At the meetings in Tehran , Yalta and Potsdam , the three major wartime powers, the United Kingdom, United States, and the Soviet Union, agreed on the format of punishment for those responsible for war crimes during World War II. France was also awarded a place on the tribunal. The legal basis for the trial was established by the London Charter , which was agreed upon by the four so-called Great Powers on 8 August ,  and which restricted the trial to "punishment of the major war criminals of the European Axis countries".
Some German war crimes defendants were tried at Nuremberg, and 1, others were tried under the traditional channels of military justice. The legal basis for the jurisdiction of the court was that defined by the Instrument of Surrender of Germany. Political authority for Germany had been transferred to the Allied Control Council which, having sovereign power over Germany, could choose to punish violations of international law and the laws of war. Because the court was limited to violations of the laws of war, it did not have jurisdiction over crimes that took place before the outbreak of war on 1 September Leipzig and Luxembourg were briefly considered as the location for the trial.
As a compromise with the Soviets, it was agreed that while the location of the trial would be Nuremberg, Berlin would be the official home of the Tribunal authorities. Most of the accused had previously been detained at Camp Ashcan , a processing station and interrogation center in Luxembourg, and were moved to Nuremberg for the trial. Kaplan  and Thomas J. Mervyn Griffith-Jones , who was later to become famous as the chief prosecutor in the Lady Chatterley's Lover obscenity trial, was also on Shawcross's team. Shawcross also recruited a young barrister , Anthony Marreco , who was the son of a friend of his, to help the British team with the heavy workload.
The vast majority of the defense attorneys were German lawyers. The main counsel were supported by a total of 70 assistants, clerks and lawyers. The men testifying for the defense hoped to receive more lenient sentences. The prosecution entered indictments against 24 major war criminals and seven organizations — the leadership of the Nazi party, the Reich Cabinet, the Schutzstaffel SS , Sicherheitsdienst SD , the Gestapo , the Sturmabteilung SA and the "General Staff and High Command", comprising several categories of senior military officers.
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:. Throughout the trials, specifically between January and July , the defendants and a number of witnesses were interviewed by American psychiatrist Leon Goldensohn. His notes detailing the demeanor and comments of the defendants survive; they were edited into book form and published in The accusers were successful in unveiling the background of developments leading to the outbreak of World War II, which cost around 50 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 sentence , three were acquitted, and two were not charged. The death sentences were carried out on 16 October by hanging using the standard drop method instead of long drop. The U. 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, struggling for 14 to 28 minutes before finally choking to death.
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 remaining 10 defendants sentenced to death were hanged. 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 American authorities conducted subsequent Nuremberg Trials in their occupied zone. While Sir Geoffrey Lawrence of Britain was the judge chosen as president of the court, the most prominent of the judges at trial arguably was his American counterpart, Francis Biddle. Some accounts argue that Truman had appointed Biddle as the main American judge for the trial as an apology for asking for his resignation.
Biddle soon changed his mind, as he approved a modified version of the plan on 21 January , likely due to time constraints, since the trial would be one of the main issues discussed at Yalta. Justice Robert H. Jackson played an important role in not only the trial itself, but also in the creation of the International Military Tribunal, as he led the American delegation to London that, in the summer of , argued in favour of prosecuting the Nazi leadership as a criminal conspiracy.
Thomas Dodd was a prosecutor for the United States. There was an immense amount of evidence backing the prosecutors' case, especially since meticulous records of the Nazis' actions had been kept. There were records taken in by the prosecutors that had signatures from specific Nazis signing for everything from stationery supplies to Zyklon B gas , which was used to kill the inmates of the deathcamps.
Thomas Dodd showed a series of pictures to the courtroom after reading through the documents of crimes committed by the defendants. The showing consisted of pictures displaying the atrocities performed by the defendants. The pictures had been gathered when the inmates were liberated from the concentration camps. Henry F. The Tribunal is celebrated for establishing that "[c]rimes against international law are committed by men, not by abstract entities, and only by punishing individuals who commit such crimes can the provisions of international law be enforced.
It served as the model for the International Military Tribunal for the Far East which tried Japanese officials for crimes against peace and against humanity. It also served as the model [ citation needed ] for the Eichmann trial and for present-day courts at The Hague, for trying crimes committed during the Balkan wars of the early s, and at Arusha, for trying the people responsible for the genocide in Rwanda.
The Nuremberg trials had a great influence on the development of international criminal law. The Conclusions of the Nuremberg trials served as models for:. II . See Nuremberg Principles. The influence of the tribunal can also be seen in the proposals for a permanent international criminal court, and the drafting of international criminal codes, later prepared by the International Law Commission.
