Nuremberg Trials Held by the United States of America Under
Control Council Law No.10

Einsatzgruppen Index Page

The "Medical Case"
The "Justice Case"
SS Trials
The "Pohl Case"
The "RuSHA Case"
The "Einsatzgruppen Case"
The German Industry Trials
The "Farben Case"
The "Flick Case"
The "Krupp Case"
The Military Trials
The "Hostages Case"
The "High Command Case"
The Government Trials
The "Milch Case"
The "Ministries" or "Wilhelmstrasse"

In the American Zone twelve trials were held under the provisions of Control Council Law No.10 at Nuremberg.  The tribunals were set up by the Military Governor, pursuant to Military Government Ordinance No.7, promulgated on 25 October 1946.  One hundred and eighty-five persons were indicted, the last judgment of these tribunals being delivered on 14 April 1949. [Source: Taylor, T. "The Nuremberg War Crimes Trials." International Conciliation, No.450, April 1949.]  These were not the only trials held by the Americans.  The Judge Advocates Department of the United States Army established military tribunals to try Germans who were accused of perpetrating crimes against American troops (the Malmedy massacre, being one instance) and aviators, and those who had been responsible for the management of concentration camps that were liberated by US military personnel, namely Dachau, Buchenwald and Flossenburg.  These trials were held at Dachau.

Telford Taylor, who was Chief of Counsel for the trials held under Control Council Law No.10 at Nuremberg, notes that decisions appertaining to who should be indicted were based on whether or not substantial evidence was available suggesting the perpetration of "criminal conduct under accepted principles of international law."  These Nuremberg trials, therefore, were "carried out for the punishment of crime, not for the punishment of political or other beliefs, however mistaken or vicious. Consequently, in the selection of defendants, the question of whether a given individual was or was not a "Nazi" in a political or party sense" was immaterial. 

The Trials

The "Medical Case" (United States v. Karl Brandt et al)

The defendants were physicians who were, variously,  charged with responsibility for the carrying out of medical experiments on others without consent, most frequently on inmates in concentration and extermination camps, or other total institutions, and involvement in the implementation of the euthanasia programme which sought to eliminate "life unworthy of life" in the form of the mentally and physically disabled. Physicians carried out experiments to ascertain how long individuals immersed in freezing water could survive, how well they functioned at pressure levels existing at high altitudes, the viability of various sterilization techniques, the development of vaccines for a variety of diseases, including jaundice, malaria, diphtheria and typhus, which involved directly injecting subjects with infectious agents, and experimentation with novel surgical techniques.  With few, if any exceptions,   all of this was undertaken without any consideration of the pain and suffering to be endured by subjects. 

In addition to these "experiments," Karl Brandt and three other defendants were accused of participation in the so-called "euthanasia" program, which "involved the systematic and secret execution of the aged, insane, incurably ill, or deformed children and other persons, by gas, lethal injections, and diverse other means in nursing homes, hospitals and asylums.  Such persons were regarded as `useless eaters' and a burden to the German war machine. [Source: ibid, p.282]

In addition to Brandt their were 22 defendants,  including Lt.General Siegfried Handloser (Chief of Medical Services of the Wehrmacht), Karl Gebhardt (Chief Surgeon of the SS and President of the German Red Cross) and Paul Rostock (Chief of the Office for Medical Science and Research and Dean of the Medical Faculty of the University of Berlin.). Fifteen were found guilty of crimes charged, including Karl Brandt, Gebhardt, and Rudolf Brandt (Himmler's personal adjutant) who were sentenced to death, along with four others. 

The "Justice Case" (United States v. Josef Altstoetter et al)

The 16 defendants in this case held responsibilities associated with the administration of law in the Third Reich.  Those who held primary responsibilities in this sphere were already dead.  Franz Guertner, Minister of Justice in Hitler's first Cabinet died in 1941.  Georg Thierack, Minister of Justice from 1942 until May 1945, committed suicide in 1946.  The President of the People's Court since 1942, Roland Freisler, was killed in 1945.  The defendants in this trial had been judges, prosecutors or Ministry of Justice officials.

