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What Happened To The Nuremberg Trials History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

The allies won the war but at a devastating cost; American, British, Russian, and French lives. After the war the allies and all the countries in Europe had a very hard decision, what to do with the losers. The answer came in the form of the Nuremberg Trials. This is a very big point in history because it is the first time that leaders of the losing countries were to be charged with war crimes. The Nuremberg Trials began November 20th 1945 and ended April 13th 1949. The 4 year Nuremberg trials sentenced 18 people to punishments ranging from 10 years to death. This paper also shows how each defendant reacted to their verdict.

The Nazi political party blamed all their political, economic, and any other problems on the allies along with the Jewish population. When Hitler rose to power in the Nazi party, soon after that became the leader of Germany, he used the excuse of their political problems to propel himself to dictator. He claimed that only the “superior” races should be allowed in Germany. The “inferior” races included Gypsies, Freemasons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, along with Jews. Hitler used the expression “Lebensraum” (living space) to justify his invasion of Rhineland in the Czech Republic. Great Britain was angered and met with Hitler to discuss peace. Weeks after the peace discussion Hitler broke the treaty and invaded the rest of the Czech Republic in 1938. The German war machine didn’t stop there they took over many other countries such as Austria also in 1938. Poland put up a little bit of a fight but still ended up in German hands in 1939. Next was Hungary, who fell into Hitler’s grip in 1940. The final country to fall to Germany was France; Paris was lost in 1940. Still with all of this the United States stood by its isolationism and remained neutral. It wasn’t till after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 that the U.S declared war on Japan. Because of the alliance between Germany, Italy and Japan both Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. During the bloody fighting the Nazis not only were ending the lives of other countries men but also there own people. This act of mass killing the “inferior” people in Germany was called the Holocaust. During the Holocaust Jewish people were kicked out of their homes and relocated against their will. They were put into ghettos with other Jewish families. The families lived in horrible conditions and many people died due to lack of fresh water and not enough food. Many families would strip away all of the clothes when someone would die just so the police wouldn’t be able to identify the person and the family would still be able to get his or her rations. With the Americans helping the allies and Russia joining the allies Germany was on the run. Hitler saw only one solution to his “Jewish problem”. He called it the Final Solution. This is when Hitler established “work” camps such as Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen. From 1933 to 1945 the Nazi group established over 20,000 concentration camps for the single purpose of killing the Jewish population. With Germany on the run victory was soon at hand for the allies. Hitler chose to commit suicide instead of being taken. When the allies liberated the concentration camps they knew something had to be done. This is where the Nuremberg Trials come in, to determine the fate of Nazi leaders who had been apart of the Holocaust and the war.

The decision to go ahead with the Nuremberg trials was made at the Yalta conference; this is where they decided to convict the German leaders as war criminals. On May 2nd the allies appointed Robert Jackson as the chief prosecutor. Based on a conference in London in the summer of 1945, Jackson and his associates drew up the London Charter. This Charter classified there to be three categories of crime. The first being traditional war crimes, mistreatment of POW’s. The second category was new, it was crimes against peace, and this was for aggression and conspiracy. . The final type of crime was also new and it was called crimes against humanity, which was against civilians. The charter also set up that positions or orders of superiors was not a valid defense. On November 20th when the trials began, you could tell that this was a “victor’s” trial. The trial was very unfair, the defense was not allowed to access captured documents, or arguments that allies committed similar crimes, also they could not refer to the “injustice” of the Versailles Treaty and finally they couldn’t use the bombing of Dresden as an excuse for bombing London. A total of 18 people were convicted at the first Nuremberg trial, 12 of them were given the death sentence, two given life, two 20 years in prison, one 15 years, and the last given 10 years. Three of the people at the trial were acquitted. The soviets disagreed with the three acquitted and Rudolf Hess only getting a life sentence. While the U.S soldiers believed Alfred Jodl and Karl Doenitz were just defending their country and did not deserve the death sentence and 10 years for the other. There were 12 follow-up trials at Nuremberg, 175 people were convicted. For all of the trials for war crimes during World War II there were a total of 10,000 convicted and 250 death sentences.

