British Military & Criminal History:

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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.

Some famous examples of British-established War Crimes courts were the Belsen Trial, the trials of people involved in the murder of fifty RAF Officers and the Freshman trials in Norway.


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 Defendants

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.

Name Born Died IQ
Martin Borman 1900 - -
Karl Doenitz 1891 1980 138
Hans Frank 1900 1946 130
Wilhelm Frick 1877 1946 124
Hans Fritzsche 1900 1953 130
Walter Funk 1890 1960 124
Herman Goering 1893 1946 138
Rudolf Hess 1894 1987 120
Alfred Jodl 1890 1946 127
Ernst Kaltenbrunner 1903 1946 113
Wilhelm Keitel 1882 1946 129
Constain von Neurath 1873 1956 123
Fritz von Papen 1879 1969 134
Erich Raeder 1876 1960 134
Joachim von Ribberntrop 1893 1946 129
Alfred Rosenberg 1893 1946 127
Fritz Saukel 1894 1946 118
Hjalmar Schacht 1877 1970 143
Baldur von Schirach 1907 1974 130
Arthur Seyss-Inquart 1892 1946 141
Albert Speer 1905 1981 128
Julius Streicher 1885 1946 106

The Counts and Charges

The fours counts which were specified by the IMT charter's Article 6 were

  1. The conspiracy to wage aggressive war. This count alleged that there was a general conspiracy among a group of people to plan, organise and otherwise prepare for an aggressive war.
  2. The actual waging of aggressive war. This count dealt with the actual carrying out of an aggressive war, including the breaking of treaties, agreements and other international items.
  3. War Crimes. This count dealt with acts against the laws and usage of war. An example of this would be the killing of prisoners-of-war.
  4. Crimes against humanity. This count dealt with the acts committed against specific groups of people, based on their, for example, religion.

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.

Name One Two Three Four


Martin Borman X - X X Dr. Friedrich Bergold
Karl Doenitz X X X - Flottenrichter Otto Kranzbuehler
Hans Frank X - X X  
Wilhelm Frick X X X X Otto Pannenbecker
Hans Fritzsche X - X X  
Walter Funk X X X X Dr. Fritz Sauter
Herman Goering X X X X Dr. Otto Stahmer
Rudolf Hess X X X X Dr. Alfred Seidl
Alfred Jodl X X X X Professor Franz Exner
Ernst Kaltenbrunner X - X X Kurt Kauffman
Wilhelm Keitel X X X X Otto Nelte
Constain von Neurath X X X X  
Fritz von Papen X X - - Dr. Eugen Kubuschok
Erich Raeder X X X -  
Joachim von Ribberntrop X X X X Dr. Fritz Sauter
Alfred Rosenberg X X X X Dr. Alfred Seidl
Fritz Saukel X X X X Dr. Robert Servatius
Hjalmar Schacht X X - - Dr. Rudolf Dix
Baldur von Schirach X - - X Dr. Fritz Sauter
Arthur Seyss-Inquart X X X X  
Albert Speer X X X X Dr. Hans Flachsner
Julius Streicher X - - X Dr. Hans Marx

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.

Country Main Judge Alternate Judge Chief Prosecutor
UK Lord Justice Lawrence Mr. Justice Birkett Sir Hartley Shawcross
USA Judge Francis Biddle Judge John J. Parker Justice Robert Jackson
USSR Major-General Nikitchenko Lieu-Colonel Volchkov General R.A. Rudenko
France Prof. Donnedieu de Vabres Monsieur Robert Falco Monsieur Francois de Menthon

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.

Name 1 2 3 4 Sentence Released Died Full Term
Martin Borman NG - G G Hanging - - -
Karl Doenitz NG G G - 10 Years 1956 1980 Yes
Hans Frank NG - G G Hanging - 1946 -
Wilhelm Frick NG G G G Hanging - 1946 -
Hans Fritzsche NG - NG NG Acquitted - 1953 -
Walter Funk NG G G G Life 1957 1960 No
Herman Goering G G G G Hanging - 1946 -
Rudolf Hess G G NG NG Life - 1987 Yes
Alfred Jodl G G G G Hanging - 1946 -
Ernst Kaltenbrunner NG - G G Hanging - 1946 -
Wilhelm Keitel G G G G Hanging - 1946 -
Constain von Neurath G G G G 15 Years 1954 1956 No
Fritz von Papen NG NG - - Acquitted - 1969 -
Erich Raeder G G G - Life 1955 1960 No
Joachim von Ribberntrop G G G G Hanging - 1946 -
Alfred Rosenberg G G G G Hanging - 1946 -
Fritz Saukel NG NG G G Hanging - 1946 -
Hjalmar Schacht NG NG - - Acquitted - 1970 -
Baldur von Schirach NG - - G 20 Years 1966 1974 Yes
Arthur Seyss-Inquart NG G G G Hanging - 1946 -
Albert Speer NG NG G G 20 Years 1966 1981 Yes
Julius Streicher NG - - G Hanging - 1946 -

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 Executions

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.

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