International Military Tribunal: The Defendants
In the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust, the world was faced with a challenge—how to seek justice for an almost unimaginable scale of criminal behavior. The International Military Tribunal (IMT) held in Nuremberg, Germany, attempted to broach this immense challenge. On October 18, 1945, the chief prosecutors of the IMT brought charges against 24 leading Nazi officials.
On October 18, 1945, the chief prosecutors of the International Military Tribunal (IMT) read the indictments against 24 leading Nazi officials. The four charges brought against these officials were:
- Conspiracy to commit crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity
- Crimes against peace
- War crimes
- Crimes against humanity
Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach (1870–1950)
A leading German industrialist and chairman of the Reich Association of Industry, whose position with the Adolf-Hitler-Spende (Adolf Hitler Fund) accorded him economic benefits. As a result of his influential standing, Krupp's firm was offered facilities in eastern Europe and made extensive use of forced labor during the war. He was deemed too ill to stand trial at the IMT, and at the subsequent Krupp Case heard in Nuremberg in 1947. He died in 1950.
Robert Ley (1890–1945)
In 1933, after all German trade unions were dissolved, Ley established the Deutsche Arbeitsfront (DAF; German Labor Party). As head of the DAF, Ley was known as the "undisputed dictator of labor" in Germany, and the organization's membership totalled 25 million; nevertheless, during the war he was overshadowed in labor issues by rivals like Albert Speer and Fritz Sauckel, his codefendants in 1945. Obsessed with the idea of becoming a martyr, Ley committed suicide in his cell at Nuremberg shortly before trial began.
Martin Bormann (1900–1945)
In 1933, Bormann became the Chief of Staff for Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy. Virtually unknown to the German public, as a close assistant to Hitler he was a powerful force behind the scenes in internal politics. Following Hess' flight to Great Britain, Bormann became head of the Party Chancellery (1941) and, officially in 1943, Secretary to the Führer. Bormann's hand could be seen in an array of domestic policies, including the plunder of artwork, the persecution of Jews, the "euthanasia" effort, and the expansion of forced-labor programs. He also signed a series of edicts ordering Jewish deportations to the east. Bormann died in an effort to flee Berlin in the last days of World War II, but was long thought to be at large. He was tried in absentia in Nuremberg, where he was sentenced to death. West German authorities officially declared him dead in 1973, after his remains were discovered and positively identified.
Karl Dönitz (1891–1980)
Commander of Germany's U-Boat fleet from 1939. In 1943, Dönitz was appointed Commander in Chief of the German War Navy, succeeding Erich Raeder. In May 1945 he was appointed Reich President as per Hitler's will, after Hitler committed suicide. Dönitz was found guilty on counts 2 and 3 and was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.
Hans Frank (1900–1946)
Founder of the National Socialist Attorney's Organization, Hitler's counsel in the 1930 Reichswehr Trial, and after the outbreak of World War II Governor General of Nazi-occupied Poland. As Governor General, Frank was responsible for the exploitation of the population and the deportation and execution of Jews. He was found guilty on counts 3 and 4 and sentenced to death. He was executed on October 16, 1946.
Wilhelm Frick (1877–1946)
Reich Minister of the Interior from 1933-1943, and Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia. In the decisive first years of the Nazi dictatorship, he directed legislation that removed Jews from public life, abolished political parties, and sent political dissidents to concentration camps. Frick was found guilty on counts 2, 3, and 4 and sentenced to death. He was executed on October 16, 1946.
Hans Fritzsche (1900–1953)
Head of the Radio Division of the Propaganda Ministry. A third tier propaganda official who had not held a policy-making position, Fritzsche was included in the dock at Nuremberg in the absence of the dead Josef Goebbels and to mollify Soviet authorities, who held him in their custody. Although he was acquitted by the IMT, he was then arrested again and brought before the German denazification courts. He was sentenced to nine years imprisonment and released in September 1950.
Walther Funk (1890–1960)
Minister of Economics and President of the Reichsbank, Funk played an early role in driving German Jews from the economy and took part in the confiscation of valuables and financial assets of Holocaust victims. Funk was found guilty on counts 2, 3, and 4 and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was released in 1957 due to poor health.
Hermann Göring (1893–1946)
Commander in Chief of the Luftwaffe (Air Force), President of the Reichstag, Director of the Four Year Plan, and at the outbreak of war in Europe Hitler's acknowledged successor. Following Kristallnacht in November 1938, Göring was integral in "Aryanization" efforts which removed Jews from the German economy. It was he who ordered Reinhard Heydrich to begin substantive efforts for a "total solution" to the "Jewish question." He lost favor with Hitler as the war progressed, and his efforts to enter into negotiations with the western Allies spurred Hitler to expel him from the Party near war's end, but Göring figured as chief defendant in the Nuremberg dock. Göring was found guilty on all 4 counts and sentenced to death. On the eve of his scheduled execution, he committed suicide by taking cyanide.
Rudolf Hess (1894–1987)
Longstanding personal aide to Hitler, and Deputy Party Leader of the Nazi Party (until 1941). In May 1941, Hess flew to Scotland with the hopes of making peace between Germany and Britain. He was immediately arrested and imprisoned. Hess was found guilty on counts 1 and 2 and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was the only one of the defendants to serve the full life term; he committed suicide in prison at age 93.
