International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg. Major Nazi criminals on trial.



At night from 8 to 9 May 1945, in the buildings of the military engineers' school in Karlshorst (a suburb of Berlin) was signed the act of the unconditional surrender of the Nazi Germany. The Second World War, the bloodiest and the most devastating one in the human history, was over. The capital of Germany was taken, its armed forces were beaten, and the leader of the fascist régime, Adolf Hitler, committed suicide. It was the same Hitler, who once instilled the German Nazis with the idea of the world domination, and arrogantly assured them that there would be no repeat of November 1918. The war can last as long as it wants. Germany will never capitulate.

Six years of the bloodiest war, the mankind ever saw, dissipated that design. The human civilization has been saved at a price of the utmost effort and sacrifices of the anti-fascist coalition - USSR, USA, Great Britain and many other countries. Hitler failed to conquer the world, but before his ultimate downfall terrible crimes had been committed, without a parallel in thereto human history.

Those crimes were planned and executed in cold blood as a part of military conquests. Already before the occupation of Czechoslovakia hitlerite generals from the Wehrmacht and SS discussed deployment of so-called "special groups" (Einsatzgruppen), whose task was not only killing their political opponents, but also mass extermination of the Jews, Slavs, and anybody else deemed unworthy living in the "new world order", with the further Germanization of the conquered country. Then came the turn of Poland, Balkans, and finally the Soviet Union. The plan of invasion of the USSR, codenamed Barbaroßa, utilized earlier experiences and put the planned total extermination in the plane of the official state policy.

Long before the invasion of the Soviet Union, Hitler was telling to one of his aides, Hermann Rauschning:

We are obliged to depopulate, as part of our mission of preserving the German population. We shall have to develop a technique of depopulation. If you ask me what I mean by depopulation, I mean the removal of entire racial units. And that is what I intend to carry out - that, roughly, is my task. Nature is cruel: therefore, we, too, must be cruel. If I can send the flower of the German nation into the hell of war without the smallest pity for the spilling of precious German blood, then surely I have the right to remove millions of an inferior race that breeds like vermin. [Rauschning H. (1939).]

In name of that cannibalistic principle there were created such means of mass-murder like poison gases Zyklon-A and Zyklon-B, specialized gassing vans (Gaswagen) constructed for exhaust poisoning, machines for utilization of human bones and skin, and technologies of making fertilizers and soap of the human bodies. There were also companies, which specialized in their development and production, as well as in construction of gas chambers and body-burning ovens for the concentration camps.

Every aggressive war is a heavy crime against peace and humanity. But the history of human conflicts has not known another example of such a concentration of monstrous crimes, and such dimensions of the criminal activity, the Nazism had committed during the Second World War. And yet we must remember, that to Hitler and his fellows the war was just the initial stage to even bigger crimes against the conquered nations.

During the Second World War, in concentration camps and on sites of mass extermination, during so-called "special actions", forced labour, criminal pseudo-scientific experiments, and in many other hideous ways at least twelve million people were put to death. In the years to follow their victory the Nazis planned extermination of further thirty million. Those criminal plans translated into calculations, instructions and executive orders.

But against the will of the maniacs in the imperial chancelleries, the war ended in the total destruction of the hitlerite state and military machine. And there came the time to make justice.

The creation of the International Military Tribunal (IMT) was the duty that the victorious powers owed to the public opinion, which would never reconcile with the idea of letting the criminals go unpunished. Already in October 1943, in the Joint Four-Nation Declaration, the leaders of the anti-fascist coalition warned the culprits of the numerous atrocities that they would be brought back to the scene of their crimes and judged on the spot by the peoples whom they have outraged. Let those who have hitherto not imbrued their hands with innocent blood beware lest they join the ranks of the guilty, for most assuredly the three Allied powers will pursue them to the uttermost ends of the earth and will deliver them to their accusors in order that justice may be done.

Simultaneously, the declaration stated that it was without prejudice to the case of German criminals, whose offenses had no particular geographical localization, and who would be punished by a joint decision of the Allied governments.

