2014. november 12., szerda

The Nuremberg Trial- Trial of Hermann Goring

The Nuremberg Trial

Trial of Hermann Goring

first row, from left the first person: Hermann Goring)


WWII was the most cruel armed conflict of history with the highest number of victims. Almost 60 million people died between the invasion of Poland and the surrender of Japan. There were immense number of factors contributed to the outbreak of the war; German anger about the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement policy and most importantly the decade- long aggressive foreign policy of Nazi Germany. Although WWII would offer a great number of debatable issues, I decided to evaluate the trial of Hermann Goring, a high ranked Nazi politician.

The Nuremberg trial was the first trial in which the charges were crimes against humanity. The Allied powers had distinct opinion about the case. Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom did not want a trial, instead he voted for the execution of accused Nazis. Joseph Stalin, the leader of the USSR voted for a quick trial. From 1944 the political leadership of the USA, following the idea of Truman, sent observers to Europe alongside with the army, in order to find evidence for the crimes against humanity committed by the Nazis. Later the USA used the Nuremberg trials as a base in the Eastern part of the world in the conduction of the trials of the Japanese war criminals. (Tokyo, Nanjing)

It is intensely debated whether the Allied powers only conducted „puppet trials” Naturally in a war situation neither side can be considered completely humane, but undoubtedly the most evil decisions were discussed in the offices of the Nazis. Although many of the accused Germans were convicted with relatively moderate punishments, while the higher rank Nazis were sentenced to death by the International Military Tribunal. Many of them accepted their fate but the reactions for the judgments were rather diverse. Joachim von Ribbentrop, the Foreign Minister of Nazi Germany, who had actively participated in the invasion of Czechoslovakia, Slovakia, Poland and Austria, and rooting from his high rank enjoyed a good sight on the anti-Semitic „final solution” plan, reacted for the court’s decision with the following words: “ Death! Death! That means I cannot write my nice memoirs. Cccc…. What hatred!” Many of the convicted were glorifying Germany until the moment they got hanged, such as Wilhelm Keitel (German field marshal, chief of Supreme High Command of the German Armed Forces).  Others were blessing the name of Adolf Hitler, such as Julius Streicher, German journalist who was the main organizer of the anti-Semitic propaganda against Jews. Ernst Kaltenbrunner, high rank SS commander and the chief of Reich Main Security) still tried to prove his innocence on his way to the gallow. Some Nazi such as Hans Frank, Governor-General of occupied Poland, prayed for the mercy of a higher power.

In the blog entry I am going to evaluate and process the Nuremberg Trial, focusing on the trial of Hermann Goring.

The following videos were extremely helpful in my work:

You can find my previous blog entry about an Unknown Hungarian Trial at the following link:

Historical bearings

The Soviet leaders wanted to hold the trial in Berlin, the city they believed to be the capital of the fascist ideology. Finally Nuremberg was chosen, because a huge prison complex belonged to the courthouse and it basically remained intact from the bombings of the Allies. Therefore it was the best condition court in the territory of the Third Reich. Choosing Nuremberg also had a symbolic meaning, because the Nazi Party was created in the city and served as a place for plenty of important conferences.

Judges and representatives of the prosecution:

Iona Nikitchenko (Soviet judge)

Sir Geoffrey Lawrence (British judge)

Francis Biddle (US judge)

Henri Donnedieu de Vabres (French judge)

Sir Hartley Shawcross (British representative of the prosecution)

Robert H. Jackson (US representative of the prosecution)

Roman Andreyevich Rudenko (Soviet representative of the prosecution)

Auguste Champetier de Ribes (French representative of the prosecution)

The majority of the defensive lawyers consisted of Germans. (Georg Fröschmann, Otto Kranzbühler)

Robert H Jackson

Chronology of the Trial:
  • 1    November 20th 1945: Opening of trial
  • 2    November 21th 1945: Robert H Jackson, US representative of the prosecution, gives hour-long speech to the audience.
  • 3    November 29th, 1945: Discussion about the concentration camps.
  • 4    December 12th, 1946: The movie called „Nazi Plan” is screened. Evidence for Nazi Germany’s long term plans for war.
  • 5    March 13-22, 1946: Interrogation of Hermann Goring
  • 6    July 4th 1946: The defense retires.
  • 7  July 26 1946: The prosecution retires.
  • 8    September 1, 1946: The court retires.
  • 9    September 30- October 1, 1946: Announcement of the court’s decisions.

The trial:

The trial opened at Nuremberg Palace of Justice on November 19th, 1945. 21 people were charged. The charge was made up of 4 points:

  • 1    Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of a crime against peace
  • 2    planning and initiating wars of aggression
  • 3    war crimes
  • 4   crimes against humanity

These were the potential outcomes of the trial from the viewpoint of an accused Nazi: he was either sentenced or excused.

Hermann Goring was found guilty in all of points of charges. Five other people were found guilty in all four points.

