|Justice Robert Jackson delivers the |
prosecution's opening statement.
November 21, 1945
The International Military Tribunal defined crimes against humanity as "murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation...or persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds." A fourth charge of conspiracy was added both to cover crimes committed under domestic Nazi law before the beginning of the Second World War and so that subsequent tribunals would have jurisdiction to prosecute any individual belonging to a proven criminal organization.
The major German state and governmental organizations and agencies were deemed criminal and prosecuted as such, the Reich Cabinet, the Leadership Corps of the Nazi Party, the Elite Guard (SS), the Security Service (SD), the Secret State Police (Gestapo), the Stormtroopers (SA), and the General Staff and High Command of the German Armed Forces.
American chief prosecutor Robert Jackson decided to argue his case primarily on the basis of mounds of documents written by the Nazis themselves rather than eyewitness testimony so that the trial could not be accused of relying on biased or tainted testimony.
The judges delivered their verdict on October 1, 1946. Three of four judges were needed for conviction. Twelve defendants were sentenced to death, among them Joachim von Ribbentrop, Hans Frank, Alfred Rosenberg, and Julius Streicher.
The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg was one of the earliest and most famous of several subsequent war crimes trials. The overwhelming majority of post-1945 war crimes trials involved lower-level officials and officers. They included concentration camp guards and commandants, police officers, members of the Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units), and doctors who participated in medical experiments.