Friday, November 20, 2015

November 20, 1945 – The Nuremberg Trials begin. Leading Nazis involved in the Holocaust and war crimes during World War II were tried before the International Military Tribunal, which finished its proceedings on October 1, 1946.

Initially, the Allies had proposed deindustrialization of Nazi Germany and breaking it up into several smaller nations. But Britain began arguing against the plan as soon as it was created, feeling that this would create a power vaccum in central Europe which would lead to Soviet Russian domination of the continent. The "agrarian plan" was dropped, and "deNazification" and punishment of the top Nazi civil and military leaders endorsed in its stead.

The legal basis for the trial was established by the London Charter, signed by the Allies on August 8, 1945, and limited the trial to "punishment of the major war criminals of the European Axis countries". Nazi Germany agreed to submit to the trials as part of the Instrument of Surrender of Germany. (This meant the Nuremberg court did not have jurisdiction over crimes that took place before the outbreak of war on September 1, 1939.)

Nuremberg was chosen for the site of the trial because it was the ceremonial birthplace of the Nazi Party. It had hosted the party's annual propaganda rallies as well as the Reichstag session that passed the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 that legalized antisemitism in Germany. Additionally, the Palace of Justice in Nuremburg was large and undamaged, and a large prison was nearby.

About 200 defendants were tried at Nuremberg. Another 1,600 others were tried under the traditional channels of military justice.

A second set of Nuremberg trials of lesser war criminals was conducted from 1946 to 1949. These included the Doctors' Trial, the Judges' Trial, the SS Officers' Trial, the Flick company trial, the I.G. Farben trial, the Hostages' Trial (12 German generals of the Balkan Campaign), the racial cleansing trial, the Einsatzgruppen Trial (SS mobile death squads), the Krupp trial, the Reich ministers' trial, and the High Command Trial.

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