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The Numerberg Trials: A Victor's Justice

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The Numerberg Trials Were Unfair

After World War II, the victorious Allies decided to hold a trial for the defeated Nazis. These trials lasted from November 20, 1945 till October 1, 1946. Although the victors claimed that they would give the accused a fair trial, upon closer inspection we can see that in reality, these trials were biased and were a "victor's justice."

After the war, each of the Allies leaders had their own idea for how they should deal with the Nazi's. Stalin suggested that they should have trials, but here everyone is guilty and afterwards is shot. What then would be the point of having a trial then? It would just appear as a Ð''play' before they would perform their actual intentions. He may have suggested this also so that he could say that they were fair because they gave them a trial-but what sort of trial? Churchill even said that they should just be lined up and shot. If the leaders of the Allies were saying such things, how could we even expect the trials to be unbiased then? Each allied country had its own persecutors. All the judges at the trials came from the victorious countries as well. Most of the judges were American or Russian.

During the trials, the Americans put American justice over International Justice. It was wrong and unfair however to do such a thing because those who were guilty didn't even come from the United States? Since the trials were supposed to be international in scope, they shouldn't be following the justice of one country, but rather international justice. Although the Americans were applying "American justice" to the trials, they didn't even follow their constitution while doing so. The US constitution states that laws cannot be made post-facto, but in Nuremberg, they created these laws (for example, crimes against humanity, and waging aggressive war) after the Germans had "committed" them. It is wrong however to charge defendants with crimes that didn't exist in anyone's books at the time they were committed. Although some might say that these crimes are "common knowledge," they may in fact be only common knowledge to you. Not everyone in the world views things in the same way you might. John F. Kennedy even said about the Nuremberg trials that "The Constitution was not a collection of loosely given political promises subject to broad interpretation. It was not a list of pleasing platitudes to be set lightly aside when expediency required itÐ'...[and] discard these Constitutional precepts in order to punish a vanquished enemy.

The Allies also said that they would keep away the "hand of vengeance" and give a fair trial, but in reality they didn't follow this. Several rules were established for the Nuremberg trials, but the Allies didn't even bother to follow some of these rules, or perform them fairly. For example, rule 2 (Notice to Defendants and Right to Assistance of Counsel) said that "Each individual defendant in custody shall receive not less than 30 days before a trial a copy, translated into a language which he understandsÐ'...3) of any other documents lodged with the Indictment." However, during the actual trials, the defendants and their counsel sometimes didn't receive any documents, or when they did, they were often given the evening before the proceedings in English instead of German. This has been pointed out by Dr. Laternser and Dr. Fritz Sauter during the proceedings. Dr. Laternser told the President that he "would like to point out the decision of the Tribunal, that every defendant's counsel should receive sufficiently in advance, a copy of all documents which are to be submitted as evidence in the course of the proceedings, has not been complied withÐ'...therefore [it is] difficult for the Defense to follow the proceedings because the documents submitted have not been distributedÐ'..." Dr. Sauter also told the President that they did not receive documents in German, and they were often not received the evening of the proceedings. This thus gave them inadequate time to prepare themselves. The defense were sometimes not even given a copy of the documents, while newspapermen were given 250 copies of every document. This was pointed out also by Dr. Laternser.

The forth section of this rule also mentioned that "each defendant has the right to conduct his own defense or to have the assistance of counsel." This however was also ignored during the trials. When Goering tried to defend himself when he was asked if he was guilty or not guilty, he was told to be quiet and just say whether he was guilty or not. He was not even given a chance to defend himself here. Also, in the trial, Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe told the defendants that they were not allowed to question the credibility of any prosecution witness at any time. If they are not allowed to do this though, how can they adequately defend themselves and possibly even prove that the evidence should be refuted? Testimonies were also cut short if they feared that it would contradict a prosecution witness. For example, during the trial, the President stated "Ð'...he says he is in contradiction with Blaha. We don't want further details."

Several of the defendants had to perform their deeds because Hitler told them to do so. No one ever went against what Hitler said openly. When they told the persecutors this however, they were told they shouldn't have followed orders. But if they did not follow Hitler's orders, then they would have committed a crime against him and Germany, but if they

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