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October 2016 marks 70 years since Nazi war criminals were prosecuted in what has been
called the biggest murder trial in history.
These 13 trials held in the German town of Nuremberg sparked a new era of international
human rights law.
So what were the Nuremberg Trials?
Well, during World War Two, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime systematically murdered an estimated
11 million people, more than half of whom were European Jews.
Throughout the war, the Allied powers, which included the United States, Great Britain
and the Soviet Union, issued regular warnings to the German government, promising to punish
its massing killing and other heinous war crimes.
 But with the war over in 1945, Allied leaders were not sure how to do this, as there was
no precedent for trying international crimes of this proportion.
Joseph Stalin suggested summarily killing as many as 100,000 officers without trial,
and even Winston Churchill considered doing so just for high-ranking members.
But US leaders persuaded the Allies to prosecute them in an actual trial.
From 1945 to 1949, Nazi party officials and military officers, as well as German industrialists,
doctors and lawyers were tried at Nuremberg.
The first and most infamous trial involved 24 major war criminals as well as six Nazi
Organizations, including its secret police, the ‘Gestapo’.
Notably absent was Hitler and his two of his highest ranking associates, as they had committed
suicide just months earlier.
Since this was the first time that different countries were simultaneously prosecuting
one trial, and instead of a single judge or jury, the cases were decided by an international
And despite the horrific nature of their crimes, US and British law dictated that the defendants
could choose their own attorneys.
Many of the Nazis admitted to their crimes, but argued that they were ‘just following
orders’, which has famously become known as the “Nuremberg defense”.
Another common claim was that other soldiers had committed the same acts, or worse, and
yet were not being held to the same standard of punishment.
In the end, nearly all were found guilty.
About half were sentenced to death, and the rest received prison terms ranging from ten
years to life.
Ten Nazis were hanged in just one day.
Interestingly, Hitler’s right hand man, Hermann Goering, was supposed to be executed
but committed suicide the night before.
After the Trial of Major War Criminals, twelve more trials were held at Nuremberg, however
they were judged by US military officials rather than an international tribunal.
Of the 185 Nazi doctors, lawyers, judges and businessmen that were tried, twelve were given
death sentences and 84 were put behind bars.
However, a majority of those involved in perpetrating the Holocaust did not see trial..
Today, the Nuremberg trials are considered a major milestone in the creation of international
The event led to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN’s establishment
of international war crimes and crimes against humanity.
However some have argued that although Nuremberg rectified some of the war’s atrocities,
it didn’t achieve its larger goal, that is, creating a precedent so that similar crimes
don’t occur.
In the last half century, millions of people have died as a result of genocides in countries
like Rwanda, Cambodia and former Yugoslavia, with few perpetrators being brought to justice.
And still, even today, war crimes and crimes against humanity continue around
the world.


This Was The Biggest Murder Trial In History

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BH 2016 年 12 月 18 日 に公開
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