The demand to create a special international military tribunal for the trial of major leaders of the criminal Nazi régime was also included into the note of the Soviet government of 14 October 1942 Of the responsibility of the hitlerite aggressors and their accomplices for crimes committed in the occupied countries of Europe. In name of the nations under the German occupation the Soviet government pointed out that

it is obliged to regard the stern punishment of (...) the criminal Hitlerite clique as its immediate duty to the countless widows, orphans, relatives and friends of all those innocent people who have been brutally tortured and killed by order of the criminals named.

The Soviet Government considers it essential to hand over without delay to the courts of the special international tribunal, and to punish according to all the severity of the criminal code, any of the leaders of Fascist Germany who in the course of the war have fallen into the hands of States fighting against Hitlerite Germany.

Also in October 1942 the president of the United States of America, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, expressed the will of the American people to punish Nazi rulers of Germany. He stated unequivocally that the clique of leaders and their cruel accomplices must be mentioned by name, arrested and tried according to the criminal code.

Therefore, the establishment of the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg truly met the predicaments of the peoples to dispense just punishment to the Nazi war criminals, and their leaders' official statements in that matter, made already during the war.

That trial, which was conducted in full agreement with German and international legal procedures, including defendants' right to defence, questioning witnesses and examining the evidence, not only allowed to make thorough and objective cases against indicted individuals, but also was of tremendous importance to the exposure of the criminal nature of the fascism itself.

The fear of justice made some of the criminals to commit suicide. This is how ended up Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Josef Göbbels and Robert Ley. But most of their active and willing accomplices had to answer for their deeds. They were brought in the court, put on trial, and received a well-deserved punishment.

Those were:

Hermann Wilhelm Göring - Reichsmarschall, commander-in-chief of the German air force, commissioner for the Four Years Plan, one of Hitler's closest aides (since 1922), founder and leader of Nazi storm troops (SA), chief organizer of the arson in the buildings of the German parliament and Nazi take-over.

Rudolf Hess - Hitler's deputy for the Nazi party (NSDAP), minister without portfolio, member of the secret council of ministers, and a member of the ministers' council for defence.

Joachim Ribbentrop - Nazi commissioner for the foreign affairs, ambassador in Great Britain, and foreign minister.

Robert Ley - one of the closest leadership of the Nazi party, chief of the Nazi trade-unions (Arbeitsfront).

Wilhelm Keitel - Field-Marshal, chief of staff of the German armed forces (OKW).

Ernst Kaltenbrunner - SS-Obergruppenführer, chief of the imperial security office (RSHA), chief of security police, and one of Himmler's closest aides.

Alfred Rosenberg - Hitler's deputy for "spiritual and ideological" education of the Nazi party, minister for the occupied eastern territories.

Hans Frank - Reichsleiter, Nazi commissioner for justice, president of the German Academy of Laws, minister of justice, and governor general of Poland.

Wilhelm Frick - minister of internal affairs, and protector of Bohemia and Moravia.

Julius Streicher - one of the founders of the Nazi party, Gauleiter of Franconia (1925-1940), publisher of the anti-Semitic newspaper Der Stürmer, ideologist of anti-Semitism, and organizer of anti-Jewish riots.

Walther Funk - deputy minister of propaganda, minister of economics, president of the Imperial Bank, general commissioner for war economics, member of the ministers' council for defence, and a member of the central planning committee.

Hjalmar Schacht - Hitler's adviser for economics and finances.

Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach - a major industrial tycoon, co-owner and executive officer of the Krupp works, and chief organizer of Germany's armaments.

Karl Dönitz - Großadmiral, commander-in-chief of the submarine forces, commander-in-chief of the German navy, and Hitler's successor as the head of state.

Erich Raeder - Großadmiral, commander-in-chief of the German navy (1935-1943), and the chief inspector of the navy.

Baldur von Schirach - founder and leader of the Nazi youth organization (Hitlerjugend), Gauleiter and governor of Vienna.

Fritz SauckelSS-Obergruppenführer, general commissioner for the labour force.

Alfred Jodl - Colonel-General, chief of the operations division of the general staff of the German armed forces.

Franz von Papen - spy and saboteur, chief of the espionage network in the United States of America, co-conspirator in the Nazi take-over, and ambassador in Austria and Turkey.

Arthur Seyss-Inquart - one of the closest Nazi leadership, governor of Austria, deputy governor of Poland, and commissioner for the occupied Netherlands.

