On 1st November, 1943, Cordell Hull (USA), Anthony Eden (Britain) and Vyacheslav Molotov (Soviet Union) signed in Moscow a declaration that warned that the Allies were determined to bring to justice those "German officers and men and members of the Nazi Party who have been responsible for atrocities, massacres and executions."
In May 1945, Winston Churchill, Harry S. Truman, Joseph Stalin and Charles De Gaulle agreed that an international military tribunal should try the leaders of Nazi Germany for war crimes. It was decided to charge the men and women on four counts: crimes against peace (planning and making war); war crimes (responsibility for crimes during war); crimes against humanity (racial persecution) and conspiracy to commit other crimes.
The tribunal's judges included Frances Biddle (USA), Norman Birkett (Britain), Robert Falco (France), Geoffrey Lawrence (Britain), John Parker (USA), Roman Rudenko (Soviet Union) and Henry Donnedieu de Vabres (France). Several Nazi leaders such as Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels were dead while Martin Bormann and Heinrich Mueller had not been captured. The list of 23 defendants included Hermann Goering, Wilhelm Frick, Hans Frank, Rudolf Hess, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Alfred Rosenberg, Albert Speer, Julius Streicher, Alfred Jodl, Fritz Saukel, Robert Ley, Erich Raeder, Wilhelm Keitel, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Hjalmar Schacht, Karl Doenitz, Franz von Papen, Constantin von Neurath and Joachim von Ribbentrop.
Robert Ley and Hermann Goering both committed suicide during the trial. Michael R. Marrus the author of The Nuremberg War Crimes Trial 1945-46 (1997) has pointed out: "How much did the defendants know about the crimes against humanity, about the murders in the east, about the final solution, the concentration camps, or Auschwitz?" Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the head of the vast Main Office for Reich Security - the vast SS police apparatus - said he did not know of the final solution before 1943. "Immediately after receiving knowledge of this fact I fought, just as I had done previously, not only against the final solution, but also against this type of treatment of the Jewish problem.... I protested to Hitler and the next day to Himmler. I did not only draw their attention to my personal attitude and my completely different conception which I had brought over from Austria and to my humanitarian qualms, but immediately from the first day, I concluded practically every one of my situation reports right to the very end by saying that there was no hostile power that would negotiate with a Reich which had burdened itself with this guilt." Chiefly thanks to his intervention, Kaitenbrunner ventured, the persecution of Jews ended in October 1944.
Telford Taylor, prosecuting counsel, argued that: "In the sterilization experiments conducted by the defendants at Auschwitz, Ravensbrueck, and other concentration camps, the destructive nature of the Nazi medical program comes out most forcibly. The Nazis were searching for methods of extermination, both by murder and sterilization, of large population groups by the most scientific and least conspicuous means. They were developing a new branch of medical science which would give them the scientific tools for the planning and practice of genocide. The primary purpose was to discover an inexpensive, unobtrusive, and rapid method of sterilization which could be used to wipe out Russians, Poles, Jews, and other people. Surgical sterilization was thought to be too slow and expensive to be used on a mass scale. A method to bring about an unnoticed sterilization was thought desirable."
Hans Frank was one of the defendants who accepted his guilt in these war crimes. "Having lived through the five months of this trial, and particularly after having heard the testimony of, the witness Hoess, my conscience does not allow me to throw the responsibility solely on these minor people. I myself have never installed an extermination camp for Jews, or promoted the existence of such camps; but if Adolf Hitler personally has laid that dreadful responsibility on his people, then it is mine too, for we have fought against Jewry for years; and we have indulged in the most horrible utterances.... A thousand years will pass and still this guilt of Germany will not have been erased." However, Wilhelm Frick, refused to accept any responsibility for the crimes: "As far as the charge against me is concerned I have a clear conscience. My whole life was service to people and the Fatherland. By the fulfillment of my legal and moral duty I think I have earned punishment just as little as the tens of thousands of dutiful German officials who have now been imprisoned only because they carried out their duties."
