Nuremberg Trials begin
The 20th of November 1945 AD
At 10am on November 20 the first of the Nuremburg Trials began, indictments against the major war criminals having been issued on October 19. Nuremberg, spiritual home of the Nazi machine, had been chosen partly because of that fact, and partly for practical reasons – it had an intact court large enough to hold the proceedings, and a secure prison attached to that court to house the defendants.
That a trial of any sort should take place had not been a given. At one time Churchill favoured summary execution for those perceived to be the vilest war criminals. Stalin characteristically wanted mass executions without the trouble of legal process. But justice had to be done and be seen to be done.
Some 25 major figures were intended to be tried in the court that first sat on November 20. But the month before Robert Ley had committed suicide, so the number was reduced to 24. Three were acquitted; nine given prison sentences; and 12 sentenced to hang. As Martin Bormann had been tried in absentia and Hermann Göring killed himself on the eve of his execution two of them cheated the noose. Those who were hanged, on October 16 1946, may either by accident or design have suffered a slow death, as the long-drop method of execution was not used. Given the horrific nature of their crimes few then or now would have any sympathy for them. Undoubtedly deliberate, however, was the irony of their bodies being cremated at Dachau.
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