Brief Overview of Defendants & Verdicts
by Ben S. Austin
On October 1, 1946, the International Military Tribunal
handed down its verdicts in the trials of 22 Nazi leaders - eleven were given the death penalty, three were acquitted, three were given life imprisonment and four were given imprisonment ranging from 10 to 20 years.
A brief sketch of the principal defendants in the Nuremberg Trials
, their connection to the Holocaust and the sentence each received:
Bormann was with Hitler and Goebbels in
Hitlers subterranean bunker on April 30, 1945. Hitler and Goebbels
committed suicide while Bormann and others fled the bunker in an
attempt to escape the rapidly advancing Soviet army. While he was
presumed dead or captured, his whereabouts were unconfirmed at the
time of the trials in Nuremberg.
Bormann replaced Hess as Hitlers Deputy in
charge of Party affairs after Hess was asked to resign following his
unofficial flight to England to persuade England to negotiate peace
with Hitler. Bormanns reputation among members of his own Party
and, especially, the German army was very negative. He was seen as
uncivilized, ruthless and brutal.
In his absence from the trial, the Bormann
investigation proceeded on the basis of voluminous documentary
evidence linking him to the expulsion of millions of Jews to Poland,
the utilization of Ukrainian women as slave labor.
Martin Bormann was sentenced in absentia to death by hanging.
Full Judgement against Bormann: CLICK HERE
After Hitlers rejection
of the Versailles Treaty in 1935, Karl Doenitz
was made commander of the submarine unit of
the German navy (Germany was forbidden submarines
by the treaty). By 1940 he had risen to the
rank of Vice Admiral. He was indicted under
Counts One, Two and Three of the Indictment
and mainly for that section of the Indictment
dealing with War Crimes on the seas, particularly
in connection with the charges that German U-Boats
had sunk British merchant ships.
His main defense consisted of counter charges that
the U.S. had also sunk Japanese merchant vessels. This was not,
primarily, a "you are another" defense. Rather, his defense
counsel argued for acquittal on the grounds that the German Navy and
the U.S. Navy had committed identical military actions and with the
same justification -- that Japanese and British merchant vessels were
part of the military effort of those nations.
There was no strong evidence that Doenitz had
attended planning sessions of the German War Department and only
minimal evidence that he had been involved in the extermination or
enslavement of civilian populations. His guilt was mainly in the area
of "War Crimes."
Karl Doenitz was given 10 years imprisonment at
Outline of Doenitz's Crimes: CLICK HERE
Full Judgement against Doenitz: CLICK HERE
Hans Frank joined the Nazi Party in 1927 and was
appointed Minister and Reich Commissioner for Justice in 1933. He
served as Governor of the Generalgouvernment of Poland from 1939 to
the end of the war. Under his administration the approximately 2.5
million Jews in the occupied territories of Poland were exploited in
slave labor. Also during his administration, the extermination camps
in eastern Poland were constructed implemented. In the initial stages
of his testimony, Frank denied knowing anything about Auschwitz or
Maidanek, even though Auschwitz was only 30 miles from Cracow, the
seat of his administrative offices. However, when the thirty-six
volumes of his journal were brought into the courtroom on October 8,
Franks testimony shifted from denial of knowledge to denial of
responsibility and finally to open condemnation of Hitler, acceptance
of guilt and pleas for mercy. His confession, however, according to
Telford Taylor, was a civic confession rather than an individual one.
Hans Frank was sentenced to death by hanging.
Outline of Frank's Crimes: CLICK HERE
Full Judgement against Frank: CLICK HERE
Frick became a Nazi as early
as 1923 served as the Nazi Minister of the
Interior until from 1933 to 1943. He played
a significant role in the formation of Nazi
racial laws and antisemitic legislation, including
the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 and 1938. He was
also instrumental, along with Goering in the
Aryanization of Jewish assets following Kristallnacht.
Wilhelm Frick was sentenced to death by hanging.