Alfred Thoma, who defended Alfred Rosenberg argued that he did use terms such as the "extermination of Jewry." However, he added: "Exaggerated expressions were always part of the National Socialist weapons of propaganda. A Hitler speech was hardly imaginable without insults to his internal or external political opponents, or without threats of extermination. Every one of Hitler's speeches was echoed a million times by Goebbels down to the last speaker of the Party in a small country inn. The same sentences and words which Hitler had used were repeated, and not only in all the political speeches, but in the German press as well, in all the editorials and essays, until, weeks or months later, a new speech was given which brought about a new echo of a similar kind. Rosenberg was no exception. He repeated, as everyone did... Apparently, like Hitler's other supporters, he gave as much or as little thought to the fact that in reality none of those phrases were clear but that they had a sinister double meaning and, while they might have meant real expulsion, they might also have implied the physical annihilation and murder of the Jews."
Wilhelm Frick, Hans Frank, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Walther Funk, Fritz Saukel, Alfred Rosenberg, Julius Streicher, Alfred Jodl, Wilhelm Keitel, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Karl Brandt, Viktor Brack and Joachim von Ribbentrop were found guilty and executed on 16th October, 1946. Rudolf Hess, Erich Raeder, were sentenced to life imprisonment and Albert Speer to 25 years. Karl Doenitz , Walther Funk, Franz von Papen, Alfried Krupp, Friedrich Flick and Constantin von Neurath were also found guilty and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. At other war crime trials Josef Kramer and Irma Grese were also executed.
In January, 1951, John McCloy, the US High Commissioner for Germany, announced that Alfried Krupp and eight members of his board of directors who had been convicted with him, were to be released. Krupt had been convicted of plundering occupied territories and being responsible for the barbaric treatment of prisoners of war and concentration camp inmates. Documents showed that Krupp initiated the request for slave labour and signed detailed contracts with the SS, giving them responsibility for inflicting punishment on the workers. His property, valued at around 45 million, and his numerous companies were also restored to him.
Others that McCloy decided to free included Friedrich Flick, one of the main financial supporters of Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). During the Second World War Flick became extremely wealthy by using 48,000 slave labourers from SS concentration camps in his various industrial enterprises. It is estimated that 80 per cent of these workers died as a result of the way they were treated during the war. His property was restored to him and like Krupp became one of the richest men in Germany.
Others serving life-imprisonment at Spandau Prison were also released: Erich Raeder (1955), Karl Doenitz (1956), Friedrich Flick (1957) and Albert Speer (1966). However, the Soviet Union and Britain refused to release Rudolf Hess.
Those German officers and men and members of the Nazi Party who have been responsible for atrocities, massacres and executions will be sent back to the countries in which their abominable deeds were done in order that they may be judged and punished according to the laws of these liberated countries. The above declaration is without prejudice to the case of the major war criminals whose offences have no particular geographical localization and who will be punished by the joint decision of the governments of the allies.
I say "yes;" and the reason why I say "yes" is because, having lived through the five months of this trial, and particularly after having heard the testimony of, the witness Hoess, my conscience does not allow me to throw the responsibility solely on these minor people. I myself have never installed an extermination camp for Jews, or promoted the existence of such camps; but if Adolf Hitler personally has laid that dreadful responsibility on his people, then it is mine too, for we have fought against Jewry for years; and we have indulged in the most horrible utterances. My own diary bears witness against me. Therefore, it is no more than my duty to answer your question in this connection with "yes." A thousand years will pass and still this guilt of Germany will not have been erased.
