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(Assignment on Public International Law)


Roll No. 2011SX063

Reg. No. 1141844003
Batch - 2011-2016





The Nuremberg trials were a series of 13 trials carried out in Nuremberg, Germany, between
1945 and 1949. It was held for the purpose of bringing Nazi war criminals to justice. The
defendants, who included Nazi Party officials and high-ranking military officers along with
German industrialists, lawyers and doctors, were indicted on such charges as crimes against
peace and crimes against humanity. Nazi leader Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) committed suicide
and was never brought to trial. Although the legal justifications for the trials and their
procedural innovations were controversial at the time, the Nuremberg trials are now regarded
as a milestone toward the establishment of a permanent international court, and an important
precedent for dealing with later instances of genocide and other crimes against humanity.
Shortly after Adolf Hitler came to power as chancellor of Germany in 1933, he and his Nazi
government began implementing policies designed to persecute German-Jewish people and
other perceived enemies of the Nazi state. Over the next decade, these policies grew
increasingly repressive and violent and resulted, by the end of World War II (1939-45), in the
systematic, state-sponsored murder of some 6 million European Jews (along with an
estimated 4 million to 6 million non-Jews).
In December 1942, the Allied leaders of Great Britain, the United States and the Soviet
Union issued the first joint declaration officially noting the mass murder of European Jewry
and resolving to prosecute those responsible for violence against civilian populations,
according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). Joseph Stalin
(1878-1953), the Soviet leader, initially proposed the execution of 50,000 to 100,000 German
staff officers. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874-1965) discussed the possibility
of summary execution (execution without a trial) of high-ranking Nazis, but was persuaded
by American leaders that a criminal trial would be more effective.
There were many legal and procedural difficulties to overcome in setting up the Nuremberg
trials. First, there was no precedent for an international trial of war criminals. There were
earlier instances of prosecution for war crimes, such as the execution of Confederate army
officer Henry Wirz (1823-65) for his maltreatment of Union prisoners of war during the
American Civil War (1861-65); and the courts-martial held by Turkey in 1919-20 to punish
those responsible for the Armenian genocide of 1915-16. However, these were trials
conducted according to the laws of a single nation rather than, as in the case of the
Nuremberg trials, a group of four powers (France, Britain, the Soviet Union and the U.S.)
with different legal traditions and practices.
The Allies eventually established the laws and procedures for the Nuremberg trials with the
London Charter of the International Military Tribunal (IMT), issued on August 8, 1945.
Among other things, the charter defined three categories of crimes: crimes against peace

(including planning, preparing, starting or waging wars of aggression or wars in violation of

international agreements), war crimes (including violations of customs or laws of war,
including improper treatment of civilians and prisoners of war) and crimes against humanity
(including murder, enslavement or deportation of civilians or persecution on political,
religious or racial grounds). It was determined that civilian officials as well as military
officers could be accused of war crimes.
The city of Nuremberg (also known as Nurnberg) in the German state of Bavaria was
selected as the location for the trials because its Palace of Justice was relatively undamaged
by the war and included a large prison area. Additionally, Nuremberg had been the site of
annual Nazi propaganda rallies; holding the postwar trials there marked the symbolic end of
Hitlers government, the Third Reich.
Date-wise overview of the Trial:

20 November 1945: Start of the trial.

21 November 1945: Judge Robert H. Jackson opens for the prosecution with a speech
lasting several hours, leaving a deep impression on both the court and the public.

26 November 1945: The Hossbach Memorandum (of a conference in which Hitler

explained his war plans) is presented.

29 November 1945: The film "Nazi concentration camps" is screened.

30 November 1945: Witness Erwin von Lahousen testifies that Keitel and von
Ribbentrop gave orders for the murder of Poles, Jews, and Russian prisoners of war.

12 December 1945: The film The Nazi Plan is screened, showing long-term planning
and preparations for war by the Nazis.

3 January 1946: Witness Otto Ohlendorf, former head of Einsatzgruppe D,

detachedly admits to the murder of around 90,000 Jews.

3 January 1946: Witness Dieter Wisliceny describes

of RSHA Department IV-B-4, in charge of the Final Solution.

