Seventy years since Nuremburg

Apr 2017
298
United Kingdom
#1
Over seventy years ago the first death sentences were issued by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremburg against the German defendants accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity(October 16, 1946).
Although critics(such as the late Freda Utley) attacked the IMT as "victors' justice", with many noting that the victorious nations sitting in judgement on the vanquished Axis included the Reich;s former partner in crime, Stalin's Soviet Union(during the period of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939- June 1941), I remain convinced that with this exception, it was a step forward. Without the IMT and its Japanese counterpart, the IMTFE(International Military Tribunal Far East), there might very well NOT be an International Criminal Court nowadays!
Contrary to the blather of holocaust deniers and Neo Nazis, the defendants were afforded every right familiar to defendants then and now- to choose their own counsel(many of them being former Nazi Party members), to call allied officers as defence witnesses(as Admiral Karl Doenitz did for Admiral Chester W.Nimitz of the US Navy to testify that Germany's naval war was no worse for the most part than America's in the Pacific), no instance of torture or undue physical pressure was recorded or even alleged, they all pleaded not guilty and had the right to appeal against their sentences.
Anybody think as I do?

Terry
 
Last edited:
Jul 2009
9,955
#2
The death sentences were understandable due to the monstrous nature of the crimes. The concept, and the understanding of "victors' justice" are nothing new. Its acceptance after Nuremburg reflected the general understanding that the verdicts were just and that it was right that some of those responsible should suffer death. Theirs were certainly more merciful than many others for whom they were responsible.

The importance of the Nuremburg Trials had less to do with justice than it did with showing the world at large that war crimes had consequences. In 1946 there were not many people defending the Nazi elite. Retiring them on pensions was hardly an acceptable option.
 

Linschoten

Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
16,205
Welsh Marches
#4
Politics, all politics; in Japan, the Americans judged that a transition to a democratic order could best be achieved by avoiding a direct confrontation with the past, and if one is to judge by the results, that was no bad judgement. In Europe, on the other hand, a final discrediting of Nazi actions was desired, and the Nuremberg trials could be regarded as having contributed to that.

I feel uncomfortable with a one-sided punishment of war-crimes by the victors. But one could point out that many of the things for which men were prosecuted at Nuremberg were not war-crimes in any ordinary sense, but gratuitous atrocities that did contribute directly to the furthering of military objectives.
 

rvsakhadeo

Ad Honorem
Sep 2012
9,171
India
#5
Politics, all politics; in Japan, the Americans judged that a transition to a democratic order could best be achieved by avoiding a direct confrontation with the past, and if one is to judge by the results, that was no bad judgement. In Europe, on the other hand, a final discrediting of Nazi actions was desired, and the Nuremberg trials could be regarded as having contributed to that.

I feel uncomfortable with a one-sided punishment of war-crimes by the victors. But one could point out that many of the things for which men were prosecuted at Nuremberg were not war-crimes in any ordinary sense, but gratuitous atrocities that did contribute directly to the furthering of military objectives.
The men who were hanged were most certainly guilty of murders, and in many cases, of mass murder. Keitel and Jodl were most certainly guilty of war crimes, when they acquiesced in the execution of the Commissar Order. Others
were certainly responsible for ' Crimes against humanity '. Whatever way we designate their guilts, here was a bunch of thugs who deserved to die.
 

starman

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
4,081
Connecticut
#6
Contrary to the blather of holocaust deniers and Neo Nazis, the defendants were afforded every right familiar to defendants then and now- to choose their own counsel(many of them being former Nazi Party members), to call allied officers as defence witnesses(as Admiral Karl Doenitz did for Admiral Chester W.Nimitz of the US Navy to testify that Germany's naval war was no worse for the most part than America's in the Pacific), no instance of torture or undue physical pressure was recorded or even alleged, they all pleaded not guilty and had the right to appeal against their sentences.
I don't think the Nuremburg trials were fair. The defendants weren't allowed to use respondent superior as a defense, which is unreasonable, nor, with the exception you cited, could they point to allied actions as a defense of their own (I don't recall offhand the legal term for that). There's no way they could've gotten a really fair trial at the time and they didn't.
 

starman

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
4,081
Connecticut
#7
Keitel and Jodl were most certainly guilty of war crimes
IIRC in a mock followup trial, after the passions of 1945-46 had subsided, Jodl was actually acquited.

