After civilization War II, international, domestic, and military courts conducted trials of tens of hundreds of accused battle criminals. Initiatives to bring to justice to the perpetrators that Nazi-era crimes continue well right into the 21st century. Unfortunately, most perpetrators have never been tried or punished. Nevertheless, the postwar trials did collection important legal precedents. Today, international and also domestic tribunals seek to uphold the principle the those that commit wartime atrocities need to be lugged to justice.

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Key Facts


Between 1945 and also 1949, Britain, France, the Soviet Union and also especially the United says tried Nazi diplomatic, economic, political, and military leaders before the international Military Tribunal (IMT) developed in Nuremberg, Germany. The Nuremberg trials are the ideal known that the postwar trials.


In the postwar period, tens of countless German perpetrators and their non-German collaborators were tried by courts in Germany or in the countries that Germany lived in during civilization War II or the collaborated with the Germans in the persecution that civilian populations. Efforts to bring the perpetrators that Nazi crimes to justice have actually persisted well right into the 21st century.


The trials the perpetrators the Nazi crimes collection lasting legit precedents and helped to create the now widely embraced principle the crimes like genocide and crimes versus humanity should not go unpunished.

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Before human being War II, trials had never played a major role in efforts to restore peace after global conflict. After people War I, for example, the victorious Allies forced Germany to offer up territory and also pay big sums in reparations as punishment because that waging an aggressive war. During civilization War II, however, together Nazi Germany and its Axis allies cursed atrocities top top a huge scale, make the efforts those responsible for such crimes in a court that law came to be one that the war aims of the ally powers.

In October 1943, us President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British element Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin signed the Moscow explanation of German Atrocities. The declaration declared that at the moment of one armistice, Germans considered responsible because that atrocities would certainly be sent ago to those countries in i beg your pardon the crimes had actually been committed.There, they would certainly be judged and punished according to the laws of the nation concerned. “Major” war criminals, who crimes could be assigned no particular geographic location, would be punished by joint decision of the ally governments. 

The global Military Tribunal in Nuremberg

In respectable 1945, Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the United claims signed the London Agreement and also Charter (also dubbed the Nuremberg Charter). The Charter developed an worldwide Military Tribunal (IMT) in Nuremberg, Germany, to try significant German battle criminals. The assigned the IMT jurisdiction end crimes against peace, battle crimes, and also crimes against humanity, which encompass such crimes as "murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation...or persecutions top top political, racial, or religious grounds."

The most famed of the war crimes trials organized after the war is the trial of 22 top German officials before the IMT in Nuremberg. This trial began on November 20, 1945. The IMT reached its decision on October 1, 1946, convicting 19 that the defendants and also acquitting 3. The those convicted, 12 to be sentenced come death, among them Reich Marshall Hermann Göring, Hans Frank, Alfred Rosenberg, and also Julius Streicher. The IMT sentenced 3 defendants to life imprisonment and 4 to prison terms ranging from 10 come 20 years. 

In addition to the Nuremberg IMT, the ally powers created the international Military Tribunal for the Far eastern in Tokyo in 1946, which tried leading Japanese officials.

Subsequent Nuremberg Trials

Under the aegis that the Nuremberg IMT, US army tribunals conducted 12 additional trials. This trials are frequently referred to jointly as the subsequent Nuremberg Proceedings. 

Between December 1946 and also April 1949, united state prosecutors make the efforts 177 persons and won convictions of 97 defendants. Amongst the teams who stood trial were: leading physicians; Einsatzgruppen members; members of the German justice management and German foreign Office; members the the German High Command; and also leading German industrialists. 

Other Trials in the ally Occupation Zones

In the instant postwar years, each of the 4 Allied powers occupying Germany and also Austria—France, good Britain, the Soviet Union, and also the unified States— make the efforts a range of perpetrators because that wartime offenses cursed within your zone that occupation. The overwhelming bulk of this post-1945 war crimes trials associated lower-level Nazi officials and functionaries. Much of our early on knowledge of the German concentration camp system comes from the evidence and eyewitness testimonies at few of these trials.