The nub of the prosecution's charge was that the defendants were guilty of "judicial murder and other atrocities, which they committed by destroying law and justice in Germany, and then utilizing the emptied forms of legal process for persecution, enslavement, and extermination on a vast scale."  The indictment charged that the defendants in the Ministry of Justice had participated in drafting and enacting unlawful orders and decrees, such as those which discriminated against Poles, Jews, and others in occupied territory, and the notorious "Nacht und Nebel" (Night and Fog) decree under which civilians in the occupied territories were spirited away to Germany for secret trial before special "courts."  The defendants were also charged with imprisoning and killing Jews, and other members of groups to which the Nazis were hostile, by trials that were a flagrant travesty of the judicial process, and divers other offenses. [Source: ibid, pp.287-88]

[As the tribunal concluded:] The charge, in brief, is that of conscious participation in a nationwide governmentally organized system of cruelty and injustice, in violation of the laws of war and of humanity, and perpetrated in the name of law by the authority of the Ministry of Justice, and through the instrumentality of the courts.[quoted, ibid, p.290]

Four defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment, four to ten years imprisonment, one was sentenced to a term of seven years imprisonment, one to five years, and four were acquitted.

The SS Cases

There were three cases that were specifically targeted at activities undertaken by SS personnel.  Fifty six "full-time" SS defendants were indicted.  Of course, many of those who were indicted in other trials were also, nominally, members of the SS.  The SS had a long tradition of handing out what can be construed as "honorary" membership to senior Party and State officials and functionaries.  The three cases were the Pohl Case (United States v. Oswald Pohl et al), the RuSHA Case (United States v. Ulrich Greifelt et al), and the Einsatzgruppen Case (United States v. Otto Ohlendorf et al).  

The "Pohl Case" (United States v. Oswald Pohl et al)

There were seventeen defendants in this trial, all of whom were employed in the Economic and Administrative Department of the SS, the Wirtschaft und Verwaltungshauptamt (WVHA). The WVHA was divided into five administrative units.   These handled financial and legal affairs of concern to the SS, procurement and management of equipment, ranging from uniforms to buildings and crematoria, the management of businesses run by the SS, and a unit that was in charge of administering the concentration and extermination camps.  The defendants were charged with crimes against inmates of concentration and extermination camps, many of whom were interned as slave labourers in SS enterprises or industrial satellite camps, some of which were run directly by the SS, others by German industrial companies, I G Farben and Krupp being two major companies that relied extensively on slave labourers.

The case opened on April 8 1947 and closed on September 22.  Three of the defendants and Pohl were sentenced to death, one of which was subsequently changed to a term of imprisonment.  Eleven defendants were given custodial sentences ranging from ten years to life.  Three defendants were acquitted.

The "RuSHA Case" (United States v. Ulrich Greifelt et al)

The RuSHA (Rasse und Siedlungshauptamt) was the Main Race and Resettlement Office, a central organisation in promoting the racial programmes of the Third Reich, which was headed by two of the defendants (Otto Hofmann and Richard Hildebrandt). Other defendants were attached to organisations with parallel missions, including the Reich Commissioner for the Strengthening of German Folkdom, which was headed by Ulrich Greifelt, the Lebensborn Society, and the Main Office for Repatriation of Racial Germans. 

The indictment charged the [14] defendants with criminal responsibility for many features of the Nazi "racial" program, including the kidnapping of "racially valuable" children from the occupied countries for "Germanization"; the forced "Germanization" of other foreign nationals who were considered "Ethnic Germans"; the forcible evacuation of foreign nationals from their homes in favor of Germans or "Ethnic Germans"; and the persecution and extermination of Jews throughout Germany and German-occupied Europe. [Source: Taylor, op.cit., p.296]

The trial opened on 20 October 1947 and was concluded on 19 February 1948.   Eight of the defendants were sentenced to confinement for periods ranging from life to fifteen years.  Five were found guilty of membership of the SS, which had been declared a criminal organisation, but were released because of time already spent in custody.  One defendant was acquitted.

