What are some shocking deaths in history

The Nuremberg Trial

Why a trial?

When the Nuremberg Trials began on November 20, 1945, the three biggest Nazi criminals were already dead: Adolf Hitler, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler and Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels had killed themselves and thus evaded their responsibility. But even without these three men in the dock, the trial made history.

Never before in human history had a victorious nation or alliance tried and tried the loser of a war.

There were three main reasons why the Allies brought the German authorities to trial: First, the Allies showed that they did not blame the German people as a collective for the cruel crimes of Nazi Germany, but rather individual actors.

Second, they wanted to show the Germans, who had just been liberated from a dictatorship, how a democracy works by means of a fair trial.

Thirdly, in the course of the trial, the German people were mercilessly shown the full extent of Hitler's madness and its terrible consequences. Many Germans later said that they only learned of the atrocities committed against Jews and other minorities during the Nuremberg Trials.

Stalin wants to have all the Nazis shot

The plan to bring the responsible National Socialists to justice was established relatively shortly before the start of the Nuremberg Trial and was also not undisputed: The British Prime Minister Winston Churchill wanted to initially declare the Nazi leadership to be "outlaws" and get shot on the spot.

The Soviet dictator Josef Stalin went even further at the Tehran Conference in 1943 and pleaded for the entire German General Staff - he assumed 50,000 men - to be liquidated without trial.

The French were initially not interested in a trial either. They feared that such a person could have exposed accomplices in France.

It was not until June 1945 that Robert H. Jackson, the judge at the US Supreme Court and later chief prosecutor in the Nuremberg trial, succeeded in convincing the other three allies to go to trial.

In the London Agreement of August 8, 1945, the four victorious powers agreed on the basic rules for the trial and for the accused.

In Nuremberg - the city in which Hitler had staged his party rallies - the ugly side of National Socialism was to be shown.

Who should be charged?

The trial in Nuremberg was to be the first in a series of trials against responsible National Socialists. But there were only twelve follow-up lawsuits against doctors, lawyers, members of the SS and police, the military, managers and government officials.

The main trial against 24 major war criminals began on November 20, 1945, almost six months after Germany's surrender.

The Allies had long debated who should be in the dock and who shouldn't. The British, who were already skeptical about the trial, wanted to keep the list of accused as short as possible and only accuse ex-Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, Labor Front Leader Robert Ley and Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy until 1941.

Eventually it was agreed to indict the so-called main war criminals: high-ranking National Socialist ministers, functionaries and military leaders.

Business leaders were also put on the list. The charges brought by Reichsbank President Hjalmar Schacht and CEO Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach were particularly controversial.

To this day, many doubt whether they belonged to the ranks of the other defendants, some of whom had given the order to kill thousands of people.

Three seats in the dock remain empty

The defendants had to answer before the International Military Tribunal on four counts:

1. Conspiracy against world peace

2. Planning, unleashing and conducting a war of aggression

3. Crimes and violations of martial law

4. Crimes against humanity

Robert Ley, leader of the German Labor Front, who was indicted on all four counts, evaded the trial by killing himself in Nuremberg prison at the end of October 1945.

Another chair in the dock remained empty: Martin Bormann, head of the party chancellery of the NSDAP and most recently Hitler's right-hand man, could not be found at the end of the war and was therefore sentenced to death by hanging in absentia.

It was not until 1972 that his body was found by chance during construction work in Berlin, but he probably died in the last days of the war.

And a third prosecution chair was not occupied: that of Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, the chairman of the supervisory board of Krupp AG. With it the German arms industry should be symbolically accused.

The case against Krupp was dropped, however, because he was too ill for a trial. In the end, only 21 defendants sat in court.

Shocking footage

At the beginning of the Nuremberg Trial, none of the defendants was prepared to accept responsibility for the war crimes. All said they were not guilty as charged.

After an impressive opening speech by the American chief prosecutor Robert H. Jackson, who distinguished between those responsible for the National Socialists on the one hand and the majority of the German people on the other, the course of negotiations before the International Military Tribunal turned out to be increasingly lengthy and tough.

This was mainly because the British judge Geoffrey Lawrence ordered three days after the start of the trial that all evidence had to be read out in the courtroom.

The prosecutors also had eyewitnesses testify - and they deliberately showed shocking footage of scenes of violence from the war. Their point, however, was less to serve as evidence.

They were supposed to show the German population, for example through the "Deutsche Wochenschau" in the cinemas, what disaster the Nazis had caused. The recordings of mass shootings, torture and the unbelievably horrific conditions in concentration camps did not leave the accused indifferent either.

The Governor General of Poland, Hans Frank, started crying after a film shot from a concentration camp when prison psychiatrist Gustave M. Gilbert entered his cell:

“We lived like kings and believed in this beast! Don't let anyone tell you they didn't know about anything.

Everyone felt that there were terrible things in this system, even if we didn't know the details. You didn't want to know her. It was just too easy to swim upstairs and think everything was fine. "

In fact, most of the defendants repeatedly stressed that they knew nothing and / or that they only carried out orders. Even Goering, who could be proven otherwise without a doubt, assured that he had condemned the "terrible mass murders in the strongest possible way."

From Nuremberg to The Hague

In the end there were eleven death sentences: in their absence, Bormann, Göring, von Ribbentrop, Rosenberg, Frick, Keitel, Jodl, Kaltenbrunner, Frank, Streicher, Sauckel and Seyß-Inquart. The judgments were carried out on October 15, 1946. Shortly before, Goering had taken his own life with a cyanide capsule that had been hidden until the end.

The former deputy of Hitler, Rudolf Hess, who showed himself to be extremely confused in court and who even the public prosecutor had declared incapable of trial, was sentenced to life in prison.

In 1987, at the age of 93, he committed suicide in the Spandau war crimes prison. Three defendants (Fritzsche, von Papen and Schacht) were acquitted.

It took a long time before a similar process took place again, even if the occasion was not lacking. In 1993 the UN Security Council established a criminal court for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

In 1994 a court was established in Arusha, Tanzania. In 2002 the International War Crimes Tribunal finally started its work in The Hague. It can be described as the irony of history that the US is one of its toughest opponents today while Germany is in favor.