At the end of World War II, the world was faced with some sobering statistics. With more than 50,000,000 deaths when both military and civilian losses had been accounted for, the death toll was devastating, and for many of those who lived in countries that had been ravaged by war, hunger and financial strain had become parts of daily life. Furthermore, beyond the physical damage was the growing knowledge of the atrocities that had been committed both before and during the war. In fact, the Allies were discussing how to dole out justice for Axis war crimes as early as 1943, and once the war was over, it was time for the nations to turn their attention toward determining the proper punishments.
The judgment of the German leadership and its role in the death, destruction, and demoralization they had brought to the world would take place at Nuremberg. The Nuremberg Trials were a series of 13 proceedings held under the authority of the International Military Tribunal between November 1945 and June 1948, but the trial most associated with Nuremberg is the first trial, in which eight judges appointed by Britain, the US, the Soviet Union, and France deliberated over the guilt or innocence of 22 men identified as significant leaders of the Nazi cause. This trial took place between November 20, 1945, and August 31, 1946. Later trials included other Germans who held what were considered to be position of power – doctors, businessman, or lower-level functionaries whose positions of influence gave them, in the eyes of the Allies, increased responsibility for their actions. Though almost every person convicted in the 13 Nuremberg Trials was male, there was also a female physician convicted at the doctors’ trial.
In all, the Nuremberg trials numbered 489 separate hearings, and despite taking place nearly 70 years ago, the impact of the trials can still be felt today.
Though they are now mostly forgotten, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East was the Pacific Theater’s equivalent. Known as the Tokyo Trials, 11 countries contributed prosecutors as 28 Japanese faced trials for crimes against humanity. The trials were politically charged from the start, considering the end of World War II, the beginning of the Cold War, and the American occupation of Japan, and in many respects, the Tokyo Trials were part of a new era in American-Japanese relations.
The War Crimes Trials for World War II: The History and Legacy of Nazi Germany and Japan’s War Crimes Trials After the War chronicles the history of the trials from their conception to their completion. You will learn about the trials like never before.