The Nuremberg Trials
The Nuremberg Trials were a series of trials that were meant to justify all the horrible crimes that Nazi soldiers took part in during the holocaust, mostly against humanity. The trials started on November 20th, 1945, and lasted almost four more years, but ended sometime in 1949. The Nuremberg Trials were set in the heart of most of the devastation, at the source of where the problems all began, Nuremberg. Nuremberg was chosen because there were people that said if it all started there, it should end there. Besides Nuremberg was home to the old Palace of Justice. The Palace of Justice had a huge prison with great security, and a courtroom big enough to hold all of the people involved in the trials. For the Jews this was an emotional time. Finally the Jews were assured that the soldiers so heavily involved in the extermination of their people, would now be killed off themselves, because of such vicious. senseless crimes.
There were several counts to be considered when being dealt with such a broad topic, such as the holocaust. The first count was conspiracy to wage aggressive war. The second count Nazi leaders could have been charged with was crimes against peace. The third was regular war crimes, and the fourth, finally, crimes against humanity. Crimes against humanity meant Genocide. War crimes meant violating international law about the conduct of war, and mistreatment of prisoners. There were twenty two Nazi leaders that were put on trial, nineteen were convicted. There were nine sentenced to death, and ten were given life in prison. Still to this day Nazi soldiers and leaders are being found and put on trial for their awful crimes against the Jewish people. Crimes as simple as a shooting line, or the gas chambers were used as a method of extermination, to give a few examples. Other killing methods or crimes against these people were not as simple. Some worked to death, others were forced to run through seventy foot lines of Nazi Soldiers to be kicked several times to death. Some where used as lab experiments. All gruesome ways to end a life.
Martin Bormann: Martin was with Hitler and Goebbels in Hitler's subterranean bunker, in hiding. On April 30th, 1945 Hitler and Goebbels both committed suicide to escape their charges, with what they thought, was dignity. Martin and the others fled trying to escape the Soviet Army. They were soon found and Martin replaced Hess in the trials as Hitler's deputy in charge of the party affairs. Very ironically he was described as a ruthless, uncivilized, brutal man by his fellow Germans, also in a high ranking positions. Martin actually went missing during the trials, later he was tried in absentia. His sentence was death by hanging eventually.
Karl Doenitz: After Hitler ignored the Treaty of Versailles, he appointed Karl as commander of the submarine unit in the German navy. Coincidentally, Germany was not allowed submarines, stated in the treaty in which Hitler choose to ignore. In 1940 he was then made Vice Admiral. He was held responsible for counts one, two and three, but mostly for war crimes at sea because the German U- boats sunk British merchant ships. His defense consisted of pointing fingers towards The United States for supposedly sinking Japanese merchant vessels. He argued over and over again that the German Navy and the U.S Navy committed the exact same actions with the same justification. Karl ended up having to serve ten years in Spandau Prison.
Wilhelm Frick: This man played a huge role in the formation of Nazi racial laws and the antisemitic legislation, including the Nuremberg Laws. This man was sentenced to death by hanging early on in the trials, due to the clearness of his intensions, leaving this man nearly no wiggle room what so ever.
Walter Funk: While there is little about this man the evidence to counteract his defense, was an interesting one. First of all he was good friends with President Hindenburg, and was held at a high position on a list of opinions other German men considered on the Nazi party affairs. At a meeting following the Kristallnacht events, Germans decided Jews be excluded from the German economy. This was clearly a significant step towards the Holocaust. Evidence against whatever his defense was, was highly interesting. The prosecutor's staff discovered that the Reichsbank received and held a large deposit straight from the SS. The large deposit consisted of bags of jewels and gold pieces all taken from the Jewish people held in Eastern Europe. Of course Funk denied ever knowing the contents of the bags. There was no way to prove however, that he did in-fact know the contents of the bags. He did however demonstrate great crimes against humanity in the end, as well as planning illegal military operations. This man suffered a life of imprisonment, and was well deserved at that.