7 January 1946: Witness and former SS-Obergruppenfhrer Erich von dem BachZelewski admits to the organized mass murder of Jews and other groups in the Soviet



28 January 1946: Witness Marie-Claude Vaillant-Couturier, member of the French

Resistance and concentration camp survivor, testifies on the Holocaust, becoming the
first Holocaust survivor to do so.

1112 February 1946: Witness and former Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus, who had
been secretly brought to Nuremberg, testifies on the question of waging a war of

14 February 1946: The Soviet prosecutors try to blame the Katyn massacre on the

19 February 1946: The film Cruelties of the German-Fascist Intruders, detailing the
atrocities which took place in the extermination camps, is screened.

27 February 1946: Witness Abraham Sutzkever testifies on the murder of almost

80,000 Jews in Vilnius by the Germans occupying the city.

8 March 1946: The first witness for the defense testifies former General Karl

1322 March 1946: Hermann Gring takes the stand.

15 April 1946: Witness Rudolf Hss, former commandant of Auschwitz, confirms

that Kaltenbrunner had never been there, but admits to having carried out mass murder.

21 May 1946: Witness Ernst von Weizscker explains the German-Soviet NonAggression Pact of 1939, including its secret protocol detailing the division of Eastern
Europe between Germany and the Soviet Union.

20 June 1946: Albert Speer takes the stand. He is the only defendant to take personal
responsibility for his actions.

29 June 1946: The defense for Martin Bormann testifies.

12 July 1946: The court hears six witnesses testifying on the Katyn massacre; the
Soviets fail to pin the blame for the event on Germany.

2 July 1946: Admiral Chester W. Nimitz provides written testimony regarding attacks
on merchant vessels without warning, admitting that Germany was not alone in these
attacks, as the US did the same.

4 July 1946: Final statements for the defense.

26 July 1946: Final statements for the prosecution.

30 July 1946: Start of the trial of the "criminal organizations".

31 August 1946: Last statements by the defendants.

1 September 1946: The court adjourns.

30 September1 October 1946: The sentencing occurs, taking two days, with the
individual sentences read out on the afternoon of October 1.

The accusers were successful in unveiling the background of developments leading to the
outbreak of World War II, which cost at least 40 million lives in Europe alone as well as the
extent of the atrocities committed in the name of the Hitler regime. Twelve of the accused
were sentenced to death, seven received prison sentences (ranging from 10 years to life in
prison), three were acquitted, and two were not charged.
The best-known of the Nuremberg trials was the Trial of Major War Criminals, held from
November 20, 1945, to October 1, 1946. The format of the trial was a mix of legal traditions:
There were prosecutors and defense attorneys according to British and American law, but the
decisions and sentences were imposed by a tribunal (panel of judges) rather than a single
judge and a jury. The chief American prosecutor was Robert H. Jackson (1892-1954), an
associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Each of the four Allied powers supplied two
judgesa main judge and an alternate.
Twenty-four individuals were indicted, along with six Nazi organizations determined to be
criminal (such as the Gestapo, or secret state police). One of the indicted men was deemed
medically unfit to stand trial, while a second man killed himself before the trial began. Hitler
and two of his top associates, Heinrich Himmler (1900-45) and Joseph Goebbels (1897-45),
had each committed suicide in the spring of 1945 before they could be brought to trial. The
defendants were allowed to choose their own lawyers, and the most common defense
strategy was that the crimes defined in the London Charter were examples of ex post facto
law; that is, they were laws that criminalized actions committed before the laws were drafted.
Another defense was that the trial was a form of victors justicethe Allies were applying a
harsh standard to crimes committed by Germans and leniency to crimes committed by their
own soldiers.

As the accused men and judges spoke four different languages, the trial saw the introduction
of a technological innovation taken for granted today: instantaneous translation. IBM
provided the technology and recruited men and women from international telephone
exchanges to provide on-the-spot translations through headphones in English, French,
German and Russian.
In the end, the international tribunal found all but three of the defendants guilty. Twelve were
sentenced to death, one in absentia, and the rest were given prison sentences ranging from 10
years to life behind bars. Ten of the condemned were executed by hanging on October 16,
1946. Hermann Gring (1893-1946), Hitlers designated successor and head of the
Luftwaffe (German air force), committed suicide the night before his execution with a
cyanide capsule he had hidden in a jar of skin medication.


