The Nuremberg Trials

.. Lead prosecutor for the U.S Robert Jackson began to outline his case starting with Hitler’s rise to power and his propaganda policies. The first witness of the trial was Major Wallis who went into detail of how Hitler and Goebbels used propaganda to impose their doctrine of hate, persecution and ethnic cleansing on the German people. The key part of the trial came when the “Hoszbach document” was presented into evidence. The document outlined the Germany’s plan to take over Eastern Europe. ” ..

To conquer Czechoslovakia and Austria simultaneously .. German politics must reckon in part with its two hateful enemies England and France”. This document was damaging because it proved the United States case that the Nazi party had in fact conspired to conquer Europe long before the outbreak of war. Next for the United Sates was the showing of an atrocity film with depicted German death camps as found by allied troops. The next key witness in the case was General Lahousen who was head of German counter-intelligence. He talked about the concentration camps and the atrocities there. With the United States case finished the British began there case which was short and to the point.

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With the United States bringing up all four counts of the indictments in their case the British case was very short. The first piece of evidence in the British case was letters from Franklin Roosevelt and Chamberlain of England pleading the Germans not to invade Poland and other European countries. The English also put forth documents of planed Nazi aggression that were taken as early as 1934. The French and Russian prosecutions were very similar in the fact that they outlined the death camps, slave labor and the stealing of property/resources. The French prosecution consisted basically of a list of various crimes from the murder of French P.O.W, to the stealing of art and supplies. They only called few witnesses and presented only a list of Nazi theft. The Russians also presented a list of crimes but they showed a very incrementing film of Nazi death camps in Eastern Europe. During the presentation of this film many of the defendants were seeing crying and were very shaken.

With the prosecution case finished the defendants would present their case. Georing would be first. Georing only called two witnesses (not including himself) who were to testify that Georing tried to make peace with allied countries behind von Ribbentrop’s back and that he was unaware of the death camps. Both witnesses under cross from Jackson admitted that Georing did not make a real effort for peace and had infact started the concentration camps as head of the Prussia Police. When Georing testified he did not do much better.

His only real defense was that “I was just a solider obeying my leader.” He was also made to admit that he knew of some of the incidents of extermination “but did not know the extent of them” . The next to take the stand was von Ribbentrop. His defense revolved around the theory that his office was disorganized that when he gave an order it was interpreted and changed “there was constant wrangling over authority, changing orders. The fact that high government officials were always at odds made the entire system a mess.” When he took the stand he did not ad very much to his case saying that many of the treaties he had signed in good faith, but that Hitler had given direct orders to disobey them. When crossed by the British he wilted under pressure of a stack of documents incriminating him. The next to testify was Schacht.

He said, “He simply wanted to make Germany a economic force.” He proved that he did not fallow Hitler by presenting documents indicating his resignation and his being thrown into a labor camp. The only points that were contested were his breaking of the Versailles treaty and his help in re-arming Germany. The last to testify from the group was Albert Speer. He took responsibility for his part in the crimes including slave labor, but added near the end of the war he had tried to assonate Hitler (This had been made public earlier in the trial) to prevent feather damage. He also said that he ignored Hitler’s order to destroy German “If Germany can not win the war then she dose not deserve to survive.” When Speer was crossed he admitted to the extent of the slave labor he had used and admitted that he was unconcerned about the legality of it all.

The next phase in the trial was the moment of truth for all the condemned Nazis. The first verdict was that of Georing. The judge said that from the moment Georing had joined the party he had persecuted Jews, had encouraged Hitler to make war and had stolen treasure from occupied countries. Guilty on all counts, death by hanging. The next verdict was that of von Ribbentrop.

The judge did see his side somewhat but added “it was because Hitler’s policy and plans coincided with his own ideas that Ribbentrop served him so willingly to the end.” Guilty all counts, death by hanging. In the judge’s verdict of Schacht he denounced him but added, “The tribunal has considered the evidence with great care, and comes to the conclusion that this necessary inference (the Nazi party) has not been established beyond a reasonable doubt.” Not guilty. The last verdict was Speer who had thrown his mercy to the court. The judge sympathized with him but also denounced him. Guilty on counts three and four, twenty years impresentment.

What was the legacy of the Nuremberg trials? It was meant to change how wars are fought forever, but did not complete that goal of a permanent tribunal with only one other human rights tribunal since then. The trial is a successes in it self but it’s legacy is a failure. Robert Jackson said what the Nuremberg trial was about best in his closing argument “They have been given the kind of trial which they in the days of their pomp and power, never gave any man .. ” Fairness and a more civilized society. Bibliography Footnotes Legal Issues.


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