The Nuremberg Trials

Abstract

The Nuremberg Trials mark an important moment in the history of international law. Individual war criminals, prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of Nazi-Germany, were held responsible and indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity and brought to justice before an international tribunal. The Nuremberg Trials provided a legal framework on which thereafter prosecution of international crimes was built and thus laid the foundation for international criminal law to emerge as a modern discipline.

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History has generally designated the International Military Tribunal (IMT) Trial as the Nuremberg Trial, and representations are often accompanied with the now-familiar image: Courtroom 600 in the Nuremberg Palace of Justice, with the chief Nazi defendants, most prominently Hermann Göring, in the dock. Held between 20 November 1945 and 1 October 1946, the Tribunal was given the task of trying 23 of the most important political and military leaders of the Third Reich, though one of the defendants, Martin Bormann, was tried in absentia, while another, Robert Ley, committed suicide within a week of the trial's commencement. Not included were Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, and Joseph Goebbels, all of whom had committed suicide in the spring of 1945, well before the indictment was signed. In his opening statement on 21 November, 1945, Robert H. Jackson, the American chief prosecuror, pronounced the high ambition for this trial,

that the record on which we judge these defendants today is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our lips as well. We must summon such detachment and intellectual integrity to our task that this trial will commend itself to posterity as fulfilling humanity's aspirations to do justice.

The second set of trials of lesser war criminals was conducted from 1946 to 1949 under Control Council Law No. 10 at the U.S. Nuremberg Military Tribunals (NMT), which included the 'Doctors Trial' and the 'Judges' Trial'. Unlike the IMT, these trials - also called the 'subsequent Nuremberg trials' - have suffered from historiographical neglect. But these trials went beyond their famous, more glamorous predecessor, the IMT, with its cast of high ranking Nazis. The NMT, or rather their instigators, aspired to nothing less than indicting the entire Nazi State and analyzing its workings in an authoritative way. Structures rather than individuals, and institutions rather than easily identifiable villains, were to be publicly prosecuted.

From Nuremberg to The Hague

The 'promise of Nuremberg' to punish State crimes, remained unfulfilled for a long time. The first progress came in the 1990s, when the UN Security Security Council established international tribunals to deal with the war crimes committed during the wars in the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. In addition to these tribunals, so-called 'internationalized' or 'hybrid' tribunals have been established in some countries to take action against crimes, such as the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the Special Panels of the Dili District Court. Their legal basis is a mix of national and international law, and they compromise both domestic and foreign prosecutors and judges. In the following decade, on 1 July 2002, the International Criminal Court in The Hague began functioning, the date that the Rome Statute entered into force. The Statute has, however, not been ratified by important major powers, such as the United States of America, Russia, India, China and Israel. And finally, the definition of agressive war, established in 2010, completed the last gap in a development stretching back to the Nuremberg Trials.

Research Guide

This Research Guide is intended as a starting point for research on the Nuremberg Trials. It provides the basic legal materials available in the Peace Palace Library, both in print and electronic format. Handbooks, leading articles, bibliographies, periodicals, serial publications and documents of interest are presented in the Selective Bibliography section. Links to the PPL Catalogue are inserted. The Library's subject heading (keyword) International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg is instrumental for searching through the Catalogue. Special attention is given to our subscriptions on databases, e-journals, e-books and other electronic resources. Finally, this Research Guide features links to relevant websites and other online resources of particular interest.

Librarian’s choice
Publication
Crowe, D.M., Stalin's Soviet Justice: Show Trials, War Crimes Trials, and Nuremberg, 2019
From the 'show' trials of the 1920s and 1930s to the London Conference, this book examines the Soviet role in the Nuremberg IMT trial through the prism of the ideas and practices of earlier Soviet legal history, detailing the evolution of Stalin's ideas about the trail of Nazi war criminals.
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Sources

This eight-volume, 12-book series is known as The Red Series. It is a 'Collection of Documentary Evidence and Guide Materials prepared by the American and British Prosecuting Staffs for Presentation before the International Military Tribunal at Nurnberg, Germany.' The Red Series makes available an indexed sampling of the evidence used to support the charges made against the major Nazi war criminals in their trial at Nuremberg, Germany, 1945-1946.  Volumes I and II serve as an overarching guide for the series. They contain essays that summarize and link together the documents that follow. Volume II also contains a glossary along with short biographies of the German defendants, as well as summaries of the individual cases against them.