The "Einsatzgruppen Case" (United States v. Otto Ohlendorf et al)

There were twenty four defendants in the trial which opened on September 27 1947, and closed on April 9 1948. The Einsatzgruppen were special units of the SS, of which there were four, numbering approximately 3000 personnel, whose tasks included the murder of members of specifically targeted groups in conquered areas of the USSR. These groups included political commissars of the USSR and other state functionaries, Jews, Gypsies, partisans, prisoners of war, and anyone resisting German occupation policies and demands.  Operationally these units were under the control of the OKW and OKH, with whom the SS had concluded agreements respecting operational and other matters.   At the same time, they received direct orders from SS headquarters, particularly through Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich. It is not known how many were liquidated in this manner.  Estimates of the number of Jews murdered range between one and one and a half million. Some three million Russian prisoners of war did not survive the war, the majority of whom died as a result of a deliberate policy of inadequate nutrition, medical and sanitary facilities, and accommodation, not to mention deliberate cruelty and murder.

Personnel of these units were drawn from the Gestapo, Kripo, Ordnungspolizei and the SD. Each of the four Einsatzgruppe, which were designated A, B, C, and D, were attached to one of three army group headquarters operating on the Eastern front.  Group D was attached to the Eleventh Army operating in the South.  Ohlendorf commanded Einsatzgruppe D.  Taylor notes that the prosecution case, based entirely on documents, required only two days to present, whereas the defense used 136 days in attempting to counter the indictment charges.

In many respects this was the most important of the large-scale trials conducted at Nuremberg, including the IMT trials of the Major German War Criminals.   The defendants in this trials had directly been involved in the supervision and implementation of mass murder, unlike those in most of the other trials who, although sharing primary responsibility for the charges in the indictments, did not directly participate in or supervise on a regular daily basis mass murder, war crimes and genocide. The exceptions to this were the "Medical Case" and the "Hostages Case", both of which involved, in terms of volume, crimes on a lesser scale. In the "Einsatzgruppen Case" the tribunal was presented with the opportunity of dealing directly with mass murder on a scale that had never been perpetrated before.  As the tribunal noted in its judgment:

[The facts} are so beyond the experience of normal man and the range of man-made phenomena that only the most complete judicial inquiry, and the most exhaustive trial, could verify and confirm them.  Although the principal accusation is murder....the charge of purposeful homicide in this case reaches such fantastic proportions and surpasses such credible limits that believability must be bolstered with assurance a hundred times repeated. 

Moreover, the biographical profiles of the defendants did not square with stereotypes of ill-tutored, brutish, and sadistic racist fanatics. 

Each man at the bar has had the benefit of considerable schooling. Eight are lawyers, one a university professor, another a dental physician, still another an expert on art.  One, as an opera singer, gave concerts throughout Germany before he began his tour of Russia with the Einsatzkommandos.

To be sure, those sitting on the bench might today appear to have been somewhat naive as far as their presumptions were concerned.  Nonetheless, it still comes as somewhat of a surprise to the non-expert that persons with such high educational qualifications as the defendants in this trial possessed, could be implicated so easily in programmes of mass murder of the sort perpetrated by the members of the Einsatzgruppen.  

Ohlendorf and thirteen others were sentenced to death.  Two defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment and five others were sentenced to imprisonment for terms ranging from ten to twenty years.

The German Industry Trials

There were three trials in which the crimes that the defendants were alleged to have committed arose out of the participation in and support lent by German industrialists and financiers to the Nazi Party and German war aims.  In doing so, needless to say, the profits of German economic concerns were richly rewarded.  The extent of their involvement, and the significance of the misappropriation of economic, financial and personal assets is one of the facets of the Holocaust and German occupation policies that remains to be adequately detailed. See the section on appropriation for documents and discussion relating to these matters.

