(Originally posted January 26, 2021; latest revision 3/2/2022)
As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues and the question of war crimes is in the air, it is instructive to look back at the most famous war crimes in history, the Nuremberg Trials of Nazis in the aftermath of the defeat of Nazi Germany. The U.S. delegation was led by Robert H. Jackson
For over a month, during the summer of 1945, representatives of the Soviet, French, U.S. and U.K. governments attempted to reconcile their conflicting legal concepts and devise a workable procedure for the trial. At the core of these intense negotiations was Robert H. Jackson. Jackson refused to back down on certain legal principles, most importantly, the position that aggressive warfare was an international crime.
‘Our view, is that this isn’t merely a case of showing that these Nazi Hitlerite people failed to be gentlemen in war; it is a matter of their having designed an illegal attack on the international peace.’ ”
The Nuremberg Trials — A Don’t Know Much About® Audiominute
On November 20, 1945, in the aftermath of World War II, the first trials of Nazi war criminals began. This military tribunal, the Nuremberg Trials, as they came to be known, was convened by the four victorious Allies—Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States.
Listen to this audiominute.
“That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason.
What makes this inquest significant is that these prisoners represent sinister influences that will lurk in the world long after their bodies have returned to dust. We will show them to be living symbols of racial hatreds, of terrorism and violence, and of the arrogance and cruelty of power.”
-United States Prosecutor Robert Jackson, Opening Statement (11/21/1945)
This is a timeline of the Nuremberg Trials from the Robert H. Jackson Center.
On November 29, 1945, Day 8 of the Nuremberg Trials, a documentary film of the liberated concentration camps taken by American military photographers was shown. (Graphic images).
These resources on the Nuremberg Trials are from the Library of Congress.