Outline of Frick's Crimes: CLICK HERE
Full Judgement against Frick: CLICK HERE
It was probably Goebbels
who, more than and of the witnesses or documents
called in on Fritzsches account that
saved him from being convicted. As a radio
broadcaster he had indeed disseminated information
and propaganda that was extremely important
to the Nazi organization; however, it could
never be demonstrated that he was the originator
of the materials. The media was under such
tight control of Goebbels Ministry of
Propaganda that the only source of information
available to journalists and broadcasters
was the information provided them by Goebbels
office. His antisemitism seems to have been
an ideology of assent rather than one which
he pressed upon the German population.
Hans Fritzsche was acquitted.
Outline of Fritzsche's Crimes: CLICK HERE
Full Judgement against Fritzsche: CLICK HERE
As a close friend of President
Hindenberg, Walter Funk was accustomed to
high-level political and administrative interactions.
When Hitler came to power, Funk was appointed
to the position of Press Chief of Hitlers
government. Shortly after his appointment,
Goebbels formed the Ministry of Propaganda
and Funks office was subordinated to
Goebbels. Later he was appointed to replace
Hjalmar Schacht as Minister of Economics.
That office, too, came under the control of
Goebbels. Some months later, he was appointed
by Hitler as President of the Reichsbank.
The bank was assigned the role of economic
planning for the war effort.
Funk also attended the high-level meeting
following the events of Kristallnacht. It was at this meeting that
the decision was made to hold the Jews responsible for the
destruction visited upon them by roving Nazi gangs. Under
Heydrichs and Goebbels leadership, it was also decided at that
Jews would be excluded from the German economy a distinct first
step in the direction of the Holocaust.
One tense moment in the trial occurred when
documentary evidence was presented by the prosecutors staff that
the Reichsbank received and held a large deposit from the SS. The
deposit consisted of bags of jewelry and other valuables, including
dental gold, taken from Jewish victims in eastern Europe. Funk
consistently denied knowledge of the contents of those bags and the
prosecutors could never show conclusively that he did have such
knowledge. Now could they demonstrate conclusively that he was
instrumental in planning military operations, or that he was directly
involved in crimes against humanity.
Walter Funk was sentenced to life imprisonment. He
was released from Spandau Prison in 1957 and died in 1960.
Outline of Funk's Crimes: CLICK HERE
Full Judgement against Funk: CLICK HERE
Goering was perhaps the most influential person, next
to Hitler, in the Nazi
organization. He was one of only 12 Nazis elected to the Reichstag
in 1928. He orchestrated the Reichstag fire on February 27, 1933 and,
with Goebbels assistance,
used the fire as a propaganda tool against the communists. In the mid-1930's
Goering was in charge of the Aryanization of Jewish property, a policy
which extended to Jews throughout Europe following the Anschluss.
the events of Kristallnacht,
November 8 and 9, 1938, Goering (under instructions from Hitler) called
a high-level meeting of the party, on November 12, to assess the damage
done during the night and place responsibility for it. Present at the
meeting were Goering, Goebbels, Reinhard
Heydrich, Walter Funk and other ranking Nazi officials. The intent
of this meeting was two-fold: to make the Jews responsible for Kristallnacht and to use the events of the preceding days as a rationale for promulgating
a series of antisemitic laws which would, in effect, remove Jews from
the German economy. An interpretive transcript of this meeting is provided
by Robert Conot, Justice at Nuremberg, New York: Harper and
Gentlemen! Today's meeting is of a decisive
nature, Goering announced. I have received a letter written
on the Fuehrers orders requesting that the Jewish question be
now, once and for all, coordinated and solved one way or
Kristallnacht turns out to be a crucial turning
point in German policy regarding the Jews and may be considered as the actual beginning of what is now called the Holocaust.
Following that meeting, a wide-ranging set of antisemitic laws were
passed which had the clear intent, in Goerings words, of "Aryanizing"
the German economy. The path to the "Final Solution" had been
Hermann Goering was sentenced to death by hanging.
He evade the sentence by committing suicide in
Outline of Goering's Crimes: CLICK HERE
Full Judgement against Goering: CLICK HERE
Hess is not to be confused with Rudolph Hoess,
commandant of Auschwitz who was tried in Warsaw in 1947 and executed
at Auschwitz. Hess served as Hitlers deputy minister and was next
in line if Goering should be unavailable for any reason. According to
Telford Taylor (The Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials, 1992:25),
Churchill made statements at the Yalta Conference in February, 1945,
which indicate that he did not consider Hess to be a "major war
criminal" and should be given a "judicial trial."
