Nuremberg trials happened in response to the Nazi atrocities committed on the Jewish population and other minorities deemed as inferior due to racial biases and racism that was epidemic during the 1930s and 1940s. The persecution of the Jews dates back a millennium. Still, the German regime began in 1933 with Adolf Hitler becoming the Chancellor and later the Father of the Fatherland in Germany, which accelerated the persecution of the Jewish population in Germany. Altogether during the Holocaust, it is believed that between 4 million and 6 million Jews were killed, with a further 2 to 3 million added to this total being physically disabled, mentally disabled and other ethnic groups deemed as inferior by the Nazis, for example, the gypsies in occupied Nazi territory during World War two from 1930 and 1945.

This is a guest post by writer Jonathan Riley. Find out more about him on his Medium page, as well as his LinkedIn, and his blog.


In response to this state-sponsored mass murder of European citizens from various ethnic groups, the United States of America, the British Empire, and the Soviet Union issued a joint statement in December 1942 noting the mass murder of the European Jewish population and resolving to prosecute those responsible for violence against civilian populations according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). However, this must be reiterated that it’s believed that the British Empire, USA and the Soviet Union were fully aware of what the Nazis were doing in the concentration camps and extermination camps but chose not to act because if they did, it would mean the allies would have had to alter the way they were conducting the war. An example of this can be seen in the American use of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki 185,000 and 110,00 were killed instantly. Also, the British deliberately allowed the Luftwaffe, the German air force to destroy British population centers for the Royal Air Force to resupply and retrain to hold the skies during the Battle of Britain. This shows that the allies’ morality was not in sync with the objectives of winning the Second World War and defeating the axis powers of the Italians’ new Roman Empire, Imperial Japanese ambitions and the fascism of Nazi Germany.

Nuremberg Trials

The full unmasking of the atrocities of the Holocaust Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, posed to execute 50,000 to 100,000 German officers, with the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill proposing summary executions without trial. In response to this United States under Harry S Truman forward the idea of the Nuremberg trials so that the criminals face justice and not vengeance. The Nuremberg trials started from November 1945 until October 1946, ending with death sentences imposed in October 1946, were carried out by Master Sergeant John C. Woods (1903-50), who told a reporter from Time magazine that he was proud of his work. “The way I look at this hanging job, somebody has to do it . . . 10 men in 103 minutes. That’s fast work.”

On 1 October 1946, the Nuremberg trials included which convicted 19 of the defendants and acquitted 3 of the 12 convicted were sentenced to death; however, Hermann Göring committed suicide before the execution took place, just like Joseph Goebbels, the chief propagandist of the Nazi regime in 1945, Heinrich Himmler Vice Chancellor for Adolf Hitler and the main architect of the extermination camps also commit suicide in 1945 same with Adolf Hitler, the leader of Nazi Germany. In October 1946, 16 executions were carried out by hanging in a gymnasium courthouse, with the other’s sentence in 1947 sent to Spandau Prison. Subsequent trials and hearings would continue until 1949, with those not convicted finally released in the early 1950s.

Nuremberg trials in themselves were highly controversial; the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Harlan Stone (1872 to 1947), stated that the proceedings were “fraud” and a “high-grade lynching party”. William O Douglas (1898-1980), an Associate of United States Supreme Court justice, said that the “allies substituted power for a principal” during the Nuremberg trials. Nevertheless, with the controversial aspects due to the nature of the trial, it established an international law precedent that gave legitimacy for regimes to execute, invade and protect the human rights of people persecuted in foreign countries. This aspect is highly controversial because when the United Nations was created on 24 October 1945 in San Francisco in the United States of America, the British Empire, French Empire/Republic, and the Soviet Union were against the principles of other nation-states interfering in the domestic policies of the states. The British Empire saw its imperial territories not as an international body but as an internal political entity directly linked to the British home islands, which meant the British were strongly against intervention from outside powers within the internal politics of the British Empire, which was a point of view strongly shared by the other remaining Imperial and expansionist powers after 1945. However, with this being the case, the Nuremberg trials directly led to the United Nations Genocide Convention created in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights created in 1948, and the Geneva Conventions on the Laws and Customs of War created in 1949. Additionally, the international military Tribunal supplied a useful precedent for Japanese war criminals in Tokyo from 1946 to 1948 to face trial in the trial of the Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann (1906-1962) and further created the historical precedent for committees and Tribunals on the crimes of the Rwanda genocide in 1994.

A great legacy of the Nuremberg trials is that it established a historical convention that war criminals and states that committed genocidal acts will face punishment and that those responsible will face justice but not vengeance. Unfortunately, according to the historian David Starkey is at the concept of human rights and justice for the persecutors of war crimes is a predominantly Western and global North viewpoint due to the liberal traditions and legalism that were developed in the West. Mr Starkey argues that the winners and not the losers decide those who are punished and that the Soviet Union never truly bought into the concept of universal human rights that Joseph Stalin believed in one thing and one thing, only the politics of real power.

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