Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal

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The Nuremberg Trials were a series of 13 trials held in Nuremberg, Germany from 1945-1949. They tried German Nazi leaders, and accused them of deliberately starting an aggressive war (World War II), along with crimes against humanity, including mass murder and enslavement. These trials were a new development in international law. War criminals have been tried one way or another ever since war began. But at Nuremberg, for the first time, the leaders of a government were held on trial for starting an aggressive war.

The U.S. Army's Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Central European Section of the Research and Analysis Branch prepared a 91-page report entitled Persecution of the Christian Churches [1] which contributed to the recognition that the Christian Churches were amongst the early victims of Nazi war criminality. The report describes "Nazi purposes, policies and methods of persecution of the Christian Churches in Germany and occupied Europe." Throughout the period of National Socialist rule, the Nazis employed a combination of ‘lawful’ and criminal devices to persecute the Churches in a cynically opportunistic manner. The various Christian Churches were systematically cut off from effective communication with the people. They were confined as far as possible to the performance of narrowly religious functions accompanied partly by legal and partly by illegal and terroristic means.

To establish criminal responsibility in connection with the persecution it was sufficient to show that the measures taken against the Christian Churches were an integral part of the National Socialist scheme of world conquest. From the start, the report argues that, unlike other civil liberty provisions, the key articles of the pre-Nazi Weimar constitution, Articles, 135-140 and 149,[2] "were never formally abrogated by the National Socialist regime, … were left untouched and still remain theoretically in force" and further "respect for the principle of religious freedom", continued to be reiterated in various official policy statements and in various "enactments of the National Socialist state". "To demonstrate the illegality of specific acts of persecution, it is sufficient to show that they were in violation of these legal provisions." In other words, the report argues that because the persistence of legal norms "immanent" to the German tradition of criminal law, there was no need to resort to ex post facto laws.

Ironically, some of the judges that proceeded the tribunals were Soviet-aligned, who were themselves guilty of many of the same actions as the Nazis, and to a greater scale, such as the Katyn Forest massacre (which the Nazis ended up being blamed for in the trials).

Liberals have also exploited the Nuremberg trials to push anti-war rhetoric during the Vietnam War, at least one of whom, Professor Telford Taylor, the author of the anti-Vietnam tract Nuremberg and Vietnam: An American Tragedy, had previously worked on the Nuremberg trials as the successor to Justice Robert H. Jackson as Chief of Counsel at Nuremberg.[3]

Principal defendants

See also


  1. R&A Report 3114.4 (draft for war crimes staff, dated 6th July 1945)
  2. Weimar Constitution-Religion and Religious Communities

External links