Apparently, Churchill was not fully aware of Hess involvement in
Vera Laska, ed., Women in the Resistance and in
the Holocaust: The Voices of Eyewitnesses. Westport & London:
Greenwood Press, 1983 tells us:
These preparatory schools for murder [euthanasia
centers, BSA] offered the training course for the roughnecks who
learned by killing thousands of Christian German and Austrian
individual victims and, thus insensitized, graduated to the main
task, which was to be the genocide of millions of Jews, and
eventually of Gypsies, Poles, Russians, Czechs and other less
worthy Slavs. The program was administered under Rudolf Hess and,
after his departure, under Martin Bormann. Medical supervision was
under Werner Heyde, M.D., professor at the University of Wurzburg;
100,000 people were dispatched this way. They experimented with
various gasses and injections; they photographed the effect,
clocked the speed of death by a stopwatch, filmed it in slow motion
and then dissected the brain -- all as an undergraduate course
preparatory for genocide.
Rudolf Hess was sentenced to life imprisonment. He
served over 40 years of that sentence at Spandau Prison and committed
suicide in 1987 at age 93.
Outline of Hess's Crimes: CLICK HERE
Full Judgement against Hess: CLICK HERE
Alfred Jodl was Chief of the
Operations Section of the Wehrmacht [the regular
German Army], under the direction of Blomberg
and Keitel. In that capacity, he was involved
in the destruction of Czechoslovakia. During
his trial, Jodl asserted that it was the Czechs
who initiated it by massing troops on the
German border, knowing full well that plans
for the invasion of Czechoslovakia were in
place at least six months prior to the invasion.
He characterized the invasion of the Soviet
Union as a "preventive measure"
since Soviet troops were concentrated along
the German border.
In regard to "crimes against humanity,"
Jodl was strongly implicated in promoting forced labor --
particularly against the civilian populations of Denmark, Holland,
France and Belgium.
His primary defense was the "higher
authority" plea. At the end of the cross-examination, Jodl
stated, "It is not the task of a soldier to be the judge of his
Commander in Chief. May history or the Almighty do that."
(quoted in Taylor, 1992:439).
Alfred Jodl was sentenced to death by hanging.
Outline of Jodl's Crimes: CLICK HERE
Full Judgement against Jodl: CLICK HERE
Chief of the Reich
Security Main Office (RSHA), Ernst Kaltenbrunner,
went on trial at Nuremberg on April 11, 1946.
He replaced Reinhard Heydrich who was assassinated
by Czech agents in May, 1943 and assumed control
over the SD and the Gestapo. Like most other
security positions, Kaltenbrunner came under
the direct authority of Heinrich Himmler.
His position placed him in direct contact
with the Einsatzgruppen.
SS officer, Otto Ohlenberg, appearing as a
witness at the trials Under questioning by
Col. Amen, Ohlendorf offers the following
COL. AMEN: What were the positions of
Kaltenbrunner, Mueller, and Eichmann in the RSHA, and state for
what periods of time each of them continued to serve in his
respective capacity? OHLENDORF: Kaltenbrunner was Chief of the
Sicherheitspolizei and the SD; as such, he was also Chief of the
RSHA, the internal organizational term for the office of the chief
of the Sicherheitspolizei and the SD. Kaltenbrunner occupied this
position from 1/30/1943 until the end of the war. Mueller was Chief
of Amt IV, the Gestapo. When the Gestapo was established, he became
Deputy Chief, and as such he logically became Chief of Amt IV of
the RSHA. He occupied this position until the end of the war.
Eichmann occupied a position in Amt IV under Mueller and worked on
the Jewish problem from approximately 1940 onwards. To my
knowledge, he also occupied this position until the end of the war.
Regarding Kaltenbrunners involvement with the
Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units), Ohlendorf testified:
COL. AMEN: In what respects, if any, were the
official duties of the Einsatz groups concerned with Jews and
Communist commissars? OHLENDORF: On the question of Jews and
Communists, the Einsatzgruppen and the commanders of the
Einsatzkommandos were orally instructed before their mission. COL.