Tourists can visit courtroom on days when no trial is on. A permanent exhibition has been dedicated to the trials. 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.
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.
Critics of the Nuremberg trials argued that the charges against the defendants were only defined as "crimes" after they were committed and that therefore the trial was invalid, and thus seen as a form of " victor's justice ". As Biddiss observed, "the Nuremberg Trial continues to haunt us. It is a question also of the weaknesses and strengths of the proceedings themselves. Quincy Wright , writing eighteen months after the conclusion of the IMT, explained the opposition to the Tribunal thus:.
The assumptions underlying the Charter of the United Nations, the Statute of the International Court of Justice, and the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal are far removed from the positivistic assumptions which greatly influenced the thought of international jurists in the nineteenth century. Consequently, the activities of those institutions have frequently been vigorously criticized by positivistic jurists How could the Nuremberg Tribunal have obtained jurisdiction to find Germany guilty of aggression, when Germany had not consented to the Tribunal?
How could the law, first explicitly accepted in the Nuremberg Charter of , have bound the defendants in the trial when they committed the acts for which they were indicted years earlier? I don't mind what he does to the Nazis, but I hate to see the pretense that he is running a court and proceeding according to common law. This is a little too sanctimonious a fraud to meet my old-fashioned ideas", Stone wrote. Jackson, in a letter discussing the weaknesses of the trial, in October told U.
President Harry S. Truman that the Allies themselves "have done or are doing some of the very things we are prosecuting the Germans for. The French are so violating the Geneva Convention in the treatment of prisoners of war that our command is taking back prisoners sent to them. We are prosecuting plunder and our Allies are practising it. We say aggressive war is a crime and one of our allies asserts sovereignty over the Baltic States based on no title except conquest. Douglas charged that the Allies were guilty of "substituting power for principle" at Nuremberg. Deputy Chief Counsel Abraham Pomerantz resigned in protest at the low caliber of the judges assigned to try the industrial war criminals such as those at I.
Robert A. Taft , a US Senate Majority Leader from Ohio and son of William Howard Taft , criticized the Nuremberg Trials for trying Nazi war criminals under ex post facto laws which resulted in his failure to secure the Republican nomination for President in A number of Germans who agreed with the idea of punishment for war crimes admitted trepidation concerning the trials.
A contemporary German jurist said:. That the defendants at Nuremberg were held responsible, condemned and punished, will seem to most of us initially as a kind of historical justice. However, no one who takes the question of guilt seriously, above all no responsibly thoughtful jurist, will be content with this sensibility nor should they be allowed to be.
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Justice is not served when the guilty parties are punished in any old way, even if this seems appropriate with regard to their measure of guilt. Justice is only served when the guilty are punished in a way that carefully and conscientiously considers their criminal errors according to the provisions of valid law under the jurisdiction of a legally appointed judge. The Tribunal shall not require proof of facts of common knowledge but shall take judicial notice thereof.
It shall also take judicial notice of official governmental documents and reports of the United [Allied] Nations, including acts and documents of the committees set up in the various allied countries for the investigation of war crimes, and the records and findings of military and other Tribunals of any of the United [Allied] Nations. Attractive as this argument may sound in theory, it ignores the fact that it runs counter to the administration of law in every country. If it were true then no spy could be given a legal trial, because his case is always heard by judges representing the enemy country.
Yet no one has ever argued that in such cases it was necessary to call on neutral judges. The prisoner has the right to demand that his judges shall be fair, but not that they shall be neutral. As Lord Wright has pointed out, the same principle is applicable to ordinary criminal law because 'a burglar cannot complain that he is being tried by a jury of honest citizens'. One criticism that was made of the IMT was that some treaties were not binding on the Axis powers because they were not signatories. This was addressed in the judgment relating to war crimes and crimes against humanity, [avalon 26] which contains an expansion of customary law: " the [Hague] Convention expressly stated that it was an attempt 'to revise the general laws and customs of war,' which it thus recognised to be then existing, but by these rules laid down in the Convention were recognised by all civilised nations, and were regarded as being declaratory of the laws and customs of war which are referred to in Article 6 b of the [London] Charter.
In order to address the complex linguistic issues that clouded over the proceedings, interpretation and translation departments had to be established. However, it was feared that consecutive interpretation would slow down the proceedings significantly. What is therefore unique in both the Nuremberg tribunals and history of the interpretation profession was the introduction of an entirely new technique, extempore simultaneous interpretation.
This technique of interpretation requires the interpreter to listen to a speaker in a source or passive language and orally translate that speech into another language in real time, that is, simultaneously, through headsets and microphones.