Allied occupation officials witnessed the restoration of the German court mechanism as crucial step in the denazification that Germany. Allied manage Council legislation No. 10 that December 1945 authorized German courts to shot crimes versus humanity committed during the battle years by German citizens against other German nationals or against stateless people in Germany. As a result, such crimes as the Nazi murder of persons through disabilities (referred come by the Nazis together “euthanasia”)—where both victims and also perpetrators had been predominantly German nationals—were tried under newly reconstructed German tribunals. 

Postwar Trials in Germany

In 1949, Germany to be formally divided into two separate countries. The federal Republic the Germany (West Germany) was established in the zones lived in by Britain, France, and the joined States and also was allied come those countries. The German democratic Republic (East Germany) was established in the Soviet occupation zone and was allied with the Soviet Union. Both countries ongoing to host trials against Nazi-era defendants in the adhering to decades. 

Since 1949, end 900 proceedings trying defendants of national Socialist era crimes have been performed by the federal Republic that Germany (meaning, West Germany before the fall of the Berlin wall surface in 1990 and also united Germany afterwards). These proceedings have been criticized since most defendants to be acquitted or got light sentences. In addition, hundreds of Nazi officials and perpetrators never faced trial, and also many went back to the professions they had practiced under the third Reich. Because that example, former Nazi officials made up the majority of judges in West Germany for several years after the war.

Other Postwar Trials

Many countries that Germany lived in during people War II or the collaborated v the Germans in the persecution of civilian populations, consisting of Jews, likewise tried both German perpetrators and their own citizens who had actually perpetrated crimes throughout the war. Czechoslovakia, France, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and also the Soviet Union, amongst others, tried countless defendants. Because that example, the Soviet Union held its an initial trial, the Krasnodar Trial, against local partners in 1943, long prior to World war II had ended.

In Poland, the polishing Supreme national Tribunal do the efforts 49 Nazi officials who had actually perpetrated crimes throughout the Nazi occupation that Poland. Amongst them was Rudolf Höss, the longest offer Auschwitz commandant. He to be sentenced come death and hanged in the execution block in ~ Auschwitz in April 1947. The Supreme national Tribunal likewise tried and sentenced to fatality other Auschwitz personnel, including previous commandant Arthur Liebehenschel, as well as Amon Göth, that commanded the Plaszow concentration camp.

By 1950, global concerns around the Cold War overshadowed interest in achieve justice because that the crime of people War II. Trials external of Germany mainly ceased, and also most of the convicted perpetrators that were not executed were set totally free during the 1950s. 

The Eichmann Trial

Outside the Poland, crimes versus Jews were no the emphasis of many postwar trials, and there was tiny international awareness or understanding of the Holocaust in the instant postwar period. This changed in 1961 with the attempt of Adolf Eichmann, cook administrator the the deportation of european Jews, before an Israeli court. The Eichmann trial also brought fist to the presence of accused Nazi perpetrators in a number of countries outside Europe, since Eichmann had cleared up in Argentina ~ the war. 

In 1979, the United states Department of Justice established the Office of unique Investigations to seek the perpetrators of Nazi crimes that were life in the united States. A te later, Australia, Britain, and Canada additionally sought to prosecute Nazi perpetrators living within your borders. The hunt because that German and Axis battle criminals has continued into the 21st century.

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The postwar prosecutions that Nazi crimes set important legit precedents. 

In 1946, the United nations unanimously known the crime that aggression, war crimes, and also crimes against humanity as offenses under international law. The UN consequently recognized enhancements to worldwide criminal law designed to defend civilians indigenous atrocities. Because that example, in 1948, the UN adopted the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. 

Since the end of the Cold War, a variety of special tribunals have tried worldwide crimes cursed in specific countries, such together the genocide cursed in Rwanda in 1994. In 2002, a new, permanent international Criminal Court started to operate. Residential courts in some countries additionally prosecute the perpetrators of international crimes. Although such prosecutions remain rare, today there is widespread commitment that states have a duty to protect civilians native atrocities and to punishment those that commit them.