Nuremberg Trials Courtroom

Nuremberg Trials CourtroomDespite their many differences, the victorious Allied powers were agreed that the chief Nazi leaders should face trial for their crimes. The Palace of Justice in Nuremberg was chosen as the venue for the trial, largely because the courtroom and its attached prison were among the few suitable places to have escaped damage from Allied bombing, A total of twenty-two Nazi leaders, including Hermann Goring, Rudolf Hess, Karl Donitz, and Joachim von Ribbentrop, were tried in an extended Court Room 600 (other defendants subsequently faced justice in the Nuremberg “follow-up trials”).

The main trials lasted from November 1945 to October 1946, with the defendants charged with crimes against peace and against humanity. The whole procedure was a vast undertaking; evidence taken by the court was sufficient to fill forty-two large volumes. When the verdicts were given, twelve defendants were sentenced to death, three to life imprisonment, four to sentences of ten to twenty years’ imprisonment, with just three acquitted. Although Goring had been sentenced to hang, he swallowed poison before his execution. As well as handing out justice to some of the most evil men of the twentieth century, the Nuremberg trials set an important precedent: For the first time in history an international court had passed verdicts on crimes against international criminal law. This was an initial move in the development of international jurisdiction that today holds major wrongdoers to account at The Hague—a recent example being the former president of Serbia and Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic.

Once the trials were over, Court Room 600 reverted to its original size and is still used as a criminal court in Nuremberg. Guided tours are conducted by the local state authorities on the weekends, explaining the trials and their international importance.