Memorium Nuremberg Trials: Anniversary of the verdicts

Images: Miren Hurtado
Source: Memorium Nürnberger Prozesse

The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated.”
US chief prosecutor, Robert H. Jackson, 21 November 1945

2012_10_01_Memorium Nuremberg Trials - Anniversary of the Verdicts_Memorium Nuremberg Trials

After the Nazis’ regime of terror, the Nuremberg Trials saw, for the first time in history, heads of state answering for war crimes and crimes against humanity. On 20 November 1945 the trial of the International Military Tribunal against leading representatives of the Nazi regime began. It lasted 218 days. After lengthy readings of documents, interrogations, witnesses and prosecutors, on 30 September 1946 the evidence against the defendants and the criminal organisations, the NSDAP leadership corps, the Gestapo, the Security Service and the SS, was summarised and assessed. Today marks the 66th anniversary of the final verdicts; three acquittals, twelve times death by hanging (in absentia the case of Bormann), three life sentences and four long-term prison sentences. The Nuremberg Trials and the Nuremberg Principles gave rise to come to terms with those crimes and to develop an international criminal law.

2012_10_01_Memorium Nuremberg Trials - Anniversary of the Verdicts_Nuremberg's Palace of Justice
Venue of the Trials and main entrance of the exhibition: Nuremberg’s Palace of Justice.

The Memorium Nuremberg Trials, which was opened in 2010, is a municipal exhibition in the location where the International Military Tribunal’s trial of the main Nazi war criminals was held. It provides comprehensive information, historical documentation and future-oriented education. The documentation gives a vivid description of the history leading up to this international trial, of its course and its repercussions.

2012_10_01_Memorium Nuremberg Trials - Anniversary of the Verdicts_Court Room 600
Court Room 600 today. After the opening of the Memorium Nuremberg Trials, the court room continues to be a venue for major criminal trials. It is situated in the eastern wing of the Palace of Justice.

The decision to hold the first trial of the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg was taken during the London Conference in August 1945. It was mainly based on infrastructural reasons, as the Palace of Justice with its 530 offices and 80 court rooms provided enough space for the staff recruited from several countries. The Memorium Nuremberg Trials exhibition gives access to the world-famous Court Room 600, the venue where the trials took place.

2012_10_01_Memorium Nuremberg Trials - Anniversary of the Verdicts_The Defendants´ Corner
The Defendants’ Corner where the most important representatives of the Nazi party were put on trial.

Despite high-profile figures from the Third Reich (i.e. Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler) committed suicide, the allied powers managed to get hold of the main representatives of the Nazi party and the most important military and political leaders of the Third Reich. Each defendant had the option of either defending himself or using the help of a lawyer. Before the final verdicts, the defendants were given the opportunity of addressing the court and the public in their final statements.

2012_10_01_Memorium Nuremberg Trials - Anniversary of the Verdicts_US-Army Box
US-army box for the transport of evidence documents for the Nuremberg Trials.

In the course of the Nuremberg trials more than 280 witnesses were interrogated. It was largely due to the statements of Holocaust survivors that the world found out about the atrocity of the crimes committed during the Third Reich. In addition to witness statements, the evidence presented by the prosecution also comprised film footage from the concentration camps and several documents.

The Nuremberg trials and the proclamation of the verdicts arouse enormous media interest worldwide. The back wall of the court room was taken out to provide space for media representatives. The trials were perceived as a major media event and widely covered and reported in the press, newsreels, and on the radio.

2012_10_01_Memorium Nuremberg Trials - Anniversary of the Verdicts_Süddeutsche Zeitung 1 October 1946
Special edition of Süddeutsche Zeitung, 1 October 1946.

2012_10_01_Memorium Nuremberg Trials - Anniversary of the Verdicts_Journalist Erika Mann

Inspiration: Actress, writer and journalist Erika Mann was one of the few women who covered the trials for the London Evening Standard. She was the daughter of German writer and Nobel prize winner Thomas Man.

It was the Nuremberg trials of leading representatives of the Nazi regime which led to Nuremberg’s reputation in the 20th century. Furthermore, there seems to be a direct path from the Nuremberg trials to the current International Criminal Court. On 1 July 2002, the International Criminal Court began its work in The Hague. It is an independent court on the basis of the international agreement ‘Rome Statute’ of 1998. With the definition of ‘aggressive war’ as an element of crime, adopted in 2010, the last gap in the development of International Criminal Law, stretching from the Nuremberg trials to the International Criminal Court, was finally closed.

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