Albert Speer - one of the closest Nazi leadership, minister of armaments and munitions, and a member of the central planning committee.

Konstantin von Neurath - minister without portfolio, chairman of the secret council of ministers, member of the ministers' council for defence, and protector of Bohemia and Moravia.

Hans Fritzsche - one of Göbbels' closest aides, chief of the home press division of the ministry of propaganda, and the chief of the radio division.

Martin Bormann - chief of the Nazi party chancellery, and Hitler's secretary and adviser. He was tried and sentenced in absentia.

Moreover, states, which established the International Military Tribunal, filed indictments against criminal organizations, as to the Nazi storm troops (SA), security squads (SS), secret police (Gestapo), security service (SD), Nazi party leadership, Imperial Cabinet, General Staff, and the supreme command of the German armed forces. Hearings in those cases had exposed the complex and all-embracing mechanism the Nazis exploited to perpetrate their deeds. It was the first case in the human history, when a gang of criminals kidnapped a whole country, and made the state an accessory to their crimes.

Barely six months elapsed between the official conclusion of the Second World War and the opening of the International Military Tribunal. During those six months there were established the statute and procedures of the IMT, collected and sorted basic evidence, formulated the indictment, and works of a huge inter-Allied administration was co-ordinated.

Despite of a relatively short time left for investigation, the amount of evidence for prosecution proved huge. The tribunal examined more than 2000 original documents, interrogated about 200 witnesses in the court and hundreds more in subpoena, and admitted 300 thousand written affidavits. A substantial part of the exhibits was retrieved from German state and military archives, captured by the Allied armies, or discovered in various secret hidings.

Dozens of lawyers, representing the USSR, USA, United Kingdom and France, were selected for their outstanding professional merits. Although they came from different legal systems, and had different political views, during the whole trial, with few exceptions, they worked together well, and were concordant in their quest for truth, full and true picture of the hitlerite crimes, and just punishment to their perpetrators.

This unanimity among the lawyers from the countries of the anti-fascist coalition came from the very nature of the acts perpetrated by the criminals brought to the International Military Tribunal, scale, unheard-of cruelty, and inhuman cynicism of their crimes. Truly said Robert Jackson, the Chief United States Prosecutor, and an outstanding American lawyer, in his opening statement:

Our proof will be disgusting and you will say I have robbed you of your sleep. But these are the things which have turned the stomach of the world and set every civilized hand against Nazi Germany.

Germany became one vast torture chamber. Cries of its victims were heard round the world and brought shudders to civilized people everywhere. I am one who received during this war most atrocity tales with suspicion and scepticism. But the proof here will be so overwhelming that I venture to predict not one word I have spoken will be denied. These defendants will only deny personal responsibility or knowledge.

Jackson's words came true. While during the first hearings of the tribunal the defendants were eagerly trying to deny their responsibility, later during the trial they were literally overwhelmed by the evidence. It was impossible to deny those well-documented proofs or testimonies of victims and eye-witnesses. And it is worth remembering those criminals nowadays. The history of their crimes and the disgraceful end goes far beyond their biographies.

The wounds of the war were not healed yet, while the chief prosecutor for the United States said in his opening address:

What makes this inquest significant is that these prisoners represent sinister influences that will lurk in the world long after their bodies have returned to dust. We will show them to be living symbols of racial hatreds, of terrorism and violence, and of the arrogance and cruelty of power. They are symbols of fierce nationalisms and of militarism, of intrigue and war-making which have embroiled Europe generation after generation, crushing its manhood, destroying its homes, and impoverishing its life. They have so identified themselves with the philosophies they conceived and with the forces they directed that any tenderness to them is a victory and an encouragement to all the evils which are attached to their names. Civilization can afford no compromise with the social forces which would gain renewed strength if we deal ambiguously or indecisively with the men in whom those forces now precariously survive.

Nowadays we witness efforts to wrap in silence the principles of Nuremberg tribunal, approved and confirmed as the principles of the international criminal law by the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization. In the Federal Republic of Germany there wee attempts to declare a general amnesty to all Nazi criminals. Dozens of thousands of Nazi criminals never faced justice in West Germany. Quite contrary, many of them occupied high posts in the state administration, Bundeswehr, police, justice system, and NATO structures.