The "Farben Case" (United States v. Carl Krauch et al)

The twenty four defendants were all directors or officers of the German conglomerate, I.G.Farbenindustrie A.G. 

This enormous chemicals and synthetics combine kept the German war machine rolling in the first World War, when the imports of Chilean nitrates used in the manufacture of explosives were cut off, by developing the famous Haber-Bosch nitrogen fixation process for the production of synthetic nitrates, as well as the German poison gases.  Farben's role in German rearmament under Hitler was even more important; German deficiencies in oil and natural rubber were made up by Farben processes and factories for the manufacture of the synthetic gasoline and rubber so vital to mechanized and aerial warfare. [Source: Taylor, p.313]

The charges were (1) planning and waging aggressive war; (2) conspiracy to that end; (3) enslavement and mistreatment of prisoners of war, deportees, and concentration camp inmates. Despite the allegations of the prosecution, supported with documentation, that the company and its board were heavily implicated in the rearmament programme, that they aspired to dominate the European chemical industry, consequent upon German military conquests and pressure, if necessary, and that the consistent and influential support, particularly financial, lent to the NSDAP, facilitated their assumption of power, the charge of planning and waging aggressive war was rejected.   Despite the fact that the Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Krauch, had impressed upon Göring the need "for Germany to strengthen its own war potential" in order to ensure that "all sacrifices of blood in the next war will ... spare us the bitter end which once before we have brought upon ourselves owing to lack of foresight and fixed purpose," two of the three judges concluded that the evidence of his knowledge of Hitler's aggressive intentions "degenerates from proof to mere conjecture." This applied with even more force to the other defendants. 

Nor was the Tribunal any more of one mind in the field of slave labor.   The judgement allowed the defendants the benefit of the defense of "necessity" ...  Only in connection with Farben's activities at Auschwitz- where a synthetic rubber plant [Auschwitz Buna] was constructed adjacent to to the notorious concentration camp with the specific intention of utilizing concentration camp labor-did the Tribunal find such evidence of Farben "initiative" as to strip some of the defendants of the protective mantle.   The area of criminal responsibility, however, was very narrow.  [Source: Taylor, p.318] 

There is some justification to the contention that the two judges who accepted and advanced the defense of "necessity" were unduly liberal in interpreting the evidence and constructing the charge.  Judge Herber, dissenting, noted that:

Under the evidence it is clear that the defendants in utilizing slave labor which is conceded to be a war crime (in the case of non-German nationals) and a crime against humanity, did not, as they assert, in fact, act exclusively because of the compulsion and coercion of the existing Governmental regulations and policies.  The record does not establish by any substantial credible proof that any of the defendants were actually opposed to the Governmental solution of the manpower problems reflected in these regulations.  On the contrary, the record shows that Farben willingly cooperated and gladly utilized each new source of manpower as it developed.   Disregard of basic human rights did not deter these defendants...

Willing cooperation with the slave labor utilization of the Third Reich was a matter of corporate policy that permeated the whole Farben organization.  The   [I.G Farbenindustrie A.G.] Vorstand [directorate, or managing directorate] was responsible for the policy.  For this reason, criminal responsibility goes beyond the actual immediate participants at Auschwitz.  It includes other Farben Vorstand plant-managers and embraces all who knowingly participated in the shaping of the corporate policy.  I find on the evidence that all Vorstand members must share the responsibility for the approval of the policy despite the fact that there were varying degrees of immediate connection among the various defendants.

The judges agreed in finding defendants guilty of spoliation as far as the conduct of Farben affairs in Poland, Norway and France, which, in the eyes of the Tribunal judges, constituted plunder, "in violation of the laws of war."

Thirteen defendants were found guilty of the commission of offenses of spoliation or employment of slave labour.  Ten others were acquitted.  All those found guilty were sentenced to terms of imprisonment.

