Nuremberg judgment: Nazi Germany guilty of ruthless war

September 30, 1946
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By EDWARD W. BEATTIE

NUREMBERG, Sept. 30, 1946 (UP) - The international war crimes tribunal today pronounced Nazi Germany guilty of ruthless, aggressive war against 11 countries and stripped the 21 Nazi defendants of their last hope for acquittal. Sentences will be announced tomorrow.

The tribunal declared the German High Command, Reich Cabinet and brown-shirted SA stormtroopers innocent of criminality as organizations. It found the Gestapo, the SS and its SD security police component, and parts of the Nazi leadership corps to be criminal groups.

Justices of Russia, France, the United States and Britain castigated the Nazi system in relentless terms. They declared that the initiation of war is "the supreme crime." It was clear none of the 21 men in the dock would escape death or prison.

Some may be found innocent on part of the four charges against them. A few probably will escape the death penalty, but the tribunal's catalog of Nazi crimes in Europe made clear that even the lucky ones faced prison.

The tribunal made it evident that many members of the three acquitted organizations must be punished as individuals. It denounced members of the German High Command as a ruthless military caste responsible for untold suffering. Yet it found it could not convict the High Command and General Staff as such within the tribunal's charter.

"They have been a disgrace to the honorable profession of arms," it said.

The 21 broken defendants, including former Reichsmarshal Hermann Goering were intent as the justices droned through the 250-page judgment, estimated to run 75,000 words.

They heard the justices reading in relays pronounce Nazism a criminal system and condemn its leadership for conspiracy, crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Nazism was convicted of violating the Kellogg-Briand Pact outlawing war, which Germany signed, by planned aggression starting with Czechoslovakia. The names Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Yugoslavia, Greece and Russia recalled a parade of crimes which the tribunal said was on a scale unparalleled in the history of war.

The tribunal, without reservation, threw out defendants' claims that they were only tools of Hitler, carrying out orders. It ruled that, by following willingly his plan of aggression, they accepted responsibility for their deeds.

Martin Bormann, the 22nd defendant, never has been caught and was being judged in absentia. He probably died from a Russian shell in Berlin.

Reading of the document was begun at 10 a.m. (3 a.m., New York time) by Chief Justice Sir Geoffrey Lawrence of Britain. The tribunal adjourned for the day at 4:22 p.m. (11:22 a.m. EST).

The Reich Cabinet, the court ruled, never really acted as a group after 1937. The judgment said its members could conveniently be tried on other grounds without charging the Cabinet itself with criminality.

As Sir Geoffrey and his alternate, Sir Norman Birkett, catalogued the crimes as Nazism, defendants and spectators quickly sensed the tribunal's stern mood.

Sir Geoffrey began reading in a low tone, but grew louder as he described the development of National Socialism from a tiny group in 1920 to a force which terrorized Europe and threatened the world.

Names of the individuals rang out from time to time in the reading.

Later, Justice Francis Biddle of the United States took up reading the verdict.

The finding of innocent for the cabinet, High Command and SA proved the tribunal's determination to be objective. It particularly sought to avoid branding as criminal the run of the mine membership of those organizations which gave blind loyalty to Hitler and the Nazi regime but knew nothing of high policy.

There was little solace in that for the 21 leaders awaiting their doom, but some may escape death.

Outside the courtroom, and on the roof above it, American soldiers by the hundreds stood watch to prevent demonstrations. Armored cars reinforced street patrols.

The first section of the judgment ruled that the Nazis had committed war crimes on a scale never before seen in the history of war. It called persecution of Jews a record of consistent, systematic inhumanity on the greatest scale. Concentration camps were termed a notorious means of terrorizing occupied countries.

In the opening section, the judgment gave a history of the prosecution, a history of the Nazi regime and a discussion of what constitutes aggressive war.

It ruled that war for the solution of international controversies undertaken as an instrument of national policy certainly includes a war of aggression, and that such war was outlawed by the Kellogg-Briand Pact of Paris, Aug. 28, 1928. Germany signed that pact.

The judgment recalled how all defendants had taken the attitude that the heads of states should enjoy immunity from responsibility, and that international law did not apply to individuals. It declared the doctrine of immunity of the heads of states did not apply where the state had violated international law, and that for many years past military tribunals had tried and punished individuals guilty of violating the rules of warfare laid down by the Hague Convention.

Some 7,000,000 Germans figuratively stood massed at the dock with the defendants through the prosecution of six organizations. These included 4,500,000 SA storm troopers at the time of the 1934 blood purge.

The verdict made clear that the ordinary SA man has nothing to fear from Allied justice unless he has committed some specific crime.

Particularly scathing language was directed against the German general staff.

"Evidence of criminality against many members of the General Staff and High Command as individuals is clear and convincing," the tribunal said.

"They have been responsible in large measure for the miseries and suffering that has fallen on millions of men, women and children. They have been a disgrace to the honorable profession of arms.

"Without their military guidance the aggressive ambitions of Hitler and his fellow Nazis would have been academic and sterile."

The judgment branded the seizures of Austria and Czechoslovakia as the first Nazi acts of aggression. It stated that Hitler made a speech Nov. 23, 1939, in the presence of his supreme commanders which removed any question of doubt as to the aggressive character of the actions against Austria and Czechoslovakia, and the war against Poland.

The tribunal heard 101 defense witnesses, studied affidavits from 1,009 other witnesses and nearly 200,000 other affidavits submitted for defendants and organizations.

It denounced the Nazi murders of civilians, declaring it had evidence of "an overwhelming, systematic rule of violence, brutality and terror." It recalled Gestapo tortures of suspects, the hostage system and Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel's order to take 50 or 100 lives for every German life.

The destruction of Lidice was described as the logical conclusion of German hostage policy.

Defending the unique judicial procedure of the international war crimes court, Mr. Biddle said:

"The charter is not an arbitrary exercise of power on the part of the victorious nations but...an expression of international law existing at the time of its creation: and to that extent it is itself a contribution to international law."

He rejected the thesis that there could be no punishment of such crimes because no international law against them had existed.

"To arrest that it is unjust to punish those who in defiance of treaties and assurances have attacked neighboring states without warning is obviously untrue for in such circumstances the attacker must know he is doing wrong and so far from it being unjust to punish them it could be unjust if this wrong were allowed to go unpunished," he said.

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