Allied Powers and their prosecutors
The United States was involved in the prosecutions of the Nazis, their chief prosecutor was Robert H. Jackson, from Jamestown New York. Robert was raised on a farm, he was raised in an incredibly hard working environment. That had a lot to do with his success in the Nuremberg Trials, since he spent hours upon hours working on his opening speech, and preparing documents as well. Once when he was organizing his defense, he had set hundreds of papers into piles on a bed in his home, he came back later that day after a big storm to find them all over the yard soaking wet. He discovered he maid had left the window open. Robert was forced to start over. That didn't stop him from making an impact upon history though. When he first spoke, he spoke about the honor he felt in being able to participate in correcting such a wrong, in something so historically devastating. He started with such powerful words of truth, he said, "The privilege of opening the first trial in history for crimes against the peace of the world imposes a grave responsibility.The wrong which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating that cizilaiation cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated." That was just the start. He spoke with power and he made sure to speak slowly because there were so many translators there to translate in French, German and Russian. He continues, "These prisoners represent sinister influences that will lurk in the world long after their bodies have turned to dust. We will show them to be living symbols of racial hatreds, of terrorism and violence and of the arrogance and cruelty of power." He wanted to make sure that the prisoners felt uncomfortable at the very least, but most of all he wanted them to know they would make history as possibly the most despised people on earth.
The chief prosecutor for The United Kingdom was Hartley Shawcross. By far it is said that his most famous line from the trials was, "There comes a point when a man must refuse to answer to his leader if he is also to answer to his own conscience." Shawcross stayed away from the American, Soviet, and French style, it was too agitated. He spent two days on his opening speech trying to stick to the law, and to keep his speeches strictly fair. He did however make a comment towards the end, that gas chambers and shootings were, "Common murder in its most ruthless forms."
For the Soviet Union the chief was General R. A. Rudenko. On General Rudenko there was not much. Other than he was highly experienced in the courtroom environment as well as dealing with war crimes as well, in past years. He was also ranked highly in the Soviet Army as a Lt. General, his status was obviously extremely high. besides all of his experience with law he was also, inn his country, considered a Hero of Socialist Labor.
Finally for the country of France their main prosecutors were Francois de Manthon and Auguste Champetier. First de Manthon took part in the trials as an educated, and highly political man. In-fact he was so political, and involved in politics actively, he resigned. That is when Champetier replaced him in court. Auguste had done many things in his life. First of all he was a devoted catholic man, after serving in World War One, he practiced to become a junior minister. As this was going on he was also a senator, and a talented one at that. He did nothing at Nuremberg that was too different from the tactics of the other nations. Shortly after the trials were over with one day at work, he died in his office.
Details of The Nuremberg Trials
The trials at Nuremberg were quite broad in detail. They lasted for years, they were long, and stressful, for everyone involved in the slightest. Speeches were prepared, and were quite possibly a few of the most epic speeches ever created. These trials were so personal, and so human oriented, it was hard to stay within the rules at times. For some of the prosecutors it was hard to decide the right words to say when bringing an almost eliminated religious group of humans back to justice. Where would you start when speaking directly to humans so evil, and so brutal, that they almost erased a race from the face of the world? What would you say when given the chance to speak for victims of such evil and hateful crimes, from one human to another?
What was the atmosphere like? There were roughly six hundred reporters, translators, court reporters, and guests in the seats filling up the majority of the courtroom. Some of the Nazi leaders shielded their eyes with sunglasses while in the courtroom, because of the photography and footage being taken during the trial. Some liked to think it was to shield the shame in their eyes, from the newspapers, as well. Translators were using brand new technology during the trials. Guests wishing to hear the trial in the different languages would do so with earphones, simultaneously recording languages and instantly hearing them was new in 1945.
Evidence: Evidence was needed the most over any other angle the Allied Powers could work. It was not very hard to do either! The Germans kept meticulous records of every move they made. They soon realized they were in trouble and went ahead and tried to hide the evidence deep within salt mines or bunkers. The Germans could hide nothing, for all the nations hammered down the evidence in their rightfully cruel ways. There were pictures, recordings, documents and items that all pointed the Nazi leaders towards a rightful and justified death. In-fact there were actually dried up pieces of stretched skin discovered in concentration camps, used as Nazi lampshades. There were also recordings of the killings per day, in the Auschwitz concentration camp, there were close to twelve thousand killings each day for a very long time. Evidence such as lungs and human skulls, of the Jewish people, were brought to court as well. Doctors compared the starved Jews brains and lungs, with healthy "Good German" brains and lungs, the lungs of the Jews were severely shrunken and blackened.