The "Flick Case" (United States v. Friedrich Flick et al)

Friedrich Flick, a prominent steel industrialist, was charged,  along with five of his main associates, variously,  on five counts: (1) the forcible deportation of foreign nationals, concentration camp inmates and prisoners of war to forced labor in Germany, and specifically in Flick mines and factories; (2) the seizure of plants and property in France and the USSR; (3) crimes against humanity in the persecution of Jews during the prewar years 1936-39; (4) knowing participation in persecutions and other atrocities perpetrated by the SS, "by giving large sums of money to the SS, and by consorting and consulting with Himmler, Pohl, Ohlendorf, Sievers and other SS leaders in an association called the "Circle of Friends" or "Himmler Circle", to which a select group of industrialists and SS officers belonged throughout the Nazi era." [Source: Taylor, p.304]

As far as three of the defendants were concerned the charges relating to slave labour were not accepted, the judges favoring a defense of "necessity", on the grounds that it was:

clearly established that there was in the instance case "clear and present danger" within the contemplation of that phrase.  We have already discussed the Reich reign of terror.  The defendants lived within the Reich.  The Reich, through its hordes of enforcement officials and secret police, was always "present," ready to go into instant action and to mete out savage and immediate punishment against anyone doing anything that could be construed as obstructing or hindering the carrying out of governmental regulations or decrees.

There was evidence, however, that two of the defendants had taken the initiative in one instance to secure a contract and, therefore, these "active steps" deprived them of such a defense. None of the defendants were convicted on the "crimes against humanity" charge, on the grounds that the events referred to took place before the outbreak of war and Control Council Law No.10 did not, therefore, cover such events.  Two defendants were convicted on the charge of economic plunder, and two on charge (4) above. The three defendants found guilty of charges were sentenced to terms of imprisonment.

The "Krupp Case" (United States v. Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach)

Alfried Krupp was indicted along with another eleven officers of the firm.   They were variously charged with planning and waging aggressive war, with conspiracy to commit crimes against the peace, having participated in the forcible deportation of foreign nationals, concentration camp inmates and prisoners of war to forced labour, and economic plunder. 

Alfried Krupp had taken over the management of the firm from his father Gustav, in 1943.  Gustav had married Bertha Krupp, the heiress to the Krupp industrial and armaments conglomerate, at the instigation of the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, who was reluctant to allow the major German armaments manufacturer to be controlled by a woman.  Gustav, a professional diplomat, was, exceptionally, allowed to assume the name Krupp.   Another exception was made in 1943 when his son Alfried took over control of the firm from his father who was displaying early signs of senility.   Hitler issued a special decree, the Lex Krupp, which, circumventing the laws of inheritance that then prevailed, kept the firm as a family property.

During the nineteenth century the firm was built up by Alfred Krupp and his son Friedrich.  By the end of it Krupp was one of the main manufacturers of armaments in the world.  Following the impressive performance of Krupp cannons in the Franco-Prussia War of 1870-71, the firm assumed a predominant position in arming German forces.  The rise of German naval power, the continued development of the railways, colonial expansion, and economic growth in the industrial countries enormously augmented Krupp's economic dominance of German industry during the latter quarter of the century.   When he died in 1867, Krupp's were selling armaments to 46 countries. By 1902, when the Germania shipbuilding yards at Kiel were acquired, Krupp employed more than 40,000 persons.  During the First World War Krupp artillery made a major contribution to the German war effort, the firm having built the 98-ton howitzer that shelled Liege and Verdun and a cannon that shelled Paris from a range of 75 miles.