Others
were certainly responsible for ' Crimes against humanity '. Whatever way we designate their guilts, here was a bunch of thugs who deserved to die.
An American Admiral, Gallery called Nuremburg "a kangeroo court and a travesty on justice...trial and sentencing of Doenitz an outstanding example of baldfaced hypocrisy...." The British themselves were opposed to arraigning Raeder and Doenitz as defendants.
IMO some of the death sentences were unreasonably harsh. Streicher for example, may have been a rather detestable character. But he wasn't actually responsible for mass liquidation. All he did was publish a paper or two, irrelevant to actual SS planning. Rosenberg too had essentially no power. IIRC Seys Inquart had a good defense for his time in Holland and was strung up essentially just because he knew of the mass liquidation.
Basically this was a group of defendants being tried at a time when emotions were at a peak and reason at a low ebb....There was political pressure to hang most of them and not alter the sentences no matter what they said in their appeals for clemency.
 
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Corvidius

Ad Honorem
Jul 2017
2,995
Crows nest
#8
I believe Churchill wanted them all hanged, and the entire German officer corps to be shot.

Anyway, not specifically to do with Nürnberg, is the case of Kurt Meyer, [Panzer Meyer] the commander of the 12th SS Panzer Division "Hitler Jugend". He was tried in Canada for war crimes and sentenced to death, ironically by the Canadian general who had commanded allied forces fighting against Meyer's division, so certainly a form of victors justice there. However, this sentence was commuted to a prison term and Meyer, after fifteen years, got home, and then wrote a book about his experiences. It's titled "Grenadiers". The reason his death sentence was commuted is that all the evidence against him had been fabricated, the most damning "evidence", that of orders to shoot all allied captives, being fabricated by a deserter from Meyer's division.

The interest is not really in Meyer's story, but in the techniques used against him at his trial, the same techniques used against the defendants at Nürnberg. Now, while I would not hesitate to shoot every single person involved in the death camps and the killing of civilians in many places at many times during the war, Babi Yar, Lidice and Oradour-sur-Glane come to immediate mind, I fail to understand why, in the face of real horrors, that fake evidence has to be concocted. No matter what we may think of these people, I see no reason to tar all with the same brush as it really does smack of victors justice and not real justice. Fortunately for Meyer he ended up in Canada where they, without admitting making things up, had the decency to stop short of killing a man for no reason.
 

rvsakhadeo

Ad Honorem
Sep 2012
9,171
India
#9
IIRC in a mock followup trial, after the passions of 1945-46 had subsided, Jodl was actually acquited.



An American Admiral, Gallery called Nuremburg "a kangeroo court and a travesty on justice...trial and sentencing of Doenitz an outstanding example of baldfaced hypocrisy...." The British themselves were opposed to arraigning Raeder and Doenitz as defendants.
IMO some of the death sentences were unreasonably harsh. Streicher for example, may have been a rather detestable character. But he wasn't actually responsible for mass liquidation. All he did was publish a paper or two, irrelevant to actual SS planning. Rosenberg too had essentially no power. IIRC Seys Inquart had a good defense for his time in Holland and was strung up essentially just because he knew of the mass liquidation.
Basically this was a group of defendants being tried at a time when emotions were at a peak and reason at a low ebb....There was political pressure to hang most of them and not alter the sentences no matter what they said in their appeals for clemency.
Jodl was involved in the execution of the infamous ' Commissar Order ' along with Keitel. Was he not, along with Keitel, responsible for the deaths of so many non-combatants ? His plea for a death by shooting was rejected,ostensibly because he did not deserve a soldier's death that he wanted. He was observed to be extremely nervous on the way to the scaffold, constantly trying to swallow. But Keitel did shout ' Long Live Germany ' .
Any body can see how blatant was the guilt of many others. For example, was not Hannes Frank, saying that he deserved no mercy and deserved to die by hanging ? Seyss Inquart must have been up to his neck in the deportation of the Jews from Holland.
 

Linschoten

Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
16,205
Welsh Marches
#10
It is possible to have all sorts of doubts about the procedures at Nuremberg, but when one looks at the list of people who were executed, I find it hard not to think that in almost every case they justly deserved that fate, and I cannot help feeling some doubt about the moral attitudes about those who feel that this was a 'travesty of justice'.
 

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