The British Empire with its Allies has twice, within the space of 25 years, been victorious in wars which have been forced upon it, but it is precisely because we realize that victory is not enough, that might is not necessarily right, that lasting peace and the rule of international law is not to be secured by the strong arm alone, that the British nation is taking part in this Trial. There are those who would perhaps say that these wretched men should have been dealt with summarily without trial by "executive action"; that their power for evil broken, they should have been swept aside into oblivion without this elaborate and careful investigation into the part which they played in bringing this war about: Vae Victis! Let them pay the penalty of defeat. But that was not the view of the British Government. Not so would the rule of law be raised and strengthened on the international as well as upon the municipal plane; not so would future generations realize that right is not always on the side of the big battalions; not so would the world be made aware that the waging of aggressive war is not only a dangerous venture but a criminal one.
Human memory is very short. Apologists for defeated nations are sometimes able to play upon the sympathy and magnanimity of their Victors, so that the true facts, never authoritatively recorded, become obscured and forgotten. One has only to recall the circumstances following upon the last World War to see the dangers to which, in the absence of any authoritative judicial pronouncement a tolerant or a credulous people is exposed. With the passage of time the former tend to discount, perhaps because of their very horror, the stories of aggression and atrocity that may be handed down; and the latter, the credulous, misled by perhaps fanatical and perhaps dishonest propagandists, come to believe that it was not they but their opponents who were guilty of that which they would themselves condemn. And so we believe that this Tribunal, acting, as we know it will act notwithstanding its appointment by the victorious powers, with complete and judicial objectivity, will provide a contemporary touchstone and an authoritative and impartial record to which future historians may turn for truth, and future politicians for warning. From this record shall future generations know not only what our generation suffered, but also that our suffering was the result of crimes, crimes against the laws of peoples which the peoples of the world upheld and will continue in the future to uphold by international co-operation, not based merely on military alliances, but grounded, and firmly grounded, in the rule of law.
Nor, though this procedure and this Indictment of individuals may be novel, is there anything new in the principles which by this prosecution we seek to enforce. Ineffective though, alas, the sanctions proved and showed to be, the nations of the world had, as it will be my purpose in addressing the Tribunal to show, sought to make aggressive war an international crime, and although previous tradition has sought to punish states rather than individuals, it is both logical and right that, if the act of waging war is itself an offense against international law, those individuals who shared personal responsibility for bringing such wars about should answer personally for the course into which they led their states. Again, individual war crimes have long been recognized by international law as triable by the courts of those states whose nationals have been outraged, at least so long as a state of war persists. It would be illogical in the extreme if those who, although they may not with their own hands have committed individual crimes, were responsible for systematic breaches of the laws of war affecting the nationals of many states should escape for that reason. So also in regard to Crimes against Humanity. The rights of humanitarian intervention on behalf of the rights of man, trampled upon by a state in a manner shocking the sense of mankind, has long been considered to form part of the recognized law of nations. Here too the Charter merely develops a pre-existing principle. If murder rapine, and robbery are indictable under the ordinary municipal laws of our countries, shall those who differ from the common criminal only by the extent and systematic nature of their offenses escape accusation?
It is, as I shall show, the view of the British Government that in these matters, this Tribunal will be applying to individuals, not the law of the victor, but the accepted principles of international usage in a way which will, if anything can, promote and fortify the rule of international law and safeguard the future peace and security of this war-stricken world.
In the sterilization experiments conducted by the defendants at Auschwitz, Ravensbrueck, and other concentration camps, the destructive nature of the Nazi medical program comes out most forcibly. The Nazis were searching for methods of extermination, both by murder and sterilization, of large population groups by the most scientific and least conspicuous means. They were developing a new branch of medical science which would give them the scientific tools for the planning and practice of genocide. The primary purpose was to discover an inexpensive, unobtrusive, and rapid method of sterilization which could be used to wipe out Russians, Poles, Jews, and other people. Surgical sterilization was thought to be too slow and expensive to be used on a mass scale. A method to bring about an unnoticed sterilization was thought desirable.