Although the Versailles Treaty prevented the manufacture of armaments by Germany, Gustav used his resources to ensure that at the appropriate time Germany would be in a position to rearm rapidly, by developing new weapons abroad.  He was also active in financially supporting the NSDAP and Hitler's rise to power.  In due course the firm was amply rewarded with the rapid rebuilding of German military power after Hitler became chancellor in January 1933.  By 1939 "the extent of these holdings had become staggering. Within Germany, the Krupp concern had wholly owned 87 industrial complexes, held a controlling interest in 110 firms, and possessed substantial investments in 142 other German corporations. Abroad, Krupp works existed in almost every continental country; the family owned more than 50 percent of the stock in 41 foreign plants and large blocks of shares in another 25. There had been thousands of Krupp ore pits and coal mines, a chain of Krupp hotels, a group of Krupp banks, a Krupp cement works, and a score of private estates." [Source: Encyclopedia Britannica CD-ROM, 1997. Search Term: Krupp.  Articles on Alfred, Gustav, Alfried, and Krupp Gmbh]

Gustav Krupp had been indicted before the International Military Tribunal of the major German war criminals, but the case had been separated due to his poor health.   In the "Krupp Case" Alfried Krupp and eleven other officials of the firm were indicted.  In addition to charges relating to slave labour and economic plunder and spoliation, defendants were charged with the planning and waging of aggressive wars, and conspiracy to achieve the same.  All the defendants were acquitted on the latter two charges.

Six of the ten defendants charged with economic spoliation were convicted.   Only one of the defendants was acquitted of charges relating to forced labour, all having been indicted on this charge.  The Tribunal's ruling on this charge was unanimous and unwavering:

The Krupp firm and the convicted defendants were found guilty of constant, wide-spread, and flagrant violations of the laws of war relating o the employment of prisoners of war, eager participation in the forced labour procurement program, and shocking mistreatment of the prisoners, deportees, and concentration camp inmates who toiled in the Krupp plants. ....  [According to the Tribunal, the defendants] "were not acting under compulsion or coercion exercised by the Reich authorities within the meaning of the law of necessity" but indeed coincided "with the will of those from whom the alleged compulsion emanates." [Source: Taylor, p.313]

All of the defendants were found guilty, and received terms of imprisonment ranging from three to twelve years.  Alfried Krupp was sentenced to twelve years imprisonment and all his property, public and private, was forfeited.

The Military Trials

The most influential and senior military personnel were tried at Nuremberg, including Keitel, Göring, Jodl, Doenitz, and Raeder.  The two other trials that were directed at senior military personnel were the "Hostage Case" and the "High Command Case". The former was concerned with war crimes perpetrated in the course of the occupation of Yugoslavia, Albania and Greece.  In the second case senior commanders were indicted on charges of crimes against the peace, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The "Hostages Case" (United States v. List et al)

The twelve defendants were accused of the commission of war crimes in Yugoslavia, Albania and Greece.  They included Field Marshal Wilhelm List, who had commanded the Twelfth Army, which was responsible for the invasion and conquest of Yugoslavia and Greece, until October 1941.  His successor, Lt. General Wilhelm Kuntze was also a defendant.  Also tried were General Lothar Rendulic, commander of the Second Panzer Army in Yugoslavia during 1943-44, Lt.General Hermann Fortsch, Chief of Staff to List, Kuntze and von Weichs.  Field Marshal Maximilian von Weichs, supreme commander of German forces in this region 1944-45, although arraigned, was separated from the case before its conclusion due to illness. 

The basic charge against all the defendants was responsibility for the unwarranted slaying of many thousands of Yugoslav and Greek civilians.  Many were killed pursuant to an order, originally promulgated by von Weichs, directing the execution of one hundred civilian "hostages" for every German soldier killed by the partisans.  On other occasions, all the inhabitants of particular villages, near which partisan action had occurred, were slaughtered and the villages burned.  ...several of the defendants who had served on the Russian front were charged with killing uniformed prisoners of war pursuant to the notorious German "Commissar Order." [Source: Taylor, p.321]

The defendants were also charged with the unwarranted killing of partisans or guerrillas.