Interpreters were split into four sections, one for each official language, with three interpreters per section working from the other three languages into the fourth their mother tongue. For instance, the English booth consisted of three interpreters, one working from German into English, one working from French, and one from Russian, etc.
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Defendants who did not speak any of the four official languages were provided with consecutive court interpreters. Some of the languages heard over the course of the proceedings included Yiddish , Hungarian , Czech , Ukrainian , and Polish. The equipment used to establish this system was provided by IBM , and included an elaborate setup of cables which were hooked up to headsets and single earphones directly from the four interpreting booths often referred to as "the aquarium".
Four channels existed for each working language, as well as a root channel for the proceedings without interpretation. Switching of channels was controlled by a setup at each table in which the listener merely had to turn a dial in order to switch between languages. People tripping over the floor-laid cables often led to the headsets getting disconnected, with several hours at a time sometimes being taken in order to repair the problem and continue on with the trials.
Interpreters were recruited and examined by the respective countries in which the official languages were spoken: the United States, United Kingdom, France, the Soviet Union, Germany, Switzerland , and Austria , as well as in special cases Belgium and the Netherlands. Many were former translators , army personnel, and linguists , some were experienced consecutive interpreters,  others were ordinary individuals and even recent secondary school-graduates who led international lives in multilingual environments.
It was, and still is believed [ citation needed ] , that the qualities that made the best interpreters were not just a perfect understanding of two or more languages, but more importantly a broad sense of culture, encyclopedic knowledge, inquisitiveness, as well as a naturally calm disposition. With the simultaneous technique being extremely new, interpreters practically trained themselves, but many could not handle the pressure or the psychological strain. Many often had to be replaced, many returned to the translation department, and many left. Serious doubts were given as to whether interpretation provided a fair trial for the defendants, particularly because of fears of mistranslation and errors made on transcripts.
The translation department had to also deal with the overwhelming problem of being understaffed and overburdened with an influx of documents that could not be kept up with. More often than not, interpreters were stuck in a session without having proper documents in front of them and were relied upon to do sight translation or double translation of texts, causing further problems and extensive criticism.
Other problems that arose included complaints from lawyers and other legal professionals with regard to questioning and cross-examination. Legal professionals were most often appalled at the slower speed at which they had to conduct their task because of the extended time required for interpreters to render an interpretation properly. Also, a number of interpreters protested the idea of using vulgar language, especially if it referred to Jews or the conditions of the Nazi concentration camps. Yet, despite the extensive trial and error, without the interpretation system the trials would not have been possible and in turn revolutionized the way multilingual issues were addressed in tribunals and conferences.
A number of the interpreters following the trials were immediately recruited into the newly formed United Nations , while others returned to their ordinary lives, pursued other careers, or worked freelance. Outside the boundaries of the trials, many interpreters continued their positions on weekends interpreting for dinners, private meetings between judges, and excursions between delegates.
Others worked as investigators or editors, or aided the translation department when they could, often using it as an opportunity to sharpen their skills and to correct poor interpretations on transcripts before they were available for public record.
Today, all major international organizations, as well as any conference or government that uses more than one official language , uses extempore simultaneous interpretation. Notable bodies include the Parliament of Kosovo with three official languages, the Parliament of Canada with two official languages, the Parliament of South Africa with eleven official languages, the European Union with twenty-four official languages, and the United Nations with six official working languages. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
For the Soviet film about the trials, see Nuremberg Trials film. Jews on selection ramp at Auschwitz, May Early policies. Allied response.
Nuremberg Trials: When The World Tried To Bring The Nazis To Justice
Joint Declaration by Members of the United Nations. Holocaust survivors Deportations of French Jews to death camps. Functionalism versus intentionalism. Days of remembrance Memorials and museums Righteous Among the Nations. There were, I suppose, three possible courses: to let the atrocities which had been committed go unpunished; to put the perpetrators to death or punish them by executive action; or to try them.
Which was it to be? Was it possible to let such atrocities go unpunished? It will be remembered that after the First World War alleged criminals were handed over to be tried by Germany , and what a farce that was! The majority got off and such sentences as were inflicted were derisory and were soon remitted. The Indictment shall include full particulars specifying in detail the charges against the Defendants. A copy of the Indictment and of all the documents lodged with the Indictment, translated into a language which he understands, shall be furnished to the Defendant at reasonable time before the Trial.