The Court refers to the killing of a French general by the way of reprisal for the killing of a German general in similar circumstances. The Court knew very well that I had made representations against this plan with Hitler, that the legal department of the Foreign Office had been called in on my behalf, and had always advocated the observance of the Geneva Convention in all circumstances.
The allegation that I played an important part in the 'final solution' (a term which I heard mentioned here in Nuremberg for the first time) of the Jewish problem is also a free invention. The opposite is true. Several witnesses have made detailed statements on these matters.
I have always advocated the observance of the Geneva Convention, I was instrumental in the unshackling of British prisoners of war, I prevented the branding of Russian prisoners, and I intervened decisively against the plan to shoot 10,000 enemy prisoner-of-war, mainly airmen, after the air raid on Dresden.
We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.
"Why, of course, the people don't want war," Goering shrugged. "Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship."
"There is one difference," I pointed out. "In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars."
"Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."
I heard the name Maidanek for the first time in 1944 from foreign reports. But for years there had been contradictory rumors about the camp near Lublin, or in the Lublin District, if I may express myself in such a general way. Governor Zerner once told me, I believe already in 1941, that the SS intended to build a large concentration camp near Lublin and had applied for large quantities of building materials, etc. At that time I instructed State Secretary Báhler to investigate the matter immediately, and I was told, and I also received a report in writing from Reidisfáhrer SS Himmler, that he had to build a large camp required by the Waffen-SS to manufacture clothes, footwear, and underwear in large SS owned workshops. This camp went under the name of "SS Works," or something similar.
Now, I have to say I was in a position to get information, whereas the witnesses who have testified so far have said under oath that in the circles around the Fuhrer nothing was known about all these things. We out there were more independent, and I heard quite a lot through enemy broadcasts and enemy and neutral papers. In answer to my repeated questions as to what happened to the Jews who were deported, I was always told they were to be sent to the East, to be assembled, and put to work there. But, the stench seemed to penetrate the walls, and therefore I persisted in my investigations as to what was going on. Once a report came to me that there was something going on near Belcec. I went to Belcec the next day. Globocznik showed me an enormous ditch which he was having made as a protective wall and on which many thousands of workers, apparently Jews, were engaged. I spoke to some of them, asked them where they came from, how long they had been there, and he told me, that is, Globocznik, "They are working here now, and when they are through - they come from the Reich, or somewhere from France - they will be sent further east." I did not make any further inquiries in that same area.
The rumor, however, that the Jews were being killed in the manner which is now known to the entire world would not be silenced. When I expressed the wish to visit the SS workshop near Lublin, in order to get some idea of the value of the work that was being done, I was told that special permission from Heinrich Himmler was required.
I asked Heinrich Himmler for this special permission. He said that he would urge me not to go to the camp. Again some time passed. On 7 February 1944 I succeeded in being received by Adolf Hitler personally - I might add that throughout the war he received me three times only. In the presence of Bormann I put the question to him: "My Fuhrer, rumors about the extermination of the Jews will not be silenced. They are heard everywhere. No one is allowed in anywhere. Once I paid a surprise visit to Auschwitz in order to see the camp, but I was told that there was an epidemic in the camp and my car was diverted before I got there. Tell me, My Fuhrer, is there anything in it?" The Fuhrer said, "You can very well imagine that there are executions going on of insurgents. Apart from that I do not know anything. Why don't you speak to Heinrich Himmler about it?" And I said, "Well, Himmler made a speech to us in Krakow and declared in front of all the people whom I had officially called to the meeting that these rumors about the systematic extermination of the Jews were false; the Jews were merely being brought to the East." Thereupon the Fuhrer said, '"Then you must believe that.
As far as the charge against me is concerned I have a clear conscience. My whole life was service to people and the Fatherland. By the fulfillment of my legal and moral duty I think I have earned punishment just as little as the tens of thousands of dutiful German officials who have now been imprisoned only because they carried out their duties.
