Nuremberg War Crime Trials - Death Sentences

On the 1st of October, 1946, eleven high-ranking Nazis were convicted of war crimes and were sentenced to hang later that month.  Scholars still debate whether the trial, held in Nuremberg, was a legal proceeding.

Of the eleven sentenced to hang, all were executed on October 16, 1946 - except for Hermann Goering who'd committed suicide (with a cyanide pill) the day before.  

The Guardian, online, provides additional background on some of the Nuremberg defendants who were convicted of various crimes.

Grand-Admiral Karl Dönitz (1891-1980): As head of U-boats from 1939 came close to defeating Britain in Atlantic. Succeeded Hitler as Reich president in April 1945. Convicted of waging aggressive war and breaking laws of war at Nuremberg, but not of war crimes (or for unrestricted submarine warfare, after US Fleet-Admiral Nimitz admitted he used the same tactics).

Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring (1883-1946): First world war flying ace who headed the Luftwaffe but bungled air strategy against Britain. He was the most rapacious empire-builder of the regime, with huge powers over the economy. He also stole art all over occupied Europe.

Rudolf Hess (1894-1987): Deputy führer since 1933, Hess flew to Scotland in May 1941 and tried to persuade the British to make peace. The bewildered British and embarrassed Germans were united in regarding him as mad. He killed himself in Spandau jail in 1987, last relic of the Nuremberg trials.

Wilhelm Keitel (1882-1946): Senior military leader and de facto war minister of the Third Reich. Advised Hitler against invasion of France and Operation Barbarossa but uncritical of the killings of political prisoners and other war crimes. Executed 16 October 1943.

Joachim Ribbentrop (1893-1946): Reich foreign minister, praised by Hitler as "a second Bismarck", but despised by the majority of Hitler's apparatchiks. First of the 10 to be hung on 16 October.

Alfred Rosenberg (1893-1946): Hitler's philosopher-in-chief, whose ideological diatribes on race and antisemitism in The Myth of the 20th Century were instrumental in shaping the "final solution". From 1941 minister for the Reich's newly acquired eastern provinces. Continued to defend national socialism as "the most noble idea" while in prison.

Albert Speer (1905-1981): Hitler's architect whose sudden choice as war production minister in 1942 was a rare inspiration. He increased output despite allied bombing, opposing Hitler's scorched-earth policy. Escaped death at Nuremberg by accepting general responsibility while disingenuously denying personal involvement in the Holocaust, later debunked.

The following defendants were also executed on the 16th of October:

Hans Frank (Governor-general of Nazi-occupied Poland, known as the "Jew butcher of Cracow") who said, on the dates noted:  "Don't let anybody tell you that they had no idea.  Everybody sensed there was something horribly wrong with the system." (11/29/45) "Hitler has disgraced Germany for all time!  He betrayed and disgraced the people that loved him!...I will be the first to admit my guilt." (4/17/46)  

Wilhelm Frick (Minister of the Interior):  "Hitler didn't want to do things my way.  I wanted things done legally.  After all, I am a lawyer." (4/24/46) "... The mass murders were certainly not thought of as a consequence of the Nuremberg Laws, [though] it may have turned out that way."

Alfred Jodl (Chief of Operations for the German High Command):  "The indictment knocked me on the head.  First of all, I hand no idea at all about 90 per cent of the accusations in it.  The crimes are horrible beyond belief, if they are true.  Secondly, I don't see how they can fail to recognize a soldier's obligation to obey orders.  That's the code I've live by all my life."  (11/1/45)  "The order to kill the escaped British fliers - there was absolutely no justification for that.  From then on, I knew what kind of a man Hitler was." (4/6/46)

Ernst Kaltenbrunner (Chief of RSHA - an organization which included offices of the Gestapo, the SD and the Criminal Police - and Chief of Security Police:  "When I saw the newspaper headline 'GAS CHAMBER EXPERT CAPTURED' and an American lieutenant explained it to me, I was pale in amazement.  How can they say such things about me?" (4/11/46)  "... I have only done my duty as an intelligence organ, and I refuse to serve as an ersatz for Himmler."

Fritz Sauckel (Chief of Slave Labor Recruitment):  "I was given this assignment which I could not refuse - and besides, I did everything possible to treat [the foreign slave laborers] well." (2/23/46)

Arthur Seyss-Inquart (Austrian Chancellor, then Reich Commissioner for the Netherlands):  "The southern German has the imagination and emotionality to subscribe to a fanatic ideology, but he is ordinarily inhibited from excesses by his natural humaneness.  The Prussian does not have the imagination to conceive in terms of abstract racial and political theories, but when he is told to do something, he does it." (4/46)

Julius Streicher (Anti-Semitic Editor of Der Sturmer):  "The Jews are making a mistake if they make a martyr out of me; you will see.  I didn't create the problem; it existed for thousands of years." (12/16/45)  " ... I am the only one in the world who clearly saw the Jewish menace as an historical problem." (11/14/45)

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Aug 09, 2014

Updated Last Revision: Apr 09, 2019

Media Credits

Clip from Universal Newsreels, online courtesy U.S. National Archives.



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"Nuremberg War Crime Trials - Death Sentences" AwesomeStories.com. Aug 09, 2014. Jan 19, 2020.
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