Between 20 November 1945 and 1 October 1946 the Allied forces conducted the Nuremberg Trials to prosecute the surviving leaders of Nazi Germany. In May 1945 Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler committed suicide, and Adolf Eichmann fled Germany and evaded imprisonment.
Nonetheless, the Allied forces captured and tried 24 Nazis. The Nazis on trial included party leaders, members of the Reich Cabinet and leading figures in the SS, the SA, the SD and the Gestapo. They faced charges of war crimes, crimes against peace and crimes against humanity.
Of the 24 tried the Allied forces charged 21.
They sentenced 12 to death:
Hermann Göring, Reichsmarschall and Hitler’s deputy
Joachim von Ribbentrop, the Foreign Minister
Wilhelm Keitel, the Chief of the Armed Forces High Command
Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the Chief of the Reich Main Security Office
Alfred Rosenberg, the Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories and Leader of the Foreign Policy Office
Hans Frank, the Governor-General of Occupied Poland
Wilhelm Frick, the Minister of the Interior
Julius Streicher, the founder and publisher of anti-Semitic newspaper Der Stürmer
Fritz Sauckel, the General Plenipotentiary for Labour Deployment
Alfred Jodl, the Chief of the Operations Staff of the Armed Forces High Command
Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Reichskommissar for the Occupied Dutch Territories
Martin Bormann, Chief of the Nazi Party Chancellery.
Seven were sentenced to imprisonment:
Rudolf Hess, the Deputy Führer of the Nazi Party
Walther Funk, the Reich Minister of Economics
Erich Raeder, the Grand Admiral
Karl Doenitz, Raeder’s successor and briefly President of the German Reich
Baldur von Schirach, the National Youth Leader
Albert Speer, the Minister of Armaments and War Production
Konstantin von Neurath, Protector of Bohemia and Moravia.
Three were acquitted:
Hjalmar Schacht, the Reich Minister of Economics
Franz von Papen, the Chancellor of Germany
Hans Fritzche, the Ministerialdirektor in the Ministry for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda.
These are some of the key criminals convicted at Nuremberg:
Göring was the highest-ranking Nazi official tried at Nuremberg. He became Reichsmarchall in 1940 and had control over Germany’s armed forces. In 1941 he became Hitler’s deputy.
He fell out of favour with Hitler when it became clear that Germany was losing the war. Hitler subsequently stripped Göring of his positions and expelled him from the party.
Göring surrendered to the USA and claimed not to know what happened in the camps. He was charged and sentenced to hanging, but he committed suicide by cyanide poisoning the night before he was due to be executed in October 1946.
Bormann was the only Nazi to be tried in absentia at Nuremberg. He was part of Hitler’s inner circle and in 1943 became Secretary to the Führer. He facilitated the Final Solution, ordering deportations.
The Allies believed that he escaped Berlin, but continued to try him and sentence him to death. In 1973 after decades of searching, West German authorities discovered his remains. They declared that he died on 2 May 1945 whilst trying to flee Berlin.
Speer is known as the Nazi who said sorry. Part of Hitler’s inner circle, Speer was an architect who designed buildings for the Reich. Hitler appointed him Reich Minister of Armaments and War Production in 1942.
During the trial, Speer denied knowing about the Holocaust. Yet he accepted moral responsibility for his role in the crimes that the Nazis committed. Sentenced to 20 years in prison, Speer served most of his sentence in Spandau Prison in West Berlin. He was released in October 1966.