Plenty of people present at the trial noted that Goring basically became the leader of the convicted Nazis and behaved so confidently that it seemed that like he believed that he is in an equal position with the representatives of the Allied powers. Despite his belief, the only reason that he was still alive was the decision of the USA. The representatives of the country reasoned alongside of a reputable trial that would grant an opportunity of a fair, legal judgment imposed on the Nazis.

On the 29th of November Robert Jackson gave a speech before the documentation about the concentration camps was shown to the audience. He noted that all the Nazi leaders present knew about the existence and role of the camps but they did not do anything against their operation, but instead they continued intimidating the Jews. Before the film was showed, the Nazi leaders were chattering around in a good mood as they would not even comprehend the severity of the situation. After the final pictures about the Dachau concentration camp faded into darkness, the air froze on the bench of the accused. They gazed in front of themselves and they seemed to finally realize that they were they were part of a lethal death machine for decades and the consequence of their decisions may be extremely serious.

In March 1946, the interrogation of Goring began. We know from the descriptions that he was still confident. Robert H Jackson tried to make him testify with the help of the Nazi’s fanaticism, but the German was prepared and opened a debate with the American. Goring reacted to the questions of Jackson by blaming the internal and foreign politics of the USA. Tensions seriously arose in the courtroom. Goring believed that if the Nazis would have used the same tactic then the prosecution could have been destroyed with the arrogance.
At this state of the trial, the possibility of failure was highly present, because the prosecution could not receive straight-forward answers from the Nazi leaders. Many people began to believe that they should have followed Churchill’s idea: quick execution without a trial.

The British representative of the prosecution, Sir Hartley Shawcross continued the interrogation of Goring on bench of the accused. After Goring told that neither he nor Adolf Hitler knew about what happened in the concentration camps, Shawcross revealed two evidences. One was a part of a conversation between Adolf Hitler and Regent of Hungary, Miklós Horthy about the murdering of the Hungarian Jews in concentration camps. Hartley had evidence regarding Goring’s knowledge about the conversation.

Goring sustained his testimony about the fact that neither he nor Hitler knew about the mass murders. Moreover many people from the audience noted that Goring still fanatically believed in the dead dictator and in the Nazi ideology.

The real turning-point of the trial was the moment when the British Royal Forces announced that they caught Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp. The man gave a detailed testimony about the barbarities committed in the camp and the defense lawyers basically gave up.

Majority of the Nazi leaders testified some of the charges and they did not support the neither the Nazi ideology nor Hitler. Goring’s tactic failed.

Hjalmar Schacht, Economic Minister of the Third Reich, testified against Goring. He told that Goring was worse and more cruel than Hitler.

As the end of the trial approached, Goring’s role, as the „unofficial leader” of the accused Nazis decreased and his confidence was gone.

Out of the 21 Nazis, eleven were sentenced to death, seven were sentenced to prison and three were acquitted.

The verdict:

Hermann Göring was sentenced by the International War Tribunal to death by hanging. The man requested the change of the verdict, asking to be shot as a soldier, but his request was denied.

On October 15th, 1946 Hermann Goring committed suicide in his prison cell with a potassium cyanide capsule.

The supervision of the prisoners was intensely strengthened after one of them hanged himself in his cell. It is still debated how Goring could have received a potassium cyanide capsule. Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski, the general of Waffen SS testified that he gave it to Goring, but this is not proven. In 2005, Herbert Lee Strivers, a soldier who served as a prison guard at Nuremberg during trial, announced that he gave Goring a pen that had a capsule hidden inside of it after the request of a woman called Mona. The woman told him that it was only medicine that helps Goring cure his chronic illness.

Hermann Goring’s corpse was cremated and his ashes were dispersed into Isar River.

Personal opinion:

In my opinion the trial processes an exceeding case, and for me it was the most interesting trial to work with in my blog. Undoubtedly, death sentence is a highly debated judgment nowadays and it is used by less and less countries. It is important to mention that in war situations ethics doesn’t have a big role, but its importance is unquestionable. Taking a person’s life is ethically wrong – it is basic human right- but it is justifiable. The Nazis sentenced to death in Nuremberg, including Hermann Goring, shifted their nation (and other countries) to 6 years long war that took millions of lives. Unprecedentedly, the civilian population also suffered huge losses. An eye for an eye principle is definitely not the most proper way of operation of the judicatory system and the modern society, but I think that the Nazis sentenced to death in Nuremberg suffered the consequences of their evil actions and they received a punishment that they deserved in a certifiable legal method. The case can be also comprehended as a message to the future; this is the judgment that those people deserve who violate peace and humanity.

After the trial a “new chapter opened in the history book of humanity” and the death of the Nazi leaders, such as Goring, was a completely justifiable and legitimate decision of court.

Robert H Jackson noted before the trial, that a person may only be prosecuted if he or she can be justifiably sentenced. This principle guided the representatives of the court and this fact gives the base to my opinion regarding the trial.

I hope that I was able to give an interesting and complete picture about the Nuremberg trial that symbolizes the end of the darkest era of history and terminated all those barbarism that the leaders of the Nazi Party consciously prepared and accomplished.

1 megjegyzés: