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What Were the Nuremberg Trials?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
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The Nuremberg Trials were a series of international criminal trials held in the German city of Nuremberg in the wake of the Second World War. During the trials, the Allied forces hoped to bring the major architects of the Nazi regime to justice, trying people involved in various levels of the Nazi war machine. Unfortunately, some of those most accountable, including Adolf Hitler, were notably absent; in Hitler's case, because he committed suicide in the last days of the war. Numerous other prominent Nazis evaded capture by fleeing to other countries, and some of these fugitives were indicted decades later after being unmasked, while others were indicted and sentenced in absentia.

As early as 1943, the Allied powers had agreed that some sort of tribunal would need to be held after the war to bring the Nazis to justice. The driving force behind the Nuremberg Trials was the desire to address the heinous war crimes committed by the Nazis, which went far and beyond the norm expected in war, and one of the end results of the Nuremberg Trials was a radical reformation of the international criminal justice system. The trials also played a heavy role in the drafting of documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The city of Nuremberg was chosen as the trial site for several reasons. In the first place, the Nuremberg Palace of Justice was one of the few intact facilities large enough to hold the trials in, and the Americans wanted to see the trials carried out in their sector of occupied Germany. Nuremberg also had symbolic value, as it was a historical Nazi stronghold, and this made it an appealing choice as well.

The trials opened in 1945, with the cases of 22 prominent members of the Nazi regime, 12 of whom were sentenced to death. In the first year of the Nuremberg Trials, the stand was taken by people like Hermann Göring, Rudolf Hess, and Albert Speer. Through 1949, lesser Nazis were brought to justice in the Nuremberg Trials, establishing volumes of case materials which would be used as precedents in future cases of a similar nature.

Britain, France, Russia, and the United States administered the Nuremberg Trials; the equivalent for Japanese war crimes was the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, held in Tokyo, Japan. Some people criticized the legality of the Nuremberg Trials, arguing that they were little more than justice for the victors in the war, as Allied troops were not brought to justice for their own war crimes. Others argued that Allied troops did not exhibit the level of barbarity shown by the Nazis, and that bringing the Nazis to justice for their acts was an important act which needed to take place before Europe could be rebuilt.

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anon320401
Post 21

I'm learning about the Holocaust and doing this project, and one of the questions asks my opinion about the trials and I said that the Nazis deserved to go on trial because they should never have done that to the Jews because they did not do anything to the Nazis or Hitler.

anon164441
Post 12

No british, no russians, no american war criminals were put on trial. The nuremberg trials were the death of justice. If applied today then bush, blair, rumsfeld and cheney would go to the gallows.

anon154710
Post 10

thank you for this summary of the Nuremberg trials. it will help a lot for school.

anon153221
Post 9

Thank you for this website. I couldn't find this anywhere else. But it was a little confusing.

anon152653
Post 8

i still am studying about the trials. I wonder what all the names of the victims and prosecuters were (defendants also)?

anon83976
Post 7

"Any world citizen who trusts in the rule of law can understand the justification for the trials at Nuremberg. The heinous crimes of the Holocaust demanded a public accounting. It is to the everlasting credit to the United States government that these trials proceeded.

If there was a shortcoming it was that too few of these evil perpetrators were brought to account and judgment. There never was real justice, not really, for the victims of the holocaust."

Great last line. This is the truth about the Nuremberg Trials.

anon80815
Post 3

how is it unfair? if anything, they deserved more then what they got. they should have been sentenced to life being tortured for all the people they killed and had tortured and all of that stuff.

anon63551
Post 2

The nuremberg trials seemed to be very unfair. Honestly some things I did not understand. I am studying it right now and am still confused. the information and facts I read leave me wondering; How did it come upon all that tragic mess? What did they do to deserve what happened to them.

screenwriter
Post 1

Any world citizen who trusts in the rule of law can understand the justification for the trials at Nuremberg. The Heinous crimes of the Holocaust demanded a public accounting. It is to the everlasting credit to the United States government that these trials proceeded.

If there was a shortcoming it was that too few of these evil perpetrators were brought to account and judgment. There never was real justice, not really, for the victims of the holocaust.

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