The gates of the Palace of Justice in the German city of Nuremberg opened wide on Tuesday, November 20, 1945: two dozen high-ranking Nazis went on trial for atrocities committed before and during World War II.
The first trial lasted 10 months, consisting of 216 court sessions. Its defendants faced charges ranging from crimes against peace, to crimes of war, to crimes against humanity.
Lord Justice Geoffrey Lawrence of Great Britain presided over the proceedings conducted by an international tribunal made up of representatives from the United States, the Soviet Union, France and Great Britain.
On Tuesday, October 1, 1946, the verdict came in: 12 architects of Nazi policy were sentenced to death, seven others would spend time behind bars, between a decade and the rest of their lives.
Robert Ley, one of the main defendants, committed suicide while in prison. The tribunal also found another defendant, Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, mentally and physically incompetent to stand trial.
Sentenced to death by hanging were, among others, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Nazi minister of foreign affairs; Hermann Göring, leader of the Gestapo and the Luftwaffe; Alfred Jodl, head of the German armed forces staff; and Wilhelm Frick, minister of the interior.
Wednesday, October 16, 1946, would see 10 of the top Nazi policy-makers hanged. Göring, described as the “leading war aggressor and creator of the oppressive program against the Jews” during the sentencing session, committed suicide by poison on the eve of his scheduled execution.
Martin Bormann, the Nazi party leader, was condemned to death in absentia. According to available historical research, he is believed to have died in May 1945. Trials of lesser German and Axis war criminals continued in Germany into the 1950s. More than five thousand were convicted, and 806 of them executed.
Why remember it now?
We are inching close to another set of trials that would be based on the principles established at the Nuremberg Trials.
The Nuremberg Trials broke new ground in international law, leading to the United Nations Genocide Convention (1948), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the Geneva Convention on the Laws and Customs of War (1949).
There was one more important precedent established during these trials (13 of them, altogether). The London Charter of the International Military Tribunal, while setting the laws and procedures for the conduct of the Nuremberg Trials, defined three categories of crimes: crimes against the peace, war crimes and, for the first time ever, crimes against humanity. These new trial rules included not only murder, enslavement or deportation of civilians or persecution on political, religious or racial grounds, but abuse of medicine, as well.
The Nuremberg Trials marked the first-ever prosecutions for genocide.
Raphael Lemkin, a Polish-born lawyer who served on the prosecution team, has been credited with coining the term in 1944 to describe the Nazis’ plans to kill all of the Jews then alive.
The word is an amalgam of “genos,” Greek for “tribe” or “race,” and “-cide,” Latin for “killings.” Lemkin, who lost nearly 50 relatives in the Holocaust, would define genocide as “a coordinated plan of different actions aimed at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves.”
Repeated offence doubly criminal
Using official pronouncements made openly by official representatives of the World Economic Forum, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and George Soros-backed Open Societies, and founding their accusations on the so-called Nuremberg Code, these accusers argue that the recent so-called pandemic is a coordinated attempt aimed at achieving inhuman objectives, with destroying modern civilisation as its final goal.
Today’s accusers use the Nuremberg Doctors’ Trial, which began in December 1946 as a precedent case. It saw 12 doctors and administrators charged with committing war crimes and crimes against humanity for killing concentration camp inmates and conducting forced medical experiments on them.
Seven defendants were sentenced to death following the Nuremberg Doctors’ Trial, nine were sentenced to prison and seven were acquitted.
The Nuremberg Code’s core tenets provide clearer guidance on the rights of human subjects in scientific research. And, it is important to remember, violation of any single one of them calls for capital punishment.
As many as 152 United Nations members have ratified or acceded to the Genocide Convention (as of July 2019). Other 42 United Nations member states have yet to do so, 19 from Africa, 17 from Asia and six from America.