AMEN: What were their instructions with respect to the Jews and the
Communist functionaries? OHLENDORF: The instructions were that in
the Russian operational areas of the Einsatzgruppen the Jews, as
well as the Soviet political commissars, were to be liquidated.
COL. AMEN: And when you say "liquidated" do you mean
Then, a few questions later:
COL. AMEN: Do you know whether the mission and
the agreement were also known to Kaltenbrunner? OHLENDORF: After
his assumption of office Kaltenbrunner had to deal with these
questions and consequently must have known details of the
Einsatzgruppen which were offices of his.
Under further questioning and cross-examination,
Col. Amen presented documentary and witness evidence linking
Kaltenbrunner to Mauthausen, the crematoria and the extermination of
Jews (cf. Taylor, 1992:361).
Ernst Kaltenbrunner was sentenced to death by
Outline of Kaltenbrunner's Crimes: CLICK HERE
Full Judgement against Kaltenbrunner: CLICK HERE
Whereas some of the defendants
were relatively [difficult] cases for the
tribunal because of their minimal involvement,
Keitel was relatively easy because of his
extensive involvement in the Nazi organization.
He served as Hitlers military Chief
of Staff and, consequently, was directly involved
in the planning of the war at the highest
level. His direct involvement in the "terror
fliers" policy, which resulted in the
wanton downing of British and American planes
and the summary execution of the fliers and
the "Night and Fog" decrees of 1941
which resulted, over the next three years,
in the summary execution without court martial
or trial, of military prisoners-of-war, were
extremely damaging to his defense. Even while
admitting his complicity in "war crimes,"
Keitel declared his loyalty, as a soldier,
to his commander-in- chief.
Wilhelm Keitel was sentenced to death by hanging.
Outline of Keitel's Crimes: CLICK HERE
Full Judgement against Keitel: CLICK HERE
Like Doenitz, Erich Raeder
was a German naval commander and, as Commander-in-Chief
of the Navy, he was Doenitz superior
officer. He, like Doenitz, was charged under
Counts One, Two and Three of the Indictment.
Also, as in the case of Doenitz, the most
serious charges came in connection with German
U-Boat activity. Unlike Doenitz, however,
strong evidence was presented to sho that
Raeder was also involved in the "general
plan and conspiracy" to wage aggressive
war in violation international law and existing
Erich Raeder was given life imprisonment. Because
of failing health, he was released from Spandau Prison in 1955 and died in 1960.
Outline of Raeder's Crimes: CLICK HERE
Full Judgement against Raeder: CLICK HERE
Rosenberg was a Baltic
German who had migrated to Germany in 1918
and became a member of the Nazi Party in 1919.
He was Hitlers chief racial ideologist.
Throughout his career, he was obsessed with
the idea that the Russian Revolution was,
in large part, the work of an "international
Jewish conspiracy." Early in his Nazi
career he served as editor of the Nazi Newspaper, Peoples Observer. He was not
well-liked be other members of the party,
but he had Hitlers favor. In 1930 he
was elected to the Reichstag and, after holding
several minor offices in Hitlers organization,
he was appointed as Reich Minister for the
Occupied Eastern Territories during the way
and worked for a German- subjugated Russia,
free of Jews and colonized by people of Aryan
He admitted knowledge of the Einsatzgruppens
extermination of Jews and he admitted participating in the forced
labor programs involving of subjugated people in the eastern Occupied
Alfred Rosenberg was sentenced to death by
Outline of Rosenberg's Crimes: CLICK HERE
Full Judgement against Rosenberg: CLICK HERE
As Plenipotentiary General for the Allocation of labor, it was Sauckels
responsibility to provide laborers for the industrial component of the
German war economy. With so many of Germanys able-bodied men in
uniform, it became increasingly difficult to secure laborers. Under
Saukels leadership nearly 5 million laborers were imported involuntarily
from France and other foreigners in German occupied territories -- principally
from eastern Europe and the Slavic states. He was charged with the solicitation
of slave labor -- in violation of the Geneva Convention of 1930.
Sauckel was sentenced to death by hanging.
Full Judgement against Sauckel: CLICK HERE
Why Hjalmar Schacht was
included in the list of defendants is unclear.