What's more, at least 10,000 Nazi criminals had found refuge in the United States of America in 1948-1952 under the cover of special CIA operations Paperclip and Sunshine.

Eng. Werner von Braun and Gen. Walther Dornberger, responsible for extermination of 20,000 inmates of the concentration camps Dora and Nordhausen, worked in the American aerospatial programmes - Dornberger at Bell Aircraft Corporation and von Braun at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Many years at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) worked SS-Sturmbannführer Emil Augsburg, responsible for deportations of thousands of Poles to the concentration camp Auschwitz, as well as SS-Hauptsturmführer Guido Zimmer and SS-Standartenführer Eugen Dollmann, responsible for mass murders of Italian Jews.

Maj.-Gen. Walther Schreiber, who used to experiment on humans with typhus and gas gangrene, and Maj.-Gen. Kurt Blohme, who used to stage similar criminal experiments with plague vaccine, became American experts for biological warfare. At different times for the American special services worked SS-Hauptsturmführer Alois Brunner and Gestapo Captain Klaus Barbie, both guilty of war crimes committed in France; Dr. Wilhelm Höttl, the executioner of Hungarian Jews, Nazi spy General Reinhard Gehlen, and the notorious Nazi criminal, SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann. And a former Nazi Josef Luns was at some time the secretary general of the NATO.

Hungarian Laszlo Pasztor, responsible for deportation of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz, in 1972 was appointed the chairman of the National Republican Heritage Groups Council. He used his office to promote other fascists, like Nicolas Nazarenko, a former SS officer responsible for war crimes in Romania, Radi Slavoff, another SS officer with the history of war crimes in Yugoslavia, Florian Galdau, member of the Romanian Iron Guard, or Walter Melianovich, an SS executioner from Byelorussia. They all were closely tied with the Bush family: Pasztor was a close associate of George Bush; Slavoff was the leader of the organization Bulgarians for Bush, Galdau - Romanians for Bush, Melianovich - Ukrainians for Bush. In 1978 they blocked in so-called Coalition for Peace Through Strength, to support Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign.

In the memory of the witnesses to the Nuremberg trial forever remained the interrogation of the former commandant of the concentration camp Auschwitz, SS-Obersturmbannführer Rudolf Höß. When asked about extermination of children in the gas chambers, he confirmed the fact, and stated without remorse: Children of tender years were invariably exterminated since by reason of their youth they were unable to work. (...) Very frequently women would hide their children under the clothes but of course when we found them we would send the children in to be exterminated. Höß admitted that at the time, when he was the camp commandant (between May 1940 and December 1943), in the gas chambers of Auschwitz were exterminated at least 2.5 million people, and at least half a million succumbed to starvation and diseases. The data of the Chief Commission for the Investigation of Hitlerite Crimes in Poland show, that the estimated total number of the people exterminated in Auschwitz exceeds 4.5 million.

In its judgement the International Military Tribunal had stated that the Nazi concentration camps became places of organized and systematic murder, where millions of people were destroyed. Those murders were perpetrated with incredible blasphemous mockery of the victims. Often living people would become objects of merciless experiments, including such as high altitude experiments in pressure chambers, experiments to determine how long human beings could survive in freezing water, experiments with poison bullets, experiments with contagious diseases, and experiments dealing with sterilization of men and women by X-rays and other methods.

It is necessary to bring to the light these examples from the materials of the Nuremberg Tribunal in view of persistent attempts to consign them to oblivion. The German system of justice alone is in possession of the data on 5,000 former Auschwitz guards, who had found asylum in the United States. None of them was ever punished. Quite contrary, there have been attempts to apply to them, and to many more thousands of their accomplices, the principles of statutory limitations.

In Germany itself those attempts were masked under hypocritical assurances that the federal government was committed to punish Nazi crimes and restore the trampled law. Yet, the deceit did not succeed. The German public opinion took it as a blatant challenge to the moral principles. The reaction was swift, resolute and unanimous. In the struggle against the blasphemous project to extend statutory limitations of the Article 67 of the German Penal Code of 1871 to the Nazi crimes against humanity had united honest people of all walks of life, regardless of their professions, social status, and political or religious beliefs. Under the pressure of the public opinion, many prominent German lawyers went public with denunciation of the policy of the federal Ministry of Justice.

