Theodor von Hornbostel testifies for the prosecution during the Ministries Trial.

Subsequent Nuremberg Proceedings, Case #11: The Ministries Case

After World War II ended, the Allies established courts in each of their occupied zones in Germany to prosecute German officials for their role in the commission of war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity. American military tribunals in Nuremberg, Germany, presided over 12 major proceedings against leading German industrialists, military figures, SS perpetrators, and others. Included among these Subsequent Nuremberg Trials was the Ministries Case.

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United States v. Ernst von Weizaecker, et al.

The US Military Government for Germany created Military Tribunal IV-A on December 11, 1947, in order to try the Ministries Case, the 11th Subsequent Nuremberg Proceeding.

Brigadier General Telford Taylor, the US chief counsel, delivers the prosecution's opening statement at the Ministries Trial.

Brigadier General Telford Taylor, the US chief counsel, delivers the prosecution's opening statement at the Ministries Trial. - US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Martha Koessler

The 21 defendants included three Reich Ministers as well as state secretaries and members of the Nazi Party hierarchy. They were indicted on November 18 and arraigned two days later. The indictment listed eight counts:

  • 18 of the defendants were charged with committing crimes against peace by participating in the planning, preparation, initiation, and waging of wars of aggression and wars in violation of international treaties
  • 17 of the defendants were charged with participating in a common plan or conspiracy to commit crimes against peace
  • 8 were charged with committing war crimes by participating in atrocities and offenses, including murder, enslavement, and ill-treatment, against POWs and those at war with Germany
  • 13 were charged with committing crimes against humanity by participating in atrocities and offenses, including murder, extermination, and enslavement, against German nationals on political, religious, and racial grounds
  • 19 were charged with committing war crimes and crimes against humanity by participating in the atrocities and offenses listed above against German nationals and civilians of territories under German occupation
  • 16 were charged with committing war crimes and crimes against humanity by participating in the plunder of public and private property, exploitation, and spoliation of countries under German occupation
  • 14 were charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity by participating in the enslavement, deportation for slave labor, and ill-treatment of civilians of territories under German control, German nationals, and POWs
  • 14 were charged with membership in the SS, one with membership in the SD, and four with membership in the leaderships corps of the Nazi Party, all recently declared criminal organizations

The trial ran from January 6, 1948, until November 18, making it the second longest Nuremberg proceeding after the main International Military Tribunal trial. The tribunal returned its judgment on six of the eight counts between April 11 and 13, 1949, having dismissed count four during the trial, ruling it was beyond their jurisdiction, and dismissing count two for lack of evidence. It acquitted two of the defendants, but found the rest guilty on at least one charge.

Sentencing was announced on 13 April. The convicted defendants received terms ranging from 4 to 25 years. One defendant was sentenced to time served. The United States High Commissioner for Germany revised these sentences on January 31, 1951, however, reducing eight of the sentences to shorter terms or to time served.