Sixty years ago today, the International Military Tribunal convened for the first time. Twenty-four high-ranking Nazis were indicted, although only twenty-one appeared in court. (Gustav Krupp was, after a preliminary healing, excluded from the trial because of his health; Martin Bormann was tried and convicted in absentia, and Robert Ley committed suicide.) Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, and Joseph Goebbels, three of the most notorious Nazi leaders, were not included in the indictment. Each committed suicide before the war ended.
View inside the courtroom, International Military Tribunal, 1945. (Photo from the Truman Library.)
Four charges were included in the indictment: crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and conspiracy to commit the three foregoing crimes. The first day of the trial was taken up with the reading of the indictment. On the second day, defendants entered their pleas and the Court ruled on a motion filed by the defense on November 19.
The preliminary motion of the defense argued, inter alia, that certain charges, including the charge of crimes against peace, constituted ex post facto law. The motion was rejected by the Court.
Judgments in the trials were pronounced by the Court on October 1, 1946. Twelve defendants were sentenced to death, three were acquitted, and the remainder were given prison sentences of varying lengths.
Eleven of the twelve sentenced to death were hanged on October 17, 1946. Hermann Goering escaped hanging by committing suicide. The bodies of the twelve were cremated--at Dachau--and, to discourage the establishment of shrines, their ashes were scattered in the Isar River.
For additional information on the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, see these sites:
- Nuremberg Trials Project (Harvard University Law School)
- The Avalon Project: The Nuremberg War Crimes Trials (Yale Law School)
- Famous World Trials: Nuremberg Trials, 1945-1949 (UMKC School of Law)