Nuremberg Trials: Sentencing, Trivia, Criminals, And Aftermath

By | October 31, 2019

The road to Nuremberg

The Nuremberg trials of 1946 were some of the most controversial and difficult legal proceedings of the 20th century. Over the course of five years, 13 trials were carried out in Nuremberg, Germany, putting Nazi leaders and high-ranking military officers on the stand as well as German citizens who profited off the war while committing crimes against humanity. Unfortunately, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler committed suicide before he could be brought to justice, meaning that one of the worst war criminals who ever existed never stood trial.

Conducted by an international group of representatives from the United States, the Soviet Union, France, and Great Britain, the Nuremberg trials levied charges against nearly 200 defendants, lasted 10 months, and took more more than 200 court sessions to settle. 

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Source: Tablet

The Allied Forces may have been on the same page during World War II, but following the end of combat, just about everyone disagreed about how to treat war criminals. In 1942, while the war was still raging, Winston Churchill floated the idea of simply capturing high-ranking Nazi officials and putting them to death via firing squad. That didn't jibe with America's belief in due process, so the idea was nixed. Instead, the Allies worked out an unprecedented means of trying international war criminals.

In order to move forward, each country's legal traditions and practices had to be recognized and followed accordingly. On August 8, 1945, the London Charter of the International Military Tribunal (IMT) was established, defining three categories of crime: crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Crimes against peace essentially involve starting a war, while war crimes are what happen when someone violates the rules of engagement in a war. Finally, crimes against humanity include murder, enslavement, or deportation of civilians based on political, religious, or racial grounds. 

Why Nuremberg?

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Source: CNN

The trials could have taken place anywhere, so why set them in Nuremberg, Germany? The Allies had a few reasons for their decision to set this monumental trial in the heart of the formerly Nazi-held territory. Logistically, it just made sense. The Palace of Justice within the city holds the courts and has a large prison area where violators could be held for long periods of time. The Palace was also one of the few structures in the area that had taken on little damage. On top of the necessity of its existence, the Palace of Justice also offered a kind of irony that the Allies simply couldn't pass up. Previously, the city was the site of Nazi rallies and speeches, which made the trials hosted there all the more symbolic.