Hess was an active supporter of the preparations for war. His signature established military service. He expressed a desire for peace and advocated international economic cooperation. But none knew better than Hess how determined Hitler was to realize his ambitions, how fanatical and violent a man he was.
With him in his flight to England, Hess carried certain peace proposals which he alleged Hitler was prepared to accept. It is significant to note that this flight took place only ten days after the date on which Hitler fixed, 22 June 1941, as the time for attacking the Soviet Union.
That Hess acts in an abnormal manner, suffers from the loss of memory, and has mentally deteriorated during the Trial, may be true. But there is nothing to show that he does not realize the nature of the charges against him, or is incapable of defending himself. There is no suggestion that Hess was not completely sane when the acts charged against him were committed. Defendant Rudolf Hess, the court sentences you to imprisonment for life.
There was some contrition at Nuremberg, although few noteworthy instances. Hans Frank, once determined to rid the Generalgouvernement of Jews, handed over to the Americans his voluminous diary of the days when he ruled in Krakow and claimed in prison to have committed himself anew to Catholicism. "A thousand years will pass and still Germany's guilt will not have been erased," he told the court."' Walther Funk, president of the Reichsbank, accused of having received deposits of gold taken from the teeth of gassed Jewish victims, was singularly unimpressive-"a broken heap of flesh," wrote Norman Birkett in his diary, "half-asleep during most of the days, apathetic and listless, and raising blinking eyes to the bright lights installed in the Court for the benefit of the cinematograph operators." Testifying about his pretrial interrogation, in which he had broken into tears, Funk told his attorney that he had just been released from the hospital at the time.
The Zyklon-B crystals that killed the victims in the first place were furnished by two German firms which had acquired the patent from I. G. Farben. These were Tesch and Stabenow of Hamburg, and Degesch of Dessau, the former supplying two tons of the cyanide crystals a month and the latter three quarters of a ton. The bills of lading for the deliveries showed up at Nuremberg.
The directors of both concerns contended that they had sold their product merely for fumigation purposes and were unaware that lethal use had been made/of it, but this defence did not hold up. Letters were found from Tesch and Stabenow offering not only to supply the gas crystals but also the ventilating and heating equipment for extermination chambers. Besides, the inimitable Hoess, who once he started 'to confess went the limit, testified that the directors of the Tesch company could not have helped knowing how their product was being used since they furnished enough to exterminate a couple of million people. A British military court was convinced of this at the trial of the two partners, Bruno Tesch and Karl Weinbacher, who were sentenced to death in 1946 and hanged. The director of the second firm, Dr Gerhard Peters of Degesch of Dessau, got off more lightly. A German court sentenced him to five years' imprisonment.
Before the postwar trials in Germany it had been generally believed that the mass killings were exclusively the work of a relatively few fanatical S.S. leaders. But the records of the courts leave no doubt of the complicity of a number of German businessmen, not only the Krupps and the directors of the I. G. Farben chemical trust but smaller entrepreneurs who outwardly must have seemed to be the most prosaic and decent of men, pillars - like good business men everywhere - of their communities.
How many hapless innocent people - mostly Jews but including a fairly large number of others, especially Russian prisoners of war - were slaughtered at the one camp of Auschwitz? The exact number will never be known. Hoess himself in his affidavit gave an estimate of 2,500,000 victims executed and exterminated by gassing and burning, and at least another half million who succumbed to starvation and disease, making a total of about 3,000,000. Later at his own trial in Warsaw he reduced the figure to 1,135,000. The Soviet government, which investigated the camp after it was overrun by the Red Army in January 1945, put the figure at four million.
