An Overview of the Nuremberg Trials- Prosecuting Nazis and War Criminals
Following the invasion of German-occupied Europe and the end of World War II, the Allied Powers were charged with prosecuting all of the Nazi war criminals that had been involved in the Holocaust. Because of the nature of this unprecedented event, it became a very big deal. The Nuremberg Trials were one of the first cases of prosecution after the war, and involved the trials of many of the highest ranking SS and Nazi Party members. Of course, the challenge of figuring out what ‘justice’ was for crimes like those committed during the Holocaust, presented many issues.
Ultimately, during the Nuremberg Trials, men were either sentenced to death by hanging or life in prison. Most war criminals were sentenced to the former. Some evaded capture, committed suicide before being executed, and there were some who even committed suicide before they could even be captured. The idea was mostly to follow the Nazi belief of death before dishonor, which translates loosely to the fact that these evil men didn’t want to face up to the crimes they had committed. Because of the power of the Nazi Party, in fact, many of these men didn’t even realize that they had actually done anything wrong.
The Nuremberg Trials began on October 18, 1945, when 22 leaders were brought to face their punishment. An international panel was comprised to decide the fate of these men and determine whether they were guilty. Three of the original leaders tried at this event were acquitted. Three more were sentenced to life in prison, four were sentenced to 10-20 years, and 12 were sentenced to death. There was a surprising gap in some convictions simply due to a lack of evidence in most cases.
Popular and well-known Nazi leaders like Hermann Goring, Alfred Rosenberg, and Hans Frank were sentenced to hang during the Nuremberg Trials. Even though these were just the first of the legal proceedings against the Nazi Party members who were captured after World War II, they were some of the most notable because the highest ranking officials were put on trial for their crimes first. These trials will forever be remembered as a part of Holocaust history because they played a large role in holding people accountable for their involvement in the genocide of more than 11 million people during the Second World War. They’re also remembered simply because they were one of the first legal proceedings to take place after Hitler was removed from power.