Play media. Main article: Nuremberg executions. You'll see. A few years from now the lawyers of the world will condemn this trial. You can't have a trial without law. The trials were conducted under their own rules of evidence. The Charter of the International Military Tribunal permitted the use of normally inadmissible "evidence". Article 19 specified that "The Tribunal shall not be bound by technical rules of evidence Article 21 of the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal IMT Charter stipulated: The Tribunal shall not require proof of facts of common knowledge but shall take judicial notice thereof.
The defendants were not allowed to appeal or affect the selection of judges. Goodhart , Professor at Oxford , opposed the view that, because the judges were appointed by the victors, the Tribunal was not impartial and could not be regarded as a court in the true sense. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! Subscribe for fascinating stories connecting the past to the present. Nuremberg was chosen as the location for the trials because of its symbolic value.
The Bavarian city that spawned the rise of the Third Reich by hosting massive Nazi Party propaganda rallies in the s and s was deemed by the victorious Allies to be a fitting place to Oscar Wilde was a playwright, novelist, poet and celebrity in late nineteenth century London. His flamboyant dress, cutting wit and eccentric lifestyle often put him at odds with the social norms of Victorian England. Wilde, a homosexual, was put on trial for gross indecency in Heinrich Himmler , a The Scopes Trial, also known as the Scopes Monkey Trial, was the prosecution of science teacher John Scopes for teaching evolution in a Tennessee public school, which a recent bill had made illegal.
The trial featured two of the best-known orators of the era, William The infamous Salem witch trials began during the spring of , after a group of young girls in Salem Village, Massachusetts, claimed to be possessed by the devil and accused several local women of witchcraft. As a wave of hysteria spread throughout colonial Massachusetts, a Since , the word has taken on a new and horrible meaning: the mass murder of some 6 million European Jews as well Benito Mussolini was an Italian political leader who became the fascist dictator of Italy from to Originally a revolutionary socialist, he forged the paramilitary fascist movement in and became prime minister in On August 23, —shortly before World War II broke out in Europe—enemies Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union surprised the world by signing the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, in which the two countries agreed to take no military action against each other for the This Day In History.
The Road to the Nuremberg Trials Shortly after Adolf Hitler came to power as chancellor of Germany in , he and his Nazi government began implementing policies designed to persecute German-Jewish people and other perceived enemies of the Nazi state.
The Nuremberg Trials. Adolf Eichmann on Trial. Chicago Seven Trial. Oscar Wilde Trial Oscar Wilde was a playwright, novelist, poet and celebrity in late nineteenth century London. Just as it is settled that X is guilty of murder if, in order that he and Y, who are adrift on a raft, may not die of starvation, he kills their companion, Z; so a German soldier is guilty of murder if, in order that he may not be shot for disobedience and his wife tortured in a concentration camp, he shoots a Catholic priest.
This is hard doctrine, but the law cannot recognize as an absolute excuse for a killing that the killer was acting under compulsion--for such a recognition not only would leave the structure of society at the mercy of criminals of sufficient ruthlessness, but also would place the cornerstone of justice on the quicksand of self-interest. Of course, there always remains the fundamental separateness of the problem of guilt and the problem of treatment.
And no one would expect a tribunal to mete out its severest penalty to a defendant who yielded to wrongdoing only out of fear of loss of his life or his family's. In addition to "war crimes," the indictment, in Count 4, charges the defendants with "crimes against humanity. It is alleged in paragraph X of the indictment that these wrongs "constituted violations of international conventions, of internal penal laws, of the general principles of criminal law as derived from the criminal law of all civilized nations and were involved in and part of a systematic course of conduct.
I shall pass for the time being the last phrase just quoted, for that is merely a way of saying that the Nazis persecuted the minority German groups to harden the German will for aggression and to develop an issue that would divide other countries. In other words, the legal validity of that phrase rests upon the same considerations as the validity of the charge of "crimes against the peace.
I consider first the legal validity of the other phrases upon which is premised the charge that murdering, torturing, and persecuting German Jews and other non-Nazis from to as well as from to are crimes. And before I say anything of the legal question, let me make it abundantly clear that as a human being I regard these murders, tortures, and persecutions as being morally quite as repugnant and loathsome as the murders, tortures, and persecutions of the civilian and military personnel of American and Allied nations.
In paragraph X of the indictment, reference is first made to "international conventions. I know of no such convention. And I, therefore, conclude that when the draftsman of the indictment used the phrase "international conventions" he was using the words loosely and almost analogously with the other phrase, "general principles of criminal law as derived from the criminal law of all civilized nations.
If that were the only basis for the trial and punishment of those who murdered or tortured German citizens, it would be a basis that would not satisfy most lawyers. It would resemble the universally condemned Nazi law of June 28, , which provided: "Any person who commits an act which the law declares to punishable or which is deserving of penalty according to the fundamental conceptions of the penal law and sound popular feeling, shall be punished.
