On November 20, 1945, an international trial of the main Nazi war criminals began in the German city of Nuremberg.

During the proceedings, which lasted 11 months, many unprecedented crimes committed by the leadership of the Third Reich were revealed.

"Get a fair verdict"

Alexander Mikhailov, a historian at the Victory Museum, in a conversation with RT, noted that the creation of an effective mechanism of international justice against the background of numerous crimes of the Nazi regime during the Second World War became an urgent issue for the Anti-Hitler coalition.

Meanwhile, the leadership of the USSR, back in 1941, declared the need to establish an international tribunal and "punish, to the fullest extent of the criminal law, any of the leaders of Nazi Germany who found themselves in the hands of the authorities of states fighting against Nazi Germany during the war."

However, at first this idea was not supported by the Western allies.

“The leaders of the West advocated that responsibility should not be legal, but political.

The Soviet side insisted that a legal basis be collected, that the Nazis were punished for specific crimes, that Nazism as such was condemned, "Mikhail Myagkov, scientific director of the Russian Military Historical Society, said in a conversation with RT.

Ultimately, in 1943, the idea of ​​international criminal justice was formalized during the Moscow Conference of Foreign Ministers of the Anti-Hitler Coalition.

The declaration agreed upon at the end of the event said that Nazi soldiers and officers who committed war crimes should be brought to justice in the respective countries.

And the main criminals were planned to be punished "by the joint decision of the allied governments."

"The USSR sought to demonstrate to the whole world the crimes committed by the Nazis and achieve a fair sentence - so that it would not be a punishment of the victors over the vanquished, but a court of nations and convincing evidence of the crime of Nazi ideology," a member of the Association of World War II Historians named after.

Professor Rzheshevsky Dmitry Surzhik.

The final decision on the creation of the International Military Tribunal was made at the London conference in the summer of 1945.

The corresponding agreement was concluded by the USSR, the USA, Great Britain and the provisional government of France.

The charter of the tribunal provided for the prosecution of persons who, acting in the interests of the European Axis states, individually or as members of organizations, committed crimes against peace and humanity.

  • Moscow conference of 1943

  • © Wikimedia commons

The tribunal consisted of judges representing the founding states (Jeffrey Lawrence from Great Britain, Iona Nikitchenko from the USSR, Francis Biddle from the United States, and Henri Donnedier de Vabre from France), their deputies and chief prosecutors (from the USSR - Prosecutor General of the Ukrainian SSR Roman Rudenko; from the USA - Member of the Federal Supreme Court Robert Jackson; from Great Britain - Hartley Shawcross; from France - François de Menton).

The initial list of the accused included 24 statesmen and military leaders of the Third Reich: Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, Adolf Hitler's deputy for the leadership of the party Rudolf Hess, Reich Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and others.

The head of the Nazi party office, Martin Bormann, was accused in absentia, since his fate at that time was not reliably established.

According to Alexander Mikhailov, the indictment included four main points: crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, violation of the laws of war and conspiracy to commit these criminal acts.

This meant the unleashing and waging of aggressive wars, the murder and torture of prisoners of war and the civilian population of the occupied countries, the destruction of settlements, the deportation of people into slavery and other atrocities.

“Unlike their victims, Nazi criminals enjoyed all legal rights - they were familiarized with the indictment in advance and resorted to the services of professional lawyers,” the expert noted.

  • Reproduction of painting by artist Nikolai Nikolayevich Zhukov "Demonstration of facts" from the series "The Nuremberg Trials"

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  • © M. Filimonov

"Unique legal phenomenon"

The international trial opened on November 20, 1945 in Nuremberg.

According to Mikhail Myagkov, the venue was not chosen by chance.

Nuremberg was considered the "citadel" of Nazism - here the Nazis held rallies and proclaimed the infamous Nuremberg racial laws, which discriminated against people whom Hitler considered "not Aryans."

Soon after reading the indictment, the head of the German Labor Front, Robert Leigh, committed suicide, and the industrialist Gustav Krupp was released from court responsibility as a terminally ill patient.

The rest of the persons involved in the list of the accused were brought before the tribunal.

As noted by the military historian Yuri Knutov, the accused tried with all their might to evade responsibility.

In particular, they shifted all responsibility for the crimes, the victims of which were tens of millions of people, onto the already deceased Nazi leaders - Hitler, Himmler and Heydrich, and presented themselves as people forced to fulfill someone else's will.

In addition, they tried to prove that the activities of the international tribunal were legally untenable.