In December 1947 Justice Robert H. Jackson submitted a documentary record of negotiations, which he had conducted from June to August 1945 as U.S. representative to the International Conference on Military Trials with representatives of the United Kingdom, France, and the USSR. The purpose of this conference, held in London, was to establish methods of procedure for the prosecution and trial of the major European war criminals, and resulted in the adoption of an agreement and charter of London, signed by representatives of the four conferring powers on August 8, 1945. The Jackson report includes numerous preparatory documents for the 1945 conference: minutes of conference sessions; reports of the drafting committee regarding the agreement and charter; redrafts of the definitions of key terms; and amendments and other proposals submitted by the American, British, French, and Soviet delegations.

This 42-volume series is known as the The Blue Series. It is the official record of the trial of the major civilian and military leaders of Nazi Germany who were accused of war crimes. The accused were: Hermann Wilhelm Göring, Rudolf Hess, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Robert Ley, Wilhelm Keitel, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Alfred Rosenberg, Hans Frank, Wilhelm Frick, Julius Streicher, Walter Funk, Hjalmar Schacht, Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, Karl Dönitz, Erich Raeder, Baldur von Schirach, Fritz Sauckel, Alfred Jodl, Martin Bormann, Franz von Papen, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Albert Speer, Constantin von Neurath, and Hans Fritzsche. The International Military Tribunal, under the jurisdiction of the Allied Control Authority for Germany, directed the publication of this series. The London Agreement of 8 August 1945 established the tribunal, which was composed of one member and an alternate from each of the four Allied countries: the French Republic, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America. English, French, German, and Russian were the languages used throughout the hearings. Documents entered into evidence were reproduced in this series only in the original language, but as the result of the absence of a Soviet editorial staff, none of the Russian-language documents were published. Reprint by William S. Hein Inc, 1995.

This 15-volume series is known as The Green Series. It focuses on the last series of 12 Nuremberg war crimes trials which had begun in October 1946 and were held in pursuant to Allied Control Council Law No. 10. Far from being of concern solely to lawyers, these trials are of special interest to soldiers, historians, students of international law, and others. The defendants in these proceedings, charged with war crimes and other offenses against international law, were prominent figures in Hitler's Germany and included such outstanding diplomats and politicians as the State Secretary of the Foreign Office, Ernst von Weizsaecker, and cabinet ministers von Krosigk and Lammers; military leaders such as Field Marshals von Leeb, List, and von Kuechler; SS leaders such as Ohlendorf, Pohl, and Hildebrandt; industrialists such as Flick, Krupp, and the directors of I.G. Farben; and leading professional men such as the famous physician Gerhard Rose, and the jurist and Acting Minister of Justice, Schlegelberger. In view of the weight of the accusations and the far-flung activities of the defendants, and the extraordinary amount of official contemporaneous German documents introduced in evidence, the records of these trials constitute a major resource of historical material covering many events of the fateful years 1933 (and even earlier) to 1945, in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. The trial proceedings, conducted in English and German, were carried out under the direct authority of the Allied Control Council, Law No. 10, the text of which is included in Volume I of The Green Series. The trials lasted two and a half years, and produced more than 300,000 pages of testimony and evidence. This publication by the United States Government Printing Office is the official abridged record of the individual indictments and judgments, as well as the administrative materials that were common to all the trials. Reprint by William S. Hein Inc, 1997.

Reference works

Selected books and articles

Personal accounts; memoirs

The Doctors' Trial 

Officially United States of America v. Karl Brandt, et al. was the first of 12 trials for war crimes of German doctors that the United States authorities held in their occupation zone in Nuremberg, Germany, after the end of World War II. These trials were held before US military courts, not before the International Military Tribunal, but took place in the same rooms at the Palace of Justice.

Twenty of the twenty-three defendants were medical doctors - Viktor Brack, Rudolf Brandt, and Wolfram Sievers were Nazi officials - and were accused of having been involved in Nazi human experimentation and mass murder under the guise of euthanasia. Josef Mengele, one of the leading Nazi doctors, had evaded capture.

Periodicals and series

 

Bibliographies