Meet the defendants; Karl Doenitz, Hans Frank, Wilhelm Frick, Hans Fritzsche, Walter Funk, Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess, Alfred Jodl, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Wilhelm Keitel, Konstantin Von Neurath, Franz Von Papen, Erich Raeder, Joachim Von Ribbentrop, Alfred Rosenberg, Fritz Sauckel, Hjalmar Schacht, Baldur Von Schirach, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Albert Speer, and Julius Streicher. Karl Doenitz was a German Admiral who commanded the entire German Navy. Doenitz was chosen was Hitler himself to succeed him as Fuhrer. Karl let lose the “Laconia Order” which forbade Germans from saving enemies in sinking ships. He also had a very high IQ of 138. Hans Frank was the Governor/General of Nazi occupied Poland. He was nicknamed the “Jew Butcher of Carcow”. In April of 1930 Frank investigated, for Adolf Hitler, if his Fuhrer had any Jewish blood, there was a 50-50 chance he was a quarter Jewish. Hans IQ was also high at 130. Wilhelm Frick was the Minister of the interior for Germany. Frick claimed not to be an anit-Semite.  He also said he drafted the Nuremberg Laws to protect the purity of German blood. Wilhelm’s IQ was 124. Hans Fritzche was the Head of the Radio Division. This was one of twelve departments in Goebbel’s Propaganda Ministry. Fritzche was one of two defendants turned over to the court by the Russians. Hans had an IQ of 130. Walter Funk was the Minister of Economics and agreed with Himmler to receive gold from the SS. The gold came from Jewish people in concentration camps. Funk had an IQ of 124. Hermann Goering was the Reichsmarschall and Luftwaffe (Air Force) Chief, President of Reichstag and the Director of the “Four Year Plan.” As Director of the Four Year Plan, Goering held the responsibility for the elimination of Jews from political life and for the destruction and takeover of Jewish businesses and property in Germany. Hermann had a very high IQ of 138. Rudolf Hess was the deputy to the Fuhrer and the Nazi party leader. Hess suffered from paranoid delusions, apathy, amnesia, and was diagnosed as having a “hysterical personality.” He remained in England till the end of the war. He held an IQ of 120. Alfred Jodl was the Chief of Operations for the German High Command. Jodl gave the orders for the German army’s attack against Holland, Belgium, Norway, and Poland. He also surrendered for Germany on May 7th, 1945. Jodl disagreed with many of Hitler’s orders. Ernst Kaltenbrunner was the Chief of RSHA and the Chief of Security Police. Kaltenbrunner and the RSHA are responsible for the “Final Solution” to the Jewish problem. Kaltenbrunner believed that fertile German women had a duty to produce babies, and if their husbands couldn’t get them pregnant, other men should be given the job. Wilhelm Keitel was the Chief of Staff for the German High Command. Keitel signed orders authorizing the killing of captured commandos; he also drafted the “Night and Fog” decree. Konstantin Von Neurath was the Minister of Foreign affairs till 1938 then he became the Reich Protector for Bohemia and Moravia. Neurath was the oldest defendant in the Major War Figures Trial at the age of 73. Franz Von Papen was the Reich Chancellor prior to Hitler then he was the Vice Chancellor under Hitler and later he was the ambassador to Turkey. Erich Raeder was the Commander in Chief of the German Navy. Reader broke international law by attacking neutral ships. He was the other defendant turned over by the Russians. Joachim Von Ribbentrop was the Foreign Minister. Ribbentrop plan attacks against Poland and Russia. He also participated in aggressive plans toward the Czech Republic. Alfred Rosenberg was the Chief Nazi Philosopher and Reichminister for the Eastern Occupied Territories. Rosenberg helped plan attacks against Norway. He also arranged for the theft of fine art and furniture from Jewish apartments in Paris. Fritz Sauckel was the Chief of Slave Labor Recruitment. Sauckel’s program resulted in the deportation of five million people for slave labor. Hjalmar Schacht was the Reichsbank President and Minister of Economics before the War. Schacht spent 10 months in a concentration camp because he was assumed to be plotting against Hitler. Baldur Von Schirach was the Hitler Youth leader. Von Schirach subjected German youth to an extensive program of Nazi propaganda and participated in the deporting of Jews from Vienna. Arthur Seyss-Inquart was the Austrian Chancellor, at the time the Reich Commissioner for the Netherlands. Seyss-Inquart suppressed opposition in the Netherlands toward the Nazi political party. Albert Speer was the Reichminister of Armaments and Munitions. Speer transmitted to Sauckel estimates of numbers of slave workers needed, and then sent those workers to various armaments and munitions plants all across German occupied lands. Finally was Julius Streicher who was the anti-Semitic editor of the German paper, Der Sturmer. Streicher was known as the “number one Jew-baiter”. He also set up the boycott of Jewish business in 1935. This is all of the “main” leaders in the first Nuremberg trials. Each of these people held high ranks so they were apart of the first trials.

The judgments on each of these war criminals came swiftly and were followed very strictly. Along with the judgments came reactions and statements from each convicted.

Karl Doenitz served 10 years and then died in 1981.