According to Alexander Mikhailov, in the West, many at first considered the descriptions of the atrocities of the Nazis in the USSR and Eastern Europe to be greatly exaggerated, and therefore the demonstration of such evidence as newsreels, photographs, documents and human skin products shocked those present in the hall.

So, having familiarized himself with the descriptions of the atrocities committed in the concentration camps, the deputy judge from the United States, John Parker, felt bad.

Any suspicion about the exaggeration of the scale of Nazi crimes against the USSR was dispelled.

In addition to the individual responsibility of individual accused, the tribunal considered the issue of recognizing illegal actions of a number of organizations of the Third Reich: assault squads (SA), security detachments (SS), security services (SD), secret police (Gestapo), the leadership of the National Socialist German Workers' Party ( NSDAP), as well as the government, the General Staff and the High Command of the Wehrmacht.  

The sessions of the tribunal lasted about 11 months.

He held 403 court sessions, personally interrogated 116 witnesses, studied more than 300 thousand written testimonies and about 3 thousand documents.

The process was as open as possible.

About 60 thousand passes were issued for him, and his activities were covered by about 250 journalists from various countries.

During the trial, the whole world became aware of the savage medical experiments of the Nazis and about the gas chambers, gas chambers and crematoria, in which the bodies of millions of people were burned.

During the court hearings, the provocations committed by the Nazis to unleash a war were described, and the mechanisms of their cooperation with collaborators.

  • Nuremberg Trials.

    November 20, 1945 - October 1, 1946 The chief prosecutor from the USSR, Roman Andreevich Rudenko, speaks

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  • © Evgeny Khaldei

The verdict of the international tribunal was announced from September 30 to October 1, 1946.

Twelve Nazi criminals were sentenced to death by hanging, seven - to various terms of imprisonment.

Three of the defendants were acquitted.

In addition, the tribunal found the leadership of the National Socialist Party, SS, SD and Gestapo criminal.

However, as noted by Alexander Mikhailov, members of the tribunal from Western countries, contrary to the position of their Soviet colleagues, for formal reasons refused to recognize the government of Hitlerite Germany, the General Staff, the High Command of the Wehrmacht and the SA as criminal.

They were deemed unsuitable for the definition of "organization."

Although, according to Yuri Knutov, the guilt of the Wehrmacht and its command in the commission of war crimes was obvious.

On the night of October 16, 1946, the death sentences passed during the Nuremberg trials were carried out.

Goering, without waiting for the execution, committed suicide.

Later, up to the end of the 1940s, 12 more trials of Nazi leaders of various ranks took place in Nuremberg.

In addition, thousands of Hitlerites were convicted in the countries in which they committed their crimes.

“The Nuremberg Trials have become a key stage in the formation of a new sub-branch of international law - international criminal law related to crimes against humanity.

From this point of view, Nuremberg is the logical end of the Second World War and a very important milestone in the development of mankind, "said Vladimir Shapovalov, deputy director of the Institute of History and Politics at Moscow State Pedagogical University, in an interview with RT.

  • Reproduction of the painting by Kukryniksy "The Prosecution (Nuremberg Trial)"

  • RIA News

  • © Lev Ivanov

At the same time, according to him, not all fair expectations of the USSR regarding the punishment of the Nazis were satisfied - some of the Nazis were able to hide in Western countries due to the beginning of the Cold War.

“It is important that the Nuremberg Trials always stand in the way of the revival of Nazism and aggression as a state policy in our day and in the future.

Its results and historical lessons, not subject to oblivion, let alone revision and reassessment, should serve as a warning to everyone who sees themselves as the elected “arbiters of destinies” of states and peoples, ”wrote the candidate of historical sciences in her article“ The Nuremberg Trials: History and Modernity ” Natalia Shepova.

  • Nuremberg Trials.

    November 20, 1945 - October 1, 1946. In the dock

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  • © Evgeny Khaldei

According to Dmitry Surzhik, a serious omission of the Nuremberg trials was the lack of a special emphasis on collaboration.

According to him, the condemnation of the Nazi ideology and the SS system by the international tribunal automatically implies the condemnation of the accomplices of Hitlerism, but the decision of the tribunal would be more complete if the collaborationist organizations were listed in it by name.

“The Nuremberg Trials is a unique legal phenomenon that has no analogues in history.

During the work of the tribunal, a colossal array of documents was processed, monstrous crimes were revealed, absolutely new concepts were introduced into legal practice, which the whole world is guided by today, "summed up Mikhail Myagkov.