In its judgement the tribunal dismissed the charges relating to partisans or guerrillas. Whilst accepting that there were circumstances under which members of units operating against the German forces in Yugoslavia and Greece were entitled to protection as lawful belligerents, it concluded that "the greater portion of the partisan bands failed to comply with the rules of war entitling them to be accorded the rights of a lawful belligerent.  The evidence fails to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the incidents involved in the present case concern partisan troops having the status of lawful belligerents."  

On the issue of "hostage" taking and their execution, the tribunal accepted that, in principle, regardless of how abhorrent that might be morally, this was allowed for under international law, although this was a "barbarous relic of ancient times." 

An examination of the available evidence on the subject convinces us that hostages may be taken in order to guarantee the peaceful conduct of the population of occupied territories and, when certain conditions exist and the necessary preliminaries have been taken, they may, as a last resort, be shot.    ...  The occupant may properly insist upon compliance with regulations necessary to the security of the occupying forces and for the maintenance of law and order.  In the accomplishment of this objective, the occupant may, only as a last resort, take and execute hostages.

Although hostage taking and execution was sanctioned under current international law, the Tribunal very significantly stressed that even such an abhorrent "barbarous relic of ancient times" was circumscribed by requirements of procedure and proportionality. 

there must be some connection between the population from whom the hostages are taken and the crime committed.  If the act was committed ... without the knowledge or approval of the population or public authorities, and which, therefore, neither the authorities or the population could have prevented, the basis for the taking of hostages, or the shooting of hostages already taken, does not exist.   ...   The number of hostages shot must not exceed in severity the offenses the shooting is designed to deter.  Unless the foregoing requirements [not all of which are included in the material quoted] are met, the shooting of hostages is in contravention of international law and is a war crime in itself.

The issue of hostage taking was also addressed in the "High Command Case", where the tribunal concluded that:

If so inhumane a measure as the killing of innocent persons for offences of others, even when drastically safeguarded and limited, is ever permissible under any theory of International Law, killing without full compliance with all requirements would be murder. If killing is not permissible under any circumstances, then a killing with the full compliance with all the mentioned prerequisites still would be murder.[Source: United Nations War Crimes Commission. The German High Command Trial. New York: Howard Fertig, 1994, pp. 84-85]

Whilst the tribunal's enunciation of legal principles might be considered somewhat "conservative", its ruling on the substantive issues was unequivocal.

The evidence in this case recites a record of killing and destruction seldom exceeded in modern history.  Thousands of innocent inhabitants lost their lives by means of a firing squad or hangman's noose ...  Mass shootings of the innocent population, deportations for slave labor and the indiscriminate destruction of public and private property  ...  lend credit to the assertion that terrorism and intimidation was the accepted solution to any and all opposition to the German will.  It is clear, also, that this had become a general practice and a major weapon of warfare by the German Wehrmacht...  That the acts charged as crimes in the indictments occurred is amply established by the evidence.  ...  The guild of the German occupation forces is not only proven beyond a reasonable doubt but it casts a pall of shame upon a once respected nation and its people.

The two most senior officers, List and Kuntze, were sentenced to life imprisonment.  Five others were handed down prison sentences ranging from seven to twenty years.  Two were acquitted.  The case against von Weichs, as noted earlier, had been separated.

The "High Command Case" (United States v. Wilhelm von Leeb et al)

The charges laid against the defendants were:(1) crimes against the peace, (2)war crimes and crimes against humanity: crimes against enemy belligerents and prisoners of war (3) war crimes and crimes against humanity: crimes against civilians, and (4)common plan or conspiracy.  The latter charge was dismissed on the grounds "as tendering no issue not contained in the preceding Counts."  The war crimes and crimes against humanity indictments included criminal responsibility in connection with the implementation of the Commissar Order, the Barbarossa Jurisdiction Order,  the Night and Fog (Nacht und Nebel) Decree, the Hostages and Reprisals Order, murder and ill-treatment of prisoners of war and of the civilian population in occupied territories and their employment as slave laborers, cooperation between the Wehrmacht and the SS in connection with the persecution and execution of Jews and other segments of the population, and plunder and spoliation.