In fact, the only charges brought against
him were: contributing to Hitlers, and
the Nazi Partys rise to power and promoting
preparations for war. His dislike of the Versailles
Treaty, his belief that the German military
should once again be strong and his support
of the Anschluss were well known, but these
are hardly "war crimes." He was
never in a position to exercise significant
influence in any of the planning and preparation
for war. Likewise, Schacht had never concealed
his antisemitism and his agreement that Jews
should be excluded from governmental and civil
Hjalmar Schacht was acquitted.
Outline of Schacht's Crimes: CLICK HERE
Full Judgement against Schacht: CLICK HERE
In March, 1938, under
Hitlers urging, Kurt von Schuschnigg,
the Austrian Chancellor, appointed Artur Seyss-Inquart
as Austrian Minister of the Interior of Public
Safety. When Schuschnigg resigned a month
later, Hitler appointed Seyss-Inquart Chancellor.
Immediately, the new Chancellor invited German
troops to enter Austria. The Anschluss was
under way. In October, 1939 he was appointed
Deputy Governor-General in Poland under Hans
Frank. In that position he was instrumental
in the formation of the Lublin Plan for the
deportation of Jews from the Reich (cf. Jozeph
Michman, ""Artur Seyss-Inquart,"
in Israel Gutman, ed. Encyclopedia of the
Holocaust: Vol. 4, 1990:1346ff)
In May, 1940, Hitler appointed him Reich
Commissioner of the Occupied Netherlands to pave the way for the
annexation of that country. In late 1940 and 1941, Seyss-Inquart was
active in the Aryanization of Jewish property and the deportation of
Dutch Jews to the extermination camps in Poland. His knowledge of
Hitlers intentions, both militarily and with regard to the Jews
was extensive and intimate.
Artur Seyss-Inquart was charged on all four counts and was sentenced to death by hanging.
Outline of Seyss-Inquart's Crimes: CLICK HERE
Full Judgement against Seyss-Inquart: CLICK HERE
The following section of Justice
Jacksons cross-examination of Speer
clarifies his involvement in the Nazi movement:
JUSTICE JACKSON: You have stated a good many of
the matters for which you were not responsible, and I want to make
clear just what your sphere of responsibility was. You were not only a member of the Nazi Party
after 1932, but you held high rank in the Party, did you not?
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: And what was the position
which you held in the Party?
SPEER: I have already mentioned that during my
pre-trial interrogations. Temporarily in 1934 I became a department
head in the German Labor Front and dealt with the improvement of
labor conditions in German factories. Then I was in charge of
public works on the staff of Hess. I gave up both these activities
in 1941. Notes of the conference I had with Hitler about this are
available. After 2/8/1942 I automatically became Todts successor
in the central office for technical matters in the Reichsleitung of
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: And what was your official
SPEER: Party titles had just been introduced,
and they were so complicated that I cannot tell you at the moment
what they were. But the work I did there was that of a department
chief in the Reichsleitung of the NSDAP. My title was
Hauptdienstleiter or something of the kind.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: In the 1943 directory it
would appear that you were head of the "Hauptamt fur Technik."
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: And your rank appears to be
SPEER: Yes, that is quite possible.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: Which as I understand
corresponds 1 roughly to a lieutenant general in the army?
SPEER: Well, compared to the other tasks I had
it was very little.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: And you attended Party
functions from time to time and were informed in a general way as
to the Party program, were you not?
SPEER: Before 1942 I joined in the various Party
rallies here in Nuremberg because I had to take part in them as an
architect, and of course besides this I was generally present at
official Party meetings or Reichstag sessions.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: And you heard discussed,
and were generally familiar with, the program of the Nazi Party in
its broad outlines, were you not?
SPEER: Of course.
Albert Speer was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. He was released
from Spandau Prison on September 30, 1966. Speer died in 1981.
Full Judgement against Speer: CLICK HERE
As Editor-in-Chief of the venomous antisemitic paper, Der Stuermer, Julius Streicher disseminated hatred and the most
virulent strain of anti-Jewish sentiment to be found in all of Germany.