Alfred Jodl (1890–1946)
Chief of the Armed Forces High Command Operational Staff. In this capacity he directed all military campaigns except those against the Soviet Union. Jodl was found guilty on all 4 counts and sentenced to death. He was hanged on October 16, 1946.
Ernst Kaltenbrunner (1903–1946)
Chief of the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA) and Chief of Security Police following Reinhard Heydrich's assassination. In this position he controlled the security police, SD, and the Gestapo. He was a prime figure in the "Final Solution" in the last years of the war. He was found guilty on counts 3 and 4 and sentenced to death and hanged on October 16, 1946.
Wilhelm Keitel (1882–1946)
Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces High Command. Keitel was found guilty on all 4 counts and sentenced to death. He was hanged on October 16, 1946.
Erich Raeder (1876–1960)
Commander in Chief of the German Navy until his resignation and retirement in May 1943. Raeder was found guilty on counts 1, 2, and 3 and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was released due to poor health in 1955 after having served 9 years of his sentence.
Alfred Rosenberg (1893–1946)
Official chief Nazi philosopher, head of the Nazi Party's Foreign Affairs Department, Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories. Rosenberg established an organization whose mission was to loot and confiscate European Jewish cultural treasures and bring them to Germany. As Reich Minister for the Occupied East, he played a role in the extermination of Jews and the deportation of Soviet civilians for forced labor. Rosenberg was found guilty on all 4 counts and sentenced to death. He was hanged on October 16, 1946.
Fritz Sauckel (1894–1946)
Plenipotentiary General for the Deployment of Labor. In this capacity Sauckel was responsible for providing the workforce, and in response to the increased demand for workers, millions of forced labors were taken from occupied territories. He was found guilty on counts 3 and 4 and sentenced to death. Sauckel was hanged on October 16, 1946.
Hjalmar Schacht (1877–1970)
Reichsbank president until 1939 and general plenipotentiary for the war economy. Superceded by Göring in economic affairs, he was removed from the Ministry of Economics in 1937 and remained as Minister without Portfolio until 1943. Following the assassination attempt on Hitler in 1944, Schacht was sent to a concentration camp for his loose ties with conservative resistance members. He was acquitted in Nuremberg; however, he was tried and sentenced by a denazification court to eight years in a work camp. He was released in 1948.
Arthur Seyss-Inquart (1892–1946)
Reich Governor of Austria, Deputy Governor to Hans Frank in the General Government of Occupied Poland and Reichskommissar for the German occupied Netherlands. In the latter capacity, Seyss-Inquart shared culpability in the deportation of Dutch Jews and the shooting of hostages. He was found guilty on counts 2, 3, and 4 and sentenced to death. Seyss-Inquart was hanged on October 16, 1946.
Albert Speer (1905–1981)
Hitler's architect, and Reich Minister of Armaments and Munitions from 1942. In 1937 Speer was appointed Inspector General for Construction Projects in Berlin, responsible for rebuilding Berlin, and his department oversaw the apartments from which Berlin Jews were evicted and then allocated to non-Jews. As Reich Minister of Armaments and Munitions, Speer used millions of forced laborers to raise production. During the Nuremberg trial, Speer acknowledged the regime's guilt and his personal responsibility for using slave labor. His show of remorse helped to account for a lenient sentence: he was found guilty on counts 3 and 4 and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was released in 1966.
Julius Streicher (1885–1946)
Propagandist and editor of Der Stuermer, a virulently antisemitic newspaper. A leading organizer of Nazi Germany's first official Reich-wide boycott of Jewish businesses in April 1933, Streicher had lost credibility in Party circles by 1940. Streicher was found guilty on count 4 of the indictment and sentenced to death. He was hanged on October 16, 1946.
Konstantin von Neurath (1873–1956)
Foreign Minister of Germany (1932–1938), Reich Protector for Bohemia and Moravia (1939–1941). Neurath was found guilty on all 4 counts and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. He was released in 1954 due to ill health after serving 8 years of his sentence.
Franz von Papen (1879–1969)
Former Chancellor of Germany, Ambassador to Austria (1934–1938), and Ambassador to Turkey (1939-1944). As Ambassador to Austria, he paved the way for the Anschluss. He failed in his attempts to persuade Turkey to join Germany in World War II. Papen was acquitted of all charges in Nuremberg. In 1949 a denazification court sentenced him to time in a labor camp; however, he was released immediately following appeals.
Joachim von Ribbentrop (1893–1946)
Foreign Minister of Germany. He played a role in the annexation of Bohemia and Moravia, and in the attack on Poland in September 1939. Ribbentrop also persuaded leaders of other countries to deport Jews to concentration camps. He was found guilty on all 4 counts and sentenced to death. He was hanged on October 16, 1946.
Baldur von Schirach (1907-1974)
Leader of the Hitler Youth (1933–1940) and Gauleiter in Austria (1940–1945), in this position his responsibilities included deporting Jews from Vienna to Poland. Schirach was found guilty on count 4 and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. He was released from prison in 1966.
Series: International Military Tribunal
Series: International Military Tribunal: Defendants
Critical Thinking Questions
- Beyond the verdicts, what impact can trials have?
- How were various professions involved in implementing Nazi policies and ideology? What lessons can be considered for contemporary professionals?
- How have some professional codes of conduct changed following the Holocaust?
- Is it ever too late for accountability?