The fourteen defendants were all senior officers in the army and navy, or in the German High Command, OKW. Defendant Blaskowitz committed suicide in prison before the conclusion of the trial. 

Some of the acts that were included under (2) above were described as follows:

Unlawful orders initiated, drafted, distributed and executed by the defendants directed that certain enemy troops be refused quarter and be denied the status and rights of prisoners of war, and that certain captured members of the military forces of nations at war with Germany be summarily executed.  ...   prisoners of war were denied rights to which they were entitled under conventions and the laws and customs of war.  Soldiers were branded, denied adequate food, shelter, clothing and care, subjected to all types of cruelties and unlawful reprisals, tortured and murdered.  Special screening and extermination units....operating with the support and under the jurisdiction of the Wehrmacht, selected and killed prisoners of war for religious, political and racial reasons.  Many recaptured prisoners were ordered executed.

Acts under (3) above included participation in atrocities and offenses that included:

murder, extermination, ill-treatment, torture, conscription to forced labour, deportation to slave labour or for other purposes, imprisonment without cause, killing of hostages, persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds, plunder of public and private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns and villages, devastation not justified by military necessity, and other inhumane and criminal acts against German nationals and members of the civilian populations of countries and territories under the belligerent occupation of, or otherwise controlled by Germany.  The defendants committed War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity, in that they were principals in, accessories to, ordered, abetted, took a consenting part in, were connected with plans and enterprises involving, and were members of organizations and groups which were connected with, the commission of War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity. [Source:United Nations War Crimes Commission, pp.3-4]

As noted earlier, the Conspiracy charge was dismissed by the tribunal.   On the charge of waging aggressive war the Tribunal returned a finding of not guilty, on the grounds that "The acts of Commanders and Staff Officers below the policy level, in planning campaigns, preparing means for carrying them out, moving against a country on orders and fighting a war after it has been instituted, do not constitute the planning, preparation, initiation and waging of a war or the initiation of invasion that International Law denounces as criminal. Under the record we find the defendants were not on the policy level, and are not guilty under Count I of the Indictment." (United Nations War Crimes Commission, p.70)

Two of the defendants were acquitted of all charges.  The remaining eleven were all found guilty on charges (2) and (3) above, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from life to three years.

The "Milch Case" (United States v. Erhard Milch)

The sole defendant in this case, Erhard Milch, was a Field Marshal in the Air Force, Göring's deputy in the Air Ministry and a member of the Central Planning Board.  The main charges against him related to involvement in the slave labor programme and complicity in medical experiments relating to aviators, namely those concerned with survival at high altitude and in freezing water.  Some of the charges, therefore, were similar to those laid against Albert Speer and Fritz Saukel, both of whom were tried and convicted by the International Military Tribunal on charges relating to forced labor.

The Tribunal did not find the charge relating to medical experiments proven beyond reasonable doubt.  On the slave labor programme charge Milch was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.

The "Ministries" or "Wilhelmstrasse" Case (United States v. Ernst Weizsaecker et al)

The twenty one defendants in this, the longest lasting of the American Nuremberg trials, were all government officials. Among the positions held by the defendants were Minister for Food and Agriculture (Darre), Reich Minister and Chief of the Reich Chancery (Lammers), and Vice-President of the Reichsbank (Emil Puhl).  They were charged, variously, with the commission of crimes against the peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity prior to the outbreak of the war, crimes against humanity civilian populations after the outbreak of war [all of the defendants], plunder and spoliation of property in occupied countries, deportations to forced labor and membership of criminal organisations [SS and the Leadership Corps of the Nazi Party].

Nineteen defendants were found guilty and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment.

Document compiled by Dr S D Stein
Last update 15/03/02 16:54:39
©S D Stein

Faculty of Economics and Social Science Home Page