The feeling against a law evolved after the commission of an offense is deeply rooted. Demosthenes and Cicero knew the evil of retroactive laws: philosophers as diverse as Hobbes and Locke declared their hostility to it; and virtually every constitutional government has some prohibition of ex post facto legislation, often in the very words of Magna Carta, or Article I of the United States Constitution, or Article 8 of the French Declaration of Rights. The antagonism to ex post facto laws is not based on a lawyer's prejudice encased in a Latin maxim.
It rests on the political truth that if a law can be created after an offense, then power is to that extent absolute and arbitrary. To allow retroactive legislation is to disparage the principle of constitutional limitation. It is to abandon what is usually regarded as one of the essential values at the core of our democratic faith.
But, fortunately, so far as concerns murders of German minorities, the indictment was not required to invent new law. The indictment specifically mentions "internal penal laws. Under universally accepted principles of law, an occupying belligerent power may and indeed often does establish its own tribunals to administer the domestic law of the occupied country for the inhabitants. Thus if Adolph killed Berthold before the American Army occupied Munich, it would be normal for the United States government to set up a military tribunal to try and punish Adolph.
But suppose Adolph raised as a defense the contention that he was acting pursuant to orders form superiors which were the law of Germany. If that defense were raised, and if we assume contrary to what some German jurists tell us that in Germany there were on the statute books pertinent exculpatory laws, nonetheless under well-known principles of German law, going back to the middle Ages and differing from current Anglo-American theories, the superior order could be disregarded by a court applying German law, on the ground that it was so repugnant to "natural law" as to be void.
That is, perhaps a German tribunal or one applying German law can disregard an obviously outrageous statute or executive order as offensive to natural law just as the Supreme Court of the United States can disregard a statute or executive order as offensive to the United States Constitution. But further suppose that Adolph raised as a defense the point that the wrong was so old as to be barred by some statute of limitations.
If there is such a statute in Germany, the limitation may be set aside without involving any violation of the ex post facto principle. As our own Supreme Court has pointed out, to set aside a statue of limitation is not to create a new offense. I turn now to Count 2 of the indictment, which charges "crimes against peace. It alleges that the defendants participated "in the planning, preparation, initiation and waging of wars of aggression, which were also wars in violation of international treaties, agreements and assurances.
This charge is attacked in many quarters on the ground it rests on ex post facto law. The reply has been that in the last generation there has accumulated a mounting body of international sentiment which indicates that wars of aggression are wrong and that a killing by a person acting on behalf of an aggressor power is not an excusable homicide.
Reference is made not only to the Briand-Kellogg Pact of August 27, , but to deliberations of the League of Nations in and subsequent years--all of which are said to show an increasing awareness of a new standard of conduct. Specific treaties outlawing wars of aggression are cited. And, having regard to the manner by which all early criminal law evolves and the manner by which international law grows, it is claimed that now it is unlawful to wage an aggressive war and it is criminal to aid in preparing for such a war, whether by political, military, financial, or industrial means.
One difficulty with that reply is that the body of growing custom to which reference is made is custom directed at sovereign states, not at individuals. There is no convention or treaty which places obligations explicitly upon an individual not to aid in waging an aggressive war. Thus, from the point of view of the individual, the charge of a "crime against peace" appears in one aspect like a retroactive law. At the time he acted, almost all informed jurists would have told him that individuals who engaged in aggressive war were not in the legal sense criminals. Another difficulty is the possible bias of the Tribunal in connection with Count 2.
Unlike the crimes in Counts 3 and 4, Count 2 charges a political crime. The crime which is asserted is tried not before a dispassionate neutral bench, but before the very persons alleged to be victims. There is not even one neutral sitting beside them.
And what is most serious is that there is doubt as to the sincerity of our belief that all wars of aggression are crimes. A question may be raised whether the United Nations are prepared to submit to scrutiny the attack of Russia on Poland, or on Finland or the American encouragement to the Russians to break their treaty with Japan.
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Every one of these actions may have been proper, but we hardly admit that they are subject to international judgment. These considerations make the second count of the Nuremberg indictment look to be of uncertain foundation and uncertain limits. To some the count may appear as nothing more than the ancient rule that the vanquished are at the mercy of the victor. To others it may appear as the mere declaration of an always latent doctrine that the leaders of a nation are subject to outside judgment as to their motives in waging war.
The other feature of the Nuremberg indictment is Count 1, charging a "conspiracy. In international as well as in national law there may be for almost any crime what the older lawyers would have called principal offenders and accessories.
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