What were the Nuremberg trials?

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The majority of the perpetrators and collaborators were never brought to justice. Many of them returned to the jobs or professions they had left before the war.

Think!

Why do you think so few of the perpetrators punished?

Should all of the perpetrators have been brought to justice and punished?

 

What was the purpose of the Nuremberg trials?

  • Punishment of the perpetrators?

 

  • Investigation into the events of the Holocaust?

 

  • An attempt by the post-war world to learn from the mistakes of the Holocaust?

Despite prosecuting a small proporion of the pereptrators were the Nuremberg trials sucessful?

Crimes against humanity

After World War II, the Allies decided to bring to justice those accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Trials of leading German officials took place between 18 October 1945 and 1 October 1946 in Nuremberg, Germany, before judges representing the Allied powers. These are now known as the Nuremberg Trials.

Twelve of those convicted were sentenced to death, among them Hermann GoeringHans FrankAlfred Rosenberg and Julius Streicher. On the eve of Goering’s execution, he committed suicide in his prison cell. Three other defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment and four to prison terms ranging from 10 to 20 years. Three of the defendants were acquitted.

Following orders?

Many of the defendants had argued that they had been following orders. The judges at the trial ruled that ‘following orders’ was not a legitimate defence for criminal acts.

Never brought to justice

Between December 1946 and April 1949, 12 further trials of high-ranking German officials took place at Nuremberg. Some 177 persons were tried, including many leading physicians, lawyers, judges, government and industrial figures. In addition, some members of the Einsatzgruppen were also tried. Out of this number, only 97 were convicted and sentenced. 

Many more trials were held, the overwhelming majority involving lower-level officials and functionaries. Over the next few years, concentration camp commandants, guards and others who had committed crimes against Jews and others were tried. Camp survivors gave witness testimonies at the trials.