Nuremberg – a brief history, and a few comments
The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg was a trial conducted at the instruction of the victorious powers, and at the instigation of the American Presidents, Roosevelt and Truman. As such it was an American show, held at the expense of Americans. It was independent of the nascent International Court, and held under rules drawn up by prosecuting victors.
Although only one trial, the tribunal tried twenty four defendants who were each prosecuted by four nations; the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Russia. Here are some key dates :
May 2nd 1945
• Robert Jackson appointed US Chief of Counsel. Jackson was to be the leading figure of the tribunal. It was he, more than anyone, who
championed the requirement of a system of international criminal law. He was an evangelist who was left frustrated and bitter by the gulf
between his vision and the reality of international justice.
• Germans surrender.
• David Maxwell Fyfe appointed Attorney General. Solicitor General in the wartime coalition, Maxwell Fyfe became Attorney General in the short- ived post war Conservative government.
• London Conference opens. Chaired by Maxwell Fyfe this conference drew up the terms of the London Agreement and supporting
charter which established the terms of the tribunal.
• Election Campaign begins in UK. Churchill called an election. This meant that Maxwell Fyfe was involved in a campaign at the same
time as chairing the London Conference.
• Polling Day in UK, although the result was not know for three weeks: the conference continues.
• Potsdam Conference opens, securing Stalin’s support for the tribunal.
• Election Result published, and the Labour victory led to Maxwell Fyfe anticipating no further involvement after the Agreement and Charter
• London Agreement signed.
• Charter signed defining for the first time :
– Crimes against peace
– War Crimes
– Crimes against humanity
• Hartley Shawcross, the Labour Attorney General, on reviewing his domestic work load, asks David Maxwell Fyfe to stand in as Acting
Chief Prosecutor, continuing his work.
• Chief Prosecutors meeting.
• Published list of defendants.
• Indictment agreed by Prosecution.
• Indictment published by judges.
• Indictment presented to defendants; judges insist that defendants have representation.
• Maxwell Fyfe and UK Prosecution team to Nuremberg.
• Opening of Trial.
– Indictment read
– Pleas entered
– Start of American Case
• The case for conspiracy
• Start of British Prosecution Case
– The case against the starting aggressive war.
• Start of French Prosecution Case
– War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity in Western Europe.
• Start of Russian Prosecution Case
– War Crimes and Crimes against humanity in Eastern Europe.
• Completion of Case for the Prosecution.
• Defence case opens with Goering.
• followed by Hess, Ribbentrop, Keitel, Kaltenbrunner, Rosenberg, Frank, Frick, Streicher, Schacht, Funk, Doenitz, Raeder, von Shirach,
Saukel, Jodl, Seyss Inquart, von Papen, Speer, Neurath, Fritzsche.
• Defence begins summing up.
• Prosecution begins summing up.
• Start of the prosecution of the organisations.
• Defendants last pleas.
• Judgement delivered, followed by sentencing.
• Executions carried out.