G||—||10 years||Leader of the Kriegsmarine from 1943, succeeded Raeder. Initiator of the U-boat campaign. Briefly became President of Germany following Hitler's death.[avalon 3] Convicted of carrying out unrestricted submarine warfare in breach of the 1936 Second London Naval Treaty, but was not punished for that charge because the United States committed the same breach. Defense attorney: Otto Kranzbühler|
|I||—||G||G||Death||Reich Law Leader 1933–45 and Governor-General of the General Government in occupied Poland 1939–45. Expressed repentance.[avalon 4] Hanged 16 October 1946.|
|I||G||G||G||Death||Hitler's Minister of the Interior 1933–43 and Reich Protector of Bohemia-Moravia 1943–45. Co-authored the Nuremberg Race Laws.[avalon 5]Hanged 16 October 1946.|
|I||I||I||—||Acquitted||Popular radio commentator; head of the news division of the Nazi Propaganda Ministry.[avalon 6] Released early in 1950. Fritzsche had made himself a career within German radio, because his voice was similar to Goebbels'.|
|I||G||G||G||Life imprisonment||Hitler's Minister of Economics; succeeded Schacht as head of the Reichsbank. Released because of ill health on 16 May 1957.[avalon 7] Died 31 May 1960.|
|G||G||G||G||Death||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.  Committed suicide the night before his execution.[avalon 8]|
|G||G||I||I||Life imprisonment||Hitler's Deputy Führer until he flew to Scotland in 1941 in an attempt to broker peace with Great Britain. Had been imprisoned since then. After trial, incarcerated at Spandau Prison where he allegedly committed suicide in 1987.[avalon 9]|
|G||G||G||G||Death||Wehrmacht Generaloberst, Keitel's subordinate and Chief of the OKW's Operations Division 1938–45. Signed orders for the summary execution of Allied commandos and Soviet commissars [avalon 10] Signed the instruments of unconditional surrender on 7 May 1945 in Reims as the representative of Karl Dönitz. Hanged 16 October 1946. Posthumously rehabilitated in 1953.|
|I||—||G||G||Death||Highest-ranking SS leader to be tried at Nuremberg. Chief of RSHA 1943–45, the Nazi organ comprising the intelligence service (SD), Secret State Police (Gestapo) and Criminal Police (Kripo) and having overall command over the Einsatzgruppen.[avalon 11] Hanged 16 October 1946.|
|G||G||G||G||Death||Head of Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW) and de facto defence minister 1938–45. Known for his unquestioning loyalty to Hitler.Signed numerous orders calling for soldiers and political prisoners to be executed. Expressed repentance.[avalon 12] Hanged 16 October 1946.|
|I||I||I||—||Major industrialist. C.E.O. of Friedrich Krupp AG 1912–45. Medically unfit for trial; he had been partially paralyzed since 1941. Due to an error, Gustav, instead of his son Alfried (who ran Krupp for his father during most of the war), was selected for indictment. The prosecutors attempted to substitute his son in the indictment, but the judges rejected this due to proximity to trial. However, the charges against him remained on record in the event he should recover (he died in February 1950). Alfried was tried in a separate Nuremberg trial (the Krupp Trial) for the use of slave labour, thereby escaping worse charges and possible execution.|
|I||I||I||I||—||Head of DAF, German Labour Front. Committed suicide on 25 October 1945, before the trial began. Indicted but neither acquitted nor found guilty as trial did not proceed.|
|G||G||G||G||15 years||Minister of Foreign Affairs 1932–38, succeeded by Ribbentrop. Later, Protector of Bohemia and Moravia 1939–43. On furlough since 1941, he resigned in 1943 because of a dispute with Hitler. Released (ill health) 6 November 1954[avalon 13] after suffering a heart attack. Died 14 August 1956.|
|I||I||—||—||Acquitted||Chancellor of Germany in 1932 and Vice-Chancellor under Hitler in 1933–34. Ambassador to Austria 1934–38 and ambassador to Turkey1939–44. Although acquitted at Nuremberg, von Papen was reclassified as a war criminal in 1947 by a German de-Nazification court, and sentenced to eight years' hard labour. He was acquitted following appeal after serving two years.[avalon 14]|
|G||G||G||—||Life imprisonment||Commander In Chief of the Kriegsmarine from 1928 until his retirement in 1943, succeeded by Dönitz. Released (ill health) 26 September 1955.[avalon 15] Died 6 November 1960.|
|G||G||G||G||Death||Ambassador-Plenipotentiary 1935–36. Ambassador to the United Kingdom 1936–38. Minister of Foreign Affairs 1938–45.[avalon 16] Hanged 16 October 1946.|
|G||G||G||G||Death||Racial theory ideologist. Later, Minister of the Eastern Occupied Territories 1941–45.[avalon 17] Hanged 16 October 1946.|
|I||I||G||G||Death||Gauleiter of Thuringia 1927–45. Plenipotentiary of the Nazi slave labor program 1942–45.[avalon 18] Hanged 16 October 1946. Defense attorney: Robert Servatius|
|I||I||—||—||Acquitted||Prominent banker and economist. Pre-war president of the Reichsbank 1923–30 & 1933–38 and Economics Minister 1934–37. Admitted to violating the Treaty of Versailles.[avalon 19] Many at Nuremberg alleged that the British had brought about Schacht's acquittal to safeguard German industrialists and financiers; Francis Biddle revealed Geoffrey Lawrence had argued that Schacht, being a "man of character", was nothing like the other "ruffians" on trial. By 1944, he had been imprisoned in a concentration camp by the Nazis, and was not pleased to be put on trial as a major war criminal.|
|I||—||—||G||20 years||Head of the Hitlerjugend from 1933–40, Gauleiter of Vienna 1940–45. Expressed repentance.[avalon 20]|
|I||G||G||G||Death||Instrumental in the Anschluss and briefly Austrian Chancellor 1938. Deputy to Frank in Poland 1939–40. Later, Reichskommissar of the occupied Netherlands 1940–45. Expressed repentance.[avalon 21] Hanged 16 October 1946.|
|I||I||G||G||20 Years||Hitler's friend, favorite architect, and Minister of Armaments from 1942 until the end of the war. In this capacity, he was ultimately responsible for the use of slave labourers from the occupied territories in armaments production. Expressed repentance.[avalon 22]|
|I||—||—||G||Death||Gauleiter of Franconia 1922–40, when he was relieved of authority but allowed by Hitler to keep his official title. Publisher of the anti-Semitic weekly newspaper Der Stürmer.[avalon 23] Hanged 16 October 1946.|
Taken from: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history [20.11.2014]