“Politicians brought the Nazis to power and started the war.  They are the ones who brought about these disgusting crimes, and now we have to sit there in the dock with them and share the blame!” (5/27/46)

Hans Frank was given the death sentence. Frank was seen with a smile as they hanged him at Nuremberg on October 16, 1946.

Before he died Frank said; “Hitler has disgraced Germany for all time!  He betrayed and disgraced the people that loved him!…I will be the first to admit my guilt.” (4/17/46).

Wilhelm Frick was sentenced to hang at Nuremberg.

He said, “Hanging–I didn’t expect anything different….Well, I hope they get it over with fast.” (10/1/46).

Hans Fritzsche was acquitted; he was later tried by a German court and convicted.

He said, “I am entirely overwhelmed–to be set free right here, not even to be sent back to Russia.  That was more than I hoped for.” Walter Funk was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, he was released in 1957 because of bad health. “I signed the laws for the aryanization of Jewish property.  Whether that makes me legally guilty or not, is another matter. But it makes me morally guilty, there is no doubt about that.  I should have listened to my wife at the end.  She said we’d be better off dropping the whole minister business and moving into a three-bedroom flat.” (7/8/46).

Hermann Goering committed suicide the day he was suppose to be hanged.

“The whole conspiracy idea is cockeyed.  We had orders to obey the head of state.  We weren’t a band of criminals meeting in the woods in the dead of night to plan mass murders…The four real conspirators are missing: The Fuhrer, Himmler, Bormann, and Goebbels.”  “The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.”

Rudolf Hess was sentenced to life in prison. Hess remained confused and seemed to be in a daze the rest of his life. He finally committed suicide in 1987 at the elderly age of 93.

“It is just incomprehensible how those things [atrocities] came about…Every genius has the demon in him.  You can’t blame him [Hitler]–it is just in him…It is all very tragic.  But at least I have the satisfaction of knowing that I tried to do something to end the war.” (12/16/45)

Alfred Jodl’s death sentence seemed harsh compared to that of others in similar positions as him. Jodl was hung in Nuremberg on October 16, 1946 just like all of the other death sentences.

“The indictment knocked me on the head.  First of all, I hand no idea at all about 90 per cent of the accusations in it.  The crimes are horrible beyond belief, if they are true.  Secondly, I don’t see how they can fail to recognize a soldier’s obligation to obey orders.  That’s the code I’ve live by all my life.”  (11/1/45)

Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Wilhelm Keitel, Joachim Von Ribbentrop, Alfred Rosenberg, Fritz Sauckel and Arthur Seyess-Inquart were all hung at Nuremberg on October 16, 1946. Konstantin Von Neurath was sentenced to 15 years; he was released in 1954 because of poor health and died 2 years later. Franz von Papen was acquitted. Erich Raeder was sentenced to life in prison and served nine years before being released in 1955. He then died in 1960 at the age of 84. Hjalmar Schacht was found not guilty by the IMT. Later in his life he was convicted by a German court and sentenced to 8 years. Schacht died at the age of 93 in 1970. Baldur Von Schirach was sentenced to 20 years; he was released in 1966 and died in 1974 at the age of 67. Albert Speer served 20 years and wrote two books about his experiences.

Julius Streicher was a very vulgar man and despised by most of the defendants. Streicher was hung at Nuremberg.

Julius Streicher’s final statement:

“The prosecution had asserted that mass killings [of Jews] could not have been possible without Streicher and his Sturmer.  The prosecution neither offered nor submitted any proof of this assertion. . . .

These actions of the leader of the State [Hitler] against the Jews can be explained by the attitude toward the Jewish question, which was thoroughly different from mine.  Hitler wanted to punish the Jews because he held them responsible for unleashing the war and for the bombing of the German population. . . . I repudiate the mass killings . . . in the same way as they are repudiated by every decent German.

Your Honors!  Neither in my capacity as Gauleiter nor as political author have I committed a crime, and I therefore look forward to your judgment with a good conscience.

I have no request to make for myself.  I have one for the German people from whom I come.  Your Honors, fate has given you the power to pronounce any judgment.  Do not pronounce a judgment which would imprint the stamp of dishonor upon the forehead of an entire nation.”

All of the people convicted at the Nuremberg Trials were very highly educated and knew exactly what they were getting into during World War II. Each one of the defendants took there judgments in different ways. Some simply broke down; others seem to stand strong in the face of death. The four years of the Nuremberg Trials were brutal for not only the defendants but for the jury and judge because of the horrible eyewitness accounts of the people who suffered first hand from the Holocaust and other German atrocities. To conclude, the Nuremberg Trials was very fascinating to me and I didn’t truly understand it till the end of this paper.

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