Top 10 Facts About the Nuremberg Trials
Following the conclusion of the Second World War, the chaos unto which the European continent had been thrown six years earlier with the Nazi German invasion of Poland and the commencement of a series of international institution altering actions, was fully realised. With the suicide of the German dictator Adolf Hitler and his adopted nation’s subsequent surrender, there was much scepticism with regards to the best way to reinstate normality throughout the shattered lands that had played host to the fierce warfare. While they had been united in bringing about the downfall of Hitler and his fascist ideals, the major Allied powers found little else they could agree upon. One contingency which had been planned for however was the treatment of those at the forefront of the Nazi party, whether on a political, economic, social or military level. In 1943, still a couple of years before the wars end, leaders from the UK (Winston Churchill), US (Franklin D. Roosevelt) and USSR (Josef Stalin) signed the Moscow Declaration, a pivotal piece of legislation which guaranteed that each of the prime Axis powers (Germany, Italy, Japan) would be held fully accountable for the atrocities committed both up until that point, and beyond. Once the war had ended, the Allies were able to act quickly as a result of this agreement, with the infamous Nuremberg Trials occurring just months after Germany’s surrender.
10. There Were Four Primary Charges
Despite the obviousness of the many heinous crimes committed by Nazi party officials during the war, the whole point of Nuremberg was to bring the indicted up on accurate charges and in turn gain a conviction in a legitimate manner. As a result of this, the prosecution council carefully selected the nature of their investigation in order to ensure maximum potential conviction. Eventually, four main charges were agreed upon, namely Conspiracy, Crimes Against Peace, War Crimes and Crime Against Humanity (genocide).
9. The Trials Changed The Nature of War Crime Law
Previous to Nuremberg, there had been little in the way of lawful obligation when it came to times of war, with the pressures and nature of warfare itself held as a substantial excuse in courts of law for centuries previous. While there had been an attempt to indict leaders after the First World War, this largely failed. The Nuremberg Trials brought about a new age of international law in the sense that they provided the accused with the right to an objective trial- complete with full counsel. Nuremberg was in many ways the first war crimes trial to operate on an ‘innocent until proven guilty’ basis.
8. They Would Have Taken Place in Berlin
Following the fall of the Nazi regime, it would only seem fitting that the subsequent trials intended to bring those highest ranking in said regime were held in the German capital, Berlin. However, as a result of the intensive fighting which had enveloped the city during the last few weeks of the war, what with the invasion of the million-strong Red Army, little remained of the city but a few piles of smoking rubble. Consequently, there were no prisons suitable for holding the accused for any prolonged length of time and so the city of Nuremberg, located in the Nazi homeland of Bavaria, southern Germany no less, was chosen in Berlins stead.
7. Nuremberg Was a Place of Significance Amongst Nazi’s
An advantage of holding the trials in the city of Nuremberg, aside from there being buildings which were still standing, was the significance of the city with the Nazi party itself. Located, as I mentioned, in Bavaria- the city, and indeed the entire state, played host to annual party rallies and was regarded as a the heartland of Nazi ideals. This association in turn further helped to push international interest in the trials themselves, which was an objective held paramount from the offset. Though the Russians had insisted on the trials taking place in Berlin, a city which they had pretty much taken on their own, they eventually gave way to the idea that Nuremberg may be a worthy second choice.
6. Herman Goering Committed Suicide During the Trials
Considered one of the highest ranking Nazi officials there were, Herman Goering was the only one of a proposed ‘top three’ to be brought to trial at Nuremberg. With both Adolf Hitler and Josef Goebbels dead through suicide, Goering soon decided to follow suit- killing himself via consumption of poison on October 15th, 1946. Before he had managed to do so however, he was put before the judges several times, though killed himself before a presumably similar sentence was able to be passed.
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