I looked towards the dock. In two rows often they sat: Goring, reduced to wearing a plain, ill-fitting grey uniform - no medals now - alert and attentive, vigorously nodding his head in agreement or shaking it in denial; Hess, with his pale pinched face; von Ribbentrop, always busy writing notes; Keitel and Jodi, the soldiers, staring silently and sullenly ahead; Schacht, the businessman, whose relationship with the Nazis had been more turbulent, and who had distaste etched into his face at having to sit in public with such unpleasant people; von Papen and von Neurath, politicians both but still the diplomats, polished and immaculate. These all stood out. But how unimpressive were Seyss-Inquart, who had betrayed Austria and ruled occupied Holland; Rosenberg and Fritsche, the propagandists; and von Schirach, formerly a fanatical and dangerous young zealot, but now a visibly broken man. For a time, the whole free world had quaked before these men. Ultimately, however, they had brought not glory, but ruin and misery, to their own land and its people. We had lived in their shadow for a decade, but now history was free to deliver a final verdict upon them.
When the court adjourned for a quarter of an hour, I saw the Nazi leaders arguing heatedly among themselves about the evidence they had heard: evidence which had been gathered from every corner of Europe, from the Chancelleries and concentration camps, from the occupied countries and from Germany itself, of how the Nazis plunged the world into war, led Germany to its undoing and brought themselves, at last, into the dock in that Court House in Nuremberg.
While I was in court, Field Marshal von Paulus, who had commanded the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad, was produced by the Russians as a witness for the prosecution. Tall and, by now, slightly stooping, he told in a quiet voice the story of the attack on Russia; of how it had been planned, the orders given for the treatment of the Russian people and, finally, of the defeat and capture of his army. He was examined by members of all the prosecuting teams. I felt particularly proud of the skill with which the British team, led by David Maxwell Fyfe, later Lord Kilmuir, did its job, and we all watched the faces in the dock as the hideous tale unfolded. I thought of all the plans of aggression and domination that had been revealed; of the horrors of the concentration camps - of the shrunken heads of strangled Poles and the tattooed human skins on lampshades that I had seen among the exhibits in a room outside - and forced labour; of the thousands of displaced people from every European country who were still scattered across the continent searching desperately for a home; and of those makeshift graves that we had left behind us as we moved up from Normandy to the Baltic. My mind went further back, to the evening of 3 September 1939, when Neville Chamberlain had broadcast to the nation and warned, 'It is the evil things that we shall be fighting against - brute force, bad faith, injustice, oppression and persecution - and against them I am certain that right will prevail.'
I have loved my German people and my fatherland with a warm heart. I have done my duty by the laws of my people and I am sorry my people were led this time by men who were not soldiers and that crimes were committed of which I had no knowledge.
Hans Frank was next in the parade of death. He was the only one of the condemned to enter the chamber with a smile on his countenance.
Although nervous and swallowing frequently, this man, who was converted to Roman Catholicism after his arrest, gave the appearance of being relieved at the prospect of atoning for his evil deeds.
He answered to his name quietly and when asked for any last statement, he replied in a low voice that was almost a whisper, "I am thankful for the kind treatment during my captivity and I ask God to accept me with mercy."
The sixth man to leave his prison cell and walk with handcuffed wrists to the death house was 69-year-old Wilhelm Frick. He entered the execution chamber at 2.05 a.m., six minutes after Rosenberg had been pronounced dead. He seemed the least steady of any so far and stumbled on the thirteenth step of the gallows. His only words were, "Long live eternal Germany," before he was hooded and dropped through the trap.
Ernst Kaltenbrunner entered the execution chamber at 1.36 a.m., wearing a sweater beneath his blue double-breasted coat. With his lean haggard face furrowed by old duelling scars, this terrible successor to Reinhard Heydrich had a frightening look as he glanced around the room.
He wet his lips apparently in nervousness as he turned to mount the gallows, but he walked steadily. This was the man, one of whose agents - a man named Rudolf Hoess - confessed at a trial that under Kaltenbrunner's orders he gassed 3 million human beings at the Auschwitz concentration camp!
As the black hood was raised over his head Kaltenbrunner, still speaking in a low voice, used a German phrase which translated means, "Germany, good luck."