A brief look at the Nuremberg Trials and some of the people involved. It steps upon the problems leading to the start of the trials including three of the doctors, three of the experiments performed on prisoners, and the judgment of three people involved with carrying out the vulgar experiments. Also included are three people who decided to commit suicide instead of facing certain death after going before a jury. The three people who committed suicide were also three of the biggest people involved in building the Nazi party in Germany and its surrounding areas.
The Nuremberg Trials, a glimpse into the Nazis’ that committed crimes during WWII, exposes the lives destroyed, and the precedents set forth from this new category of crime, the war criminal. (Brown, 1995) The trials included 24 major political and military leaders who committed crimes against humanity and war crimes, (Congress, 2009) and did so without remorse or emotion for what their victims were going through. It was not until 1945 when the trials began that the full extent of what was truly taking place in the concentration camps and in the extermination camps (death camps) were revealed.
The truth about medical experiments, atrocities, crimes against humanity, and membership in a criminal organization were grounds for the Nuremberg trials to commence and would become the precedents for all war crimes that would follow. (Congress, 2009) War crimes are defined as violations of the laws in which a person’s given rights are compromised. In broadest terms, a war crime is any act of violence by military personnel that exceeds the rules of war.
To an extent, the concentration camps were guilty of all violations listed above and it was because of the crimes committed by the leaders in the camps that the Nuremberg trials became a necessity in order to make an example out of the people who committed the crimes. An argument that can be made about the Nuremberg trials is the fact that the crimes against humanity were made, but there was no precedent for war crimes before these trials started. It wasn’t until after the trials that the term crimes against humanity and war crimes became standard in the practice of law in all types of war entanglements.
The International Military Tribunal (IMT) consisted of four allied powers including: Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States and were responsible for the outcome of every person being tried in the Nuremberg trials. (Cowell, 1995) “The lasting contribution of Nuremberg was to make individuals responsible,” for their genocidal contributions to the war. (Cowell, 1995) By the end of the Nuremberg trials in 1946, there were 12 people convicted and sentenced to death, three were acquitted, and seven were sentenced to prison terms of 10 years to life.
Unfortunately, Hitler, Goebbels, and Himmler committed suicide before they could be tried for the crimes they committed. Adolf Hitler was appointed the chancellor of the Nazi party in 1933 and oversaw the murder of over 17 million civilians with an estimated six million Jews in what is known as the Holocaust, but Hitler took his life just days before the allied forces took Germany by force. (Farmer, 2007) Paul Joseph Goebbels was one of Hitler’s closest associates and took over the position of Chancellor of Germany for just one day after Hitler committed suicide.
Goebbels committed suicide just a day before Germany was taken by allied forces. It was not until after Goebbels and his wife took their six children’s lives that they finally took their own lives. (Reich, 2009) Heinrich Himmler was the head of the Gestapo and the organizer of the mass murders of Jews in the extermination camps during Hitler’s reign and took poison to commit suicide after he was discovered wearing a disguise and fell into British hands after escaping capture in Germany.
These are just a few key people in the genocide that happened in Germany during WWII and they decided to commit suicide rather than be prosecuted for the lives they destroyed. A few of the people involved in the Nuremberg trials included: Karl Brandt, Erhard Milch, and Oswald Pohl. Karl Brandt was the personal physician to Adolf Hitler and the commissioner for health and sanitation and was also the chief medical official of the German government during WWII. Brandt contributed to the experiments being performed on the inmates in the concentration camps and was sentenced to death and executed.
Erhard Milch was a member of the Central Planning Board and had full power over the schedule that controlled the production and development of materials by forced labor during the war. He also assisted in the experiments being performed at the Dachau concentration camp in which high altitude and freezing experiments were conducted. (Congress, 2009) In the end, “Milch was acquitted of the charges concerning medical experiments and found guilty of charges concerning slave labor,” and sentenced to life in prison but was shortened to 15 years in 1951.
Oswald Pohl was chief of the SS Wirtschafts und Verwaltungshauptamt (WVHA; Economic and Administrative Main Office) which took the place of several offices including Budget and Buildings and the Inspector of Concentration Camps. (College, 2003) In the end, Pohl received the death penalty for his involvement in the transportation of prisoners, murder, medical experiments, and his involvement in the mass executions of mostly Jews and other civilians.
There were a couple of places in which the mass executions took place which included both concentration camps and extermination camps that were familiar with Hitler and the objectives he wanted to achieve during his reign during WWII. The camps included Auschwitz and Dachau which were places where experiments and death took place. Auschwitz was the place that mass murder became a daily routine after an experimental gassing was conducted in September of 1941 where 850 malnourished and ill prisoners entered gas chambers and never escaped the anguish they felt as they took their last breaths. Bulow, 2009) Dachau was another concentration camp where prisoners were mistreated and is more known for the brutal experiments that took place than executions in mass quantities like in Auschwitz. Just a few experiments that took place at the Dachau concentration camp that were brought out more clearly in the Nuremberg trials included: high altitude experiments, freezing experiments, and malaria experiments. (Congress, 2009) High altitude experiments were performed to test the limits of human endurance at high altitudes.
The tests were performed in low pressure chambers where the pressure of 68,000 feet could be duplicated and measures, many died from this procedure and others suffered grave injury and ill treatment. The freezing experiments involved placing the subject in a tank of ice water for up to three hours without cloths or the victims were placed outside in freezing temperatures also without cloths to test the effects. After the victims were removed from the water or brought in from the cold, various methods of warming the victims up were tried, but the outcome was either death or the victims suffered severe pain and disability.
The malaria experiment involved infecting healthy concentration camps with malaria bearing mosquitoes or by injecting the disease into victims from the mucous of the glands of mosquitoes. Most of the test subjects died or suffered from severe pain or disability. (Congress, 2009) In the end, the Nuremberg trials were justified because of the ways in which the Nazis’ treated the prisoners they turned into victims through the use of force and through sheer neglect. No man or woman should ever have had to endure what the prisoners of war during WWII endured.
It was unconscionable what happened behind closed doors and the walls keeping the Nazis’ in control, but because of the Nuremberg trials, the truth came to be known about how relentless the Nazis’ were towards human life. A question is always asked in history classes, why does history need to be taught, and the answer is always: in order to avoid repeating the mistakes from the past. This was one of the worst times in history, and this paper is just a short excerpt to all the turmoil associated with Hitler’s ideals of the perfect world.
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