Source: Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal, Vol.1, Nuremberg, 1947, pp. 24-27

Minutes of the Opening Session of the
Trial of the Major War Criminals, at Berlin

18 October 1945

[*General Nikitchenko was selected as President for the session at Berlin, and Lord Justice Lawrence was elected President of the Tribunal for the Trial in Nuremberg, in accordance with Article 4 (b) of the Charter.]

Present: All of the Members of the Tribunal and their Alternates.

The International Military Tribunal held its first public session in Berlin, as required by Article 22 of the Charter, in the Grand Conference Room of the Allied Control Authority Building at 10: 30 a. m.

The President, General Nikitchenko, said:

"In pursuance of the Agreement by the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the Provisional Government of the French Republic, the Government of the United States of America, and the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for the prosecution and punishment of the major war criminals of the European Axis dated at London, 8 August 1945, and of Article 22 of the Charter annexed thereto constituting this International Military Tribunal, this meeting is held at Berlin for the reception of the Indictment under the Agreement and Charter."

This statement was translated orally in French, English, and German.

The Members of the Tribunal and their Alternates then made the following declaration, each in his own language:

"I solemnly declare that I will exercise all my powers and duties as a Member of the International Military Tribunal honorably, impartially, and conscientiously."

The President then declared the session opened.

The Chief British Prosecutor, Mr. Shawcross, introduced in succession the Soviet Chief Prosecutor, General Rudenko; the French Deputy Chief Prosecutor, M. Dubost; and a representative of the American Prosecutor, Mr. Shea. Each on being introduced made a brief statement, which was translated orally into the other languages, and lodged a copy of the Indictment, in his own language, with the President of the Tribunal.

The President said:

"An Indictment has now been lodged with the Tribunal by the Committee of the Chief Prosecutors setting out the charges made against the following defendants:

Hermann Wilhelm Göring, Rudolf Hess, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Robert Ley, Wilhelm Keitel, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Alfred Rosenberg, Hans Frank, Wilhelm Frick, Julius Streicher, Walter Funk, Hjalmar Schacht, Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, Karl Dönitz, Erich Raeder, Baldur von Schirach, Fritz Sauckel, Alfred Jodl, Martin Bormann, Franz von Papen, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Albert Speer, Constantin von Neurath, and Hans Fritzsche.

"Copies of the Charter and of the Indictment and of its accompanying documents will be served upon the defendants in the German language immediately.

"Notices will also be served upon them in writing drawing their attention to Articles 16 and 23 of the Charter which provide that they may either conduct their own defense or be defended by any counsel professionally qualified to conduct cases before the courts of his own country or by any other person who may be specially authorized thereto by the Tribunal; and a special clerk of the Tribunal has been appointed to advise the defendants of their right and to take instructions from them personally as to their choice of counsel,. and generally to see that their rights of defense are made known to them.

"If any defendant who desires to be represented by counsel is unable to secure the services of counsel the Tribunal will appoint counsel to defend him.

"The Tribunal has formulated Rules of Procedure, shortly to be published, relating to the production of witnesses and documents in order to see that the defendants have a fair trial with full opportunity to present their defense.

"The lndividual defendants in custody will be notified that they must be ready for Trial within 30 days after the service of the Indictment upon them. Promptly thereafter the Tribunal shall fix and announce the date of the Trial in Nuremberg to take place not less than 30 days after the service of the Indictment and the defendants shall be advised of such date as soon as it is fixed.

"It must be understood that the Tribunal which is directed by the Charter to secure an expeditious hearing of the issues raised by the charges will not permit any delay either in the preparation of the defense or of the Trial.

"Lord Justice Lawrence will preside at the Trial at Nuremberg.

"Notice will also be given under Article 9 of the Charter that the Prosecution intends to ask the Tribunal to declare that the following organizations or groups of which the defendants or some of them were members are criminal organizations, and any member of any such group or organization will be entitled to apply to the Tribunal for leave to be heard by the Tribunal upon the question of the criminal character of such group or organization. These organizations referred to are the following:

Die Reichsregierung (Reich Cabinet); Das Korps der Politischen Leiter der Nationalsozialistischen Deutschen Arbeiterpartei (Leadership Corps of the Nazi Party); Die Schutzstaffeln der Nationalsozialistischen Deutschen Arbeiterpartei (commonly known as the "SS") and including Der Sicherheitsdienst (commonly known as the "SD"); Die Geheime Staatspolizei (Secret State Police, commonly known as the "Gestapo"); Die Sturmabteilungen der NSDAP (commonly known as the "SA"); and the General Staff and High Command of the German Armed Forces.

"The Indictment having been duly lodged by the Prosecutors in conformity with the provisions of the Charter, it becomes the duty of the Tribunal to give the necessary directions for the publication of the text.

"The Tribunal would like to order its immediate publication but this is not possible inasmuch as the Indictment must be published simultaneously in Moscow, London, Washington, and Paris.

"This result may be achieved, as the Tribunal is informed, by permitting publication in the press of the Indictment not earlier than 8 p. m., G. M. T., i. e. 2000 hours today, Thursday, October 18th."

This statement was translated orally in French, English, and German.

The meeting adjourned at 11: 25 a. m.


See Also


War Crimes and Criminals (For charges and judgments against individual accused)

Document compiled by Dr S D Stein
Last update 08/02/99
©S D Stein

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