British Military & Criminal History:
1900 to 1999.
Home - War Crimes Trials - IMT
Towards the end of World War Two, the British, American, Soviet and French Governments met at London. This conference produced the London Agreement on 8 August 1945. The UK, USA, USSR and France signed this agreement, which was supplemented by Law No. 10 issued by the Allied Control Council in Germany. These instruments were responsible for the establishment of the institutions and methods used for the trying of international war criminals. The Governing document produced by these meetings was the Charter of the International Military Tribunal.
The International Military Tribunal (IMT), governed by its charter, would try suspects whose acts were across national boundaries.
Those suspects whose acts were localised, would be tried by each of the four nations own war crime courts. The courts operated by the individual countries operated according to the procedures of the particular country. However, the operation and charters of these courts were governed by Law Order No. 10, and heavily influenced by the IMT's charter.
The IMT was based in the US Occupation Zone, at the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg. It was ironic that this building has been spared the Allied bombing raids. The US Zone was selected, as the US was the only country which was capable of providing the required material and logistical support. To placate the Soviets, the tribunal's permanent seat was located in Berlin. The tribunal's charter was also signed in Berlin.
The four powers eventually decided on a total of twenty-two defendants whose alleged crimes fitted across national boundaries.
Martin Borman was tried in his absence. It was intended to try Robert Ley, but he hanged himself before the trial started. It was intended to try Gustav Krupp, who was the Father figure of the Krupp armaments firm. Due to his old age, Gustav Krupp was senile. It was decided that Gustav Krupp would not be tried by the IMT. His son and heir apparent, Alfried, who controlled the firm, was tried and found guilty by an American tribunal in 1948. The IQ ratings were taken, by the American psychologist Dr. Gilbert, while the defendants were in the Nuremberg Jail.
The Counts and Charges
The fours counts which were specified by the IMT charter's Article 6 were
The defendants were then charged with committing crimes covered by one of the counts. As required by the charter, they were issued with copies of the indictments and supporting documents in German. In the following table, X indicates that the defendant was charged under the specified count. The defendants were allowed to chose their own lawyer.
Under the IMT powers specified in its charter, the following organisations were also tried: Gestapo, SD, SS, The Leadership Corps of The Nazi Party, Reich Cabinet, SA and The General and High Staff Commands.
The Judges & Prosecutors
Each country appointed one judge and one alternate to the tribunal. The alternates were officially present to cover for his country's main judge's absence. The charter established a quorum of one judge, or his alternate, from each of the four powers. Only the main judge could vote on the matters of verdicts and sentences. The four powers each appointed their own Chief Prosecutor to the trial. As specified by the charter, they then divided the work between themselves and their staffs.
The judges decided amongst themselves that Lord Justice Lawrence was to serve as their Presiding Judge.
The trial itself lasted from its start at the end of November 1945, to the execution of the death sentences in October 1946. The IMT session at which each guilty defendant was sentenced was one of the few sessions that was not filmed.
Verdicts & Sentences
On Monday 30 September 1946 the IMT delivered the following verdicts and sentences.
KEY. G: Guilty. NG: Not Guilty. - Not Charged/Not Applicable.
Briefly before they started their deliberations, the judges discussed the method of capital punishment to be used. The French judges suggested that a firing squad should be used for the military condemned. The Russian Judge, Major-General Nikitchenko fiercely opposed this idea. The accused were common criminals who had disgraced their military ethos and tradition. The judges voted that all those sentenced to death would be hanged.
The following organisations were also declared as criminal: Leadership Corps of the Nazi Party, SS, Gestapo and the SD. The SA and Reich Cabinet lost so much influence after the 1930s that they were not declared criminal organisations. Lawrence explained that the High & Staff Command was such a small organisation that individual trials were more preferable than a blanket judgement.
All the condemned appeal to the Allied Control Council. Raeder appealed for his sentenced to be changed from Life Imprisonment to death. The Allied Control Council informed Andrus that all the appeals for clemency were rejected. Raeder's appeal was also rejected. Under the charter, the Allied Control Council did not have the power to increase the severity of a punishment.
During the late hours of Tuesday 15 October 1946, 2 hours before the time he was due to be hanged, Herman Goering took a cyanide capsule while in his prison cell. There is much conjecture of how he got the capsule. After the other executions, an enquiry was held into this incident. The capsule was probably smuggled to Goering by a friendly American prison guard. Lieutenant "Tex" Wheelis was known to have befriended Goering, and may have played a part in his suicide, by either hiding or smuggling the cyanide capsule.
The death sentences were carried into effect in the early hours of Wednesday 16 October 1946. A set of three gallows had been inside the Nuremberg Prison Gymnasium. The executioner was Master Sergeant John C. Woods, the US Third Army executioner. The condemned would be hanged in the order of their indictment: Goering, Ribbentrop, Keitel, Kaltenbrunner, Rosenberg, Frank, Frick, Streicher, Saukel, Jodl and Seyss-Inquart.
As Goering was dead, Ribbentrop was the first to be hanged at 01:11am. Seyss-Inquart was the last hanged at 02:45am. All the corpses, including Goering, were photographed. Following the executions, various accounts emerged that the executions had not been carried out correctly. Some were plainly wild exaggerations, while other witnesses state that the executions had been carried out according to procedure.
Some British newspapers carried sensational headlines that Albert Pierrepoint would be travelling to Germany to perform the executions. However, in his autobiography Pierrepoint makes the obvious point that the executioner would be expected to be an American.
The bodies, together with the nooses and hoods, were placed in coffins. The coffins were then loaded on to a lorry and taken in a heavy-armed convoy to the crematorium in East Munich's Ostfriedhof Cemetery. The ashes were scattered into the nearby River Isar.