Question: The Nuremberg Trials After World War 2 Were Symbolic Because..
Answer: The Nuremberg Trials were symbolic and a landmark event in the history of humanitarian causes as they set the precedence for developing laws on international crimes, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
The Nuremberg Trials led to the formation of the seven Nuremberg Principles, a set of legal principles recognized by the Charter for the International Military Tribunal. This body undertook the trial and judgment. The United Nations General Assembly later adopted these principles, and they are now widely considered the basic foundations of contemporary international and war crime laws.
To understand the symbolic importance of Nuremberg Trials in the aftermath of the Second World War, we need to look at the horrifying atrocities committed by Nazi Germany and the precedents set by the trial itself.
The Second World War
The Second World War was a deep wound, an unerasable blemish in the history of human civilization. Like its predecessor, the Second World War wrought unthinkable amounts of death and destruction on the countries and far-reaching consequences for the world.
Apart from the millions of deaths and billions of dollars of losses, World War 2 witnessed horrifying atrocities against civilians. The Axis Powers, especially Nazi Germany, carried out a systematic extermination of the Jewish people. And, across the lands invaded, the Nazi military executed, tortured, pillaged, and raped inhabitants wantonly.
15,000,000 battle deaths, 20,000,000 battle wounded, and 45,000,000 civilian deaths were the approximate numbers that reflect the absolute death & destruction caused by the war.
Nazi War Crimes & Punishment For Wicked
Poland, Czechoslovakia, France, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Greece, and the erstwhile USSR --- no country was spared from the destructive blitzkrieg of the Germans.
As the World War 2 raged, losses and casualties rose like smoke from a raging inferno. At the same time, the Nazi leadership under German dictator Adolf Hitler pursued their agenda and vendetta against civilians & especially the Jewish race.
Summary executions, torture, enslavement, unlawful internment in concentration camps, and numerous unthinkable crimes against human beings were carried out throughout the war. Six million Jews from across Europe were killed. Men, women, children, and elderly – none were spared. Approximately 20 million were killed in the Soviet Union, to say nothing of all soldiers, defendants, and collateral casualties.
After the defeat of the Axis Powers, Allied leaders vowed to bring swift and absolute justice to Nazi war criminals at any cost whatsoever. Thus began the Nuremberg Trials, which sought to charge all major Nazi military & political leaders for their role in crimes committed against humanity.
An Overview of the Nuremberg Trials
Representatives of the Allied forces and all the governments in exile in the United Kingdom prepared to indict the Nazi leadership of heinous war crimes and crimes against peace & humanity. I may 2, 1945, then US President Harry S. Truman prepared an international military tribunal, and after Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally on May 8th, prosecutions began on October 1985.
- The Allied Powers convened an International Military Tribunal in the city of Nuremberg, Germany. Each state appointed 2 judges as well as an alternate prosecution team.
- 22 Nazi war criminals were indicted & prosecuted. Additionally, the United States carried out additional trials of numerous high-level Nazi officials in the government, military, and the SS, as well as prominent industrialists and medical professionals.
- Of the 199 defendants tried at Nuremberg, 161 were convicted of crimes against peace & humanity, war crimes, and conspiracy to commit war crimes & crimes against humanity and peace. Thirty-seven were sentenced to death.
- Many high-ranking political, administrative, and military officials had fled Germany and were thus not convicted in Nuremberg. They were subsequently hunted down and convicted of their crimes in other countries.
- The chief prosecutors of the International Military Tribunal were Robert H. Jackson (USA), Francois de Menthon (France), Roman A. Rudenko (Soviet Union), and Hartley Shawcross (UK).
- Key convicted Nazi personnel were à
- Hermann Goring (Hitler’s Deputy)
- Wilhelm Keitel (Armed Forces head)
- Ernst Kaltenbrunner (Head of security forces)
- Wilhelm Frick (Interior Minister)
- Alfred Jodl (German armed forces command)
- Alfred Rosenberg (Minister of occupied eastern territories)
- Joachim von Ribbentrop (Foreign minister)
- Arthur Seyss-Inquart (Overall Commissioner of occupied Netherlands)
- Fritz Sauckel (Head of the forced-labor allocation)
- Martin Bormann (Hitler’s personal secretary)
- Hans Frank (Governor General of occupied Poland)
- Julius Streicher (Radical Antisemitic publisher & propagandist)
The Nuremberg Tribunal’s verdict laid down the death sentence for all 12 Nazi officials. All executions were carried out on October 16th, 1946, except those of Goring and Bormann. Goring committed suicide while Borman was missing. Bormann's body was found near a bridge at Lehrter Station in Berlin, where he supposedly committed suicide.
- Also persecuted were numerous Nazi medical professionals, judges & legal professionals who established laws purporting Nazi racial purity, members of the Nazi death squad, and many officials and heads of the German industries that fed the Nazi War machine.
The Landmark Legacy of the Trials
The International Military Tribunal at the Nuremberg Trials was instrumental in establishing the principles that shaped the laws and codices on international crimes, war crimes, and crimes against peace & humanity. The basic epithets of modern medical ethics were also established during the trials and are known as the Nuremberg Code.
The Nuremberg Trials laid down the legal precedence of international criminal law for the first time. They also served as a referential framework for the United Nations Geneva Convention, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), and the Geneva Convention on the Laws & Customs of the War (1949).
The Nuremberg Trials symbolized a watershed moment in the history of international legal proceedings and prosecution of war crimes & crimes against humanity.
- The trial was the first time everyone, irrespective of their status or position, could be held accountable and responsible for war crimes & atrocities against humanity.
- Convicts cannot defend or shield themselves by shifting responsibility to their superiors or the state. They cannot guard themselves by stating that they are simply following orders from higher powers.
The Nuremberg principles, so established, make orders for engaging in aggressive warfare, violating accepted rules & customs of warfare, and persecuting civilians, prisoners, or prisoners of war completely illegal.
- Finally, the trials outlined the crimes and atrocities that constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity & peace, and crimes that violate international treaties & obligations.
What were the Nuremberg trials?
Nuremberg Trials was a landmark moment in international justice that tried and prosecuted Nazi political leaders and military heads. The trial established a major principle that inspired international criminal laws and conventions.
What were the key outcomes of the trials?
161 Nazi party and military heads were convicted, and 37 were summarily executed. The Nuremberg Principles and verdicts laid down the foundations of legal edicts, which hold individuals accountable for war crimes & crimes against humanity and prevent them from shifting responsibility.
Why was the Nuremberg Trials unique?
Never before were heads of state, ministers, or military leaders convicted for war crimes. Also, the Nuremberg Trial established clear and concrete definitions of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and peace.
Why was Nuremberg chosen as the venue for the trial?
The city of Nuremberg and the Palace of Justice were quite symbolic, as it was here that the Nazi party held massive military rallies as a show of force and celebration. The Nuremberg Rallies played a seminal role in strengthening and furthering the Nazi Propaganda machine.