Following the Trial of Major War Criminals, there were 12 additional trials held at
Nuremberg. These proceedings, lasting from December 1946 to April 1949, are grouped
together as the Subsequent Nuremberg Proceedings. They differed from the first trial in that
they were conducted before U.S. military tribunals rather than the international tribunal that
decided the fate of the major Nazi leaders. The reason for the change was that growing
differences among the four Allied powers had made other joint trials impossible. The
subsequent trials were held in the same location at the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg.
These proceedings included the Doctors Trial (December 9, 1946-August 20, 1947), in which
23 defendants were accused of crimes against humanity, including medical experiments on
prisoners of war. In the Judges Trial (March 5-December 4, 1947), 16 lawyers and judges
were charged with furthering the Nazi plan for racial purity by implementing the eugenics
laws of the Third Reich. Other subsequent trials dealt with German industrialists accused of
using slave labor and plundering occupied countries; high-ranking army officers accused of
atrocities against prisoners of war; and SS officers accused of violence against concentration
camp inmates. Of the 185 people indicted in the subsequent Nuremberg trials, 12 defendants
received death sentences, 8 others were given life in prison and an additional 77 people
received prison terms of varying lengths, according to the USHMM. Authorities later
reduced a number of the sentences.

The definition of what constitutes a war crime is described by the Nuremberg principles, a
set of guidelines document which was created as a result of the trial. The medical
experiments conducted by German doctors and prosecuted in the so-called Doctors' Trial led
to the creation of the Nuremberg Code to control future trials involving human subjects, a set
of research ethics principles for human experimentation.
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. This movement was brought about because
during the trials, there were conflicting court methods between the German court system and
the U.S. court system. The crime of conspiracy was unheard of in the civil law systems of the
Continent. Therefore, the German defense found it unfair to charge the defendants with
conspiracy to commit crimes, while the judges from common-law countries were used to
doing so.
"It [IMT] was the first successful international criminal court, and has since played a pivotal
role in the development of international criminal law and international institutions
The death sentences were carried out on 16 October 1946 by hanging using the standard drop
method instead of long drop. The U.S. army denied claims that the drop length was too short
which caused the condemned to die slowly from strangulation instead of quickly from a
broken neck. But evidence remains that some of the condemned men died agonizingly slowly
taking from between 14 minutes to choke to death to as long as struggling for 28 minutes.
The executioner was John C. Woods. Woods had hanged 34 U.S. soldiers during the war,
botching several of them. The executions took place in the gymnasium of the court building
(demolished in 1983).
Although the rumor has long persisted that the bodies were taken to Dachau and burned
there, they were actually incinerated in a crematorium in Munich, and the ashes scattered
over the river Isar. The French judges suggested that the military condemned be shot by a
firing squad, as is standard for military courts-martial, but this was opposed by Biddle and
the Soviet judges, who argued that the military officers had violated their military ethos and
were not worthy of death by being shot, which was considered to be more dignified. The
prisoners sentenced to incarceration were transferred to Spandau Prison in 1947.
Of the 12 defendants sentenced to death by hanging, two were not hanged: Martin Bormann
was convicted in absentia (he had been, unknown to the Allies, killed while trying to escape
from Berlin in May 1945), and Hermann Gring committed suicide the night before the
execution. The remaining 10 defendants sentenced to death were hanged.

The Nuremberg trials were controversial even among those who wanted the major criminals
punished. Harlan Stone (1872-1946), chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court at the time,
described the proceedings as a sanctimonious fraud and a high-grade lynching party.
William O. Douglas (1898-1980), then an associate U.S. Supreme Court justice, said the
Allies substituted power for principle at Nuremberg.
Nonetheless, most observers considered the trials a step forward for the establishment of
international law. The findings at Nuremberg led directly to the United Nations Genocide
Convention (1948) and Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), as well as the
Geneva Convention on the Laws and Customs of War (1949). In addition, the International
Military Tribunal supplied a useful precedent for the trials of Japanese war criminals in
Tokyo (1946-48); the 1961 trial of Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann (1906-62); and the
establishment of tribunals for war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia (1993) and in
Rwanda (1994).