Nevertheless, ideologists of revanchism are still trying to libel the Nuremberg Trial, consign to oblivion and put in doubt Nazi atrocities, and portray the work of the International Military Tribunal and its verdict as a revenge of the winners on the conquered. Mendacious argumentation of the Göbbels propaganda nowadays has become the official doctrine of German and American media, trying to chastise hitlerite executioners and murderers. That policy falls on fertile ground of poor education and popularity of pseudo-historical writings in the style a certain Viktor Suvorov. Therefore, it is very important that present-day generations of people, born and brought up after the war, know the truth about the atrocities, perpetrated by the hitlerite criminals, and the just punishment they had got.

The Nuremberg Tribunal had judged the hitlerite aggression, and passed the severe verdict to the major Nazi criminals. It also deemed criminal those institutions and organizations, which the Nazis had created to exercise their criminal policy. In this plane it is regretful, that the German General Staff and Supreme Command were exonerated of indictment of being criminal organizations. But at least this concern was elaborated in the Dissenting Opinion of the Soviet judge. Yet even regardless of the dissenting opinions among the judges in such important issues, the International Tribunal had stated in its judgement that

They have been responsible in large measure for the miseries and suffering that have fallen on millions of men, women and children. They have been a disgrace to the honourable profession of arms. Without their military guidance the aggressive ambitions of Hitler and his fellow Nazis would have been academic and sterile. Although they were not a group falling within the words of the Charter they were certainly a ruthless military caste. The contemporary German militarism flourished briefly with its recent ally, National Socialism, as well as or better than it had in the generations of the past.

Many of these men have made a mockery of the soldier's oath of obedience to military orders. When it suits their defence they say they had to obey; when confronted with Hitler's brutal crimes, which are shown to have been within their general knowledge, they say they disobeyed. The truth is they actively participated in all these crimes, or sat silent and acquiescent, witnessing the commission of crimes on a scale larger and more shocking than the world has ever had the misfortune to know.

One must not forget this conclusion of the Nuremberg tribunal nowadays, when many others, who disgraced the honourable profession of arms, occupied high posts in the Bundeswehr, Pentagon and NATO.

Hitlerism was born out of the dreams of revenge for the world domination. It was able to came to power, consolidate and commit numerous atrocities thanks to the encouragement and direct support from international industrial and financial monopolies. Just like any form of fascism, it was a brutal, terrorist dictatorship of the extreme right political forces. German industrialists and financial tycoons - Gustav Krupp von Bolhen und Halbach, Albert Vögler, Paul Warburg, Kurt von Schröder, Georg von Schnitzler, et. al. stood invisibly behind the backs of the Nazi criminals. Those untouchable industrial and financial czars put the whole of the industrial potential of German at the disposal of the hitlerite aggression. They had their share in the most hideous crimes that hitlerites had perpetrated: slaying tens of thousands of humans in villainous experiments, bringing millions of enslaved people to complete physical and emotional exhaustion, and their consecutive extermination in gas chambers, generously supplied with poisonous materials by omnipotent monopolies like I. G. Farbenindustrie.

Hitlerism was born out of the criminal deeds of emissaries of the German and international monopolistic capital in the Nazi government, like Hjalmar Schacht. The International Military Tribunal by majority of votes - three against one - acquitted Schacht on the grounds of his "opposition" to the hitlerite régime. At the time of the collapse of the hitlerism, in view of inevitable retribution for perpetrated crimes, many of those, who brought hitlerism to power, started claiming their "opposition" stance. Some, like Schacht, Speer and the conspirators in Hitler's headquarters, did it earlier; others - like Göring or Himmler - did it later. But the truth is that before the final agony took place, individuals like Schacht et al. faithfully served their Führer and his régime. Schacht for his services was decorated with so-called Order of Blood (Blutorden) - the golden NDSAP badge awarded for exceptional merits to the Nazi régime. He also had been honoured by an official, monumental NSDAP biographic publication, which not without reason mentioned that he had helped the Nazi party more then if he would have as its official member.

The trial of the major Nazi criminals has for ever remained the fearsome warning to all war-mongers. It also had a great influence on the development of the international law, establishing the International Criminal Court, and became the model for later  trials on war crimes and crimes against humanity.