And Hitler strongly approved of Streichers publication. The only
real trouble he ever got into with the Nazi Party was for raising questions
about Goerings sexual prowess. When Goerings wife, Emma,
was about to give birth, Streicher suggested that perhaps Emma had been
artificially inseminated (Conot, Justice at Nuremberg, 1983:383). Daniel
Goldhagen (Hitlers Willing Executioners, 1996:102) describes him
as "the most rabid antisemite in Germany." Jackson called him "the venomous vulgarian." However, Streicher was
non-military, he was not part of the planning process of the Holocaust,
nor of the invasion of Poland or the Soviet Union. And, yet, his role
in inciting the extermination of Jews was significant enough, in the
judgment of the prosecutors, to include him in the indictment.
Julius Streicher was sentenced to death by
Outline of Streicher's Crimes: CLICK HERE
Full Judgement against Streicher: CLICK HERE
The sentence of Neurath
has been criticized as relatively harsh. His
case was little different from that of Papen
and Schacht, both of whom were acquitted.
The most serious charges against him were
relative to his position and actions with
regard to the recolonization of Czechoslovakia
by Germans in keeping with Hitlers lebensraum ideology. The Tribunal seemed unimpressed
with his claim that he remained in his position
in Czechoslovakia to prevent that country
from being taken over completely by the SS
(cf. Conot, 1983:450). On the other hand,
the Tribunal was convinced that Neurath knowledge
of Hitlers plans for aggressive war
was to extensive to warrant acquittal.
Constantin von Neurath was sentenced to 15 years
imprisonment. Because of failing health, he was released from Spandau
Prison in 1954 and died in 1956.
Outline of von Neurath's Crimes: CLICK HERE
Full Judgement against von Neurath: CLICK HERE
In 1932, President Hindenberg
appointed Franz von Papen as Reich Chancellor.
With Hitlers rise to power, Papen became
Vice Chancellor and later served as Ambassador
in Vienna. The Tribunal charged him with using
his positions to promote the rise and extension
of the Nazis power in Europe. However,
the prosecution had serious difficulties linking
Papen to conspiracy to initiate an aggressive
Franz von Papen was acquitted.
Outline of von Papen's Crimes: CLICK HERE
Full Judgement against von Papen: CLICK HERE
In 1938, Constantin
von Ribbentrop was appointed as Hitlers
Foreign Minister, replacing Neurath. In that
position, he was intimately involved in almost
all of the actions to wage "aggressive
war." His record in the area of "crimes
against humanity" was extremely damning.
He had recommended and supported the deportation
of Jews from France and Italy to the camps
in the east and urged their extermination.
Under cross-examination by the British assistant
prosecutor, Ribbentrop admitted that he knew
of Hitlers intention to deport all Jews
from German territories and that he assisted
in that process (cf. Conot, 1983:353).
Joachim von Ribbentrop was sentenced to death by
Outline of von Ribbentrop's Crimes: CLICK HERE
Full Judgement against von Ribbentrop: CLICK HERE
Shirach was charged
on Count One and Count Four of the Indictment.
On Count One, planning and preparing for aggressive
war, the evidence was slight at best. As head
of the Hitler Youth movement, he was accused
of preparing the youth of Germany for war.
While there is little question of his effectiveness
in consolidating all the German youth groups
under the Hitler Jungend, Shirachs
counsel was successful in separating the Youth
Movement from the German Wehrmacht.
On Count Four however, Schirach was is much deeper
trouble. His antisemitism was not only well-known, Schirach had
expressed it openly. Interestingly enough, Shirachs antisemitism
was drawn primarily from Henry Fords The International Jew rather than from Rosenberg and Streicher. Thr Tribunal produced
powerful documentary evidence that he knew and approved the
deportation of Jews from Vienna to the extermination camps. He also
knew of the Einsatzgruppens mobile van extermination of Jews in
eastern Poland. This knowledge rendered invalid his claim that he
supported the deportation of Reich Jews following Kristallnacht
because he thought it was in the best interest of Jews.
Baldur von Schirach was sentenced to 20 years
imprisonment. He served the entire term in Spandau Prison and died in
Outline of von Schirach's Crimes: CLICK HERE
Full Judgement against von Schirach: CLICK HERE