On 1st November, 1943, Cordell Hull (USA), Anthony Eden (Britain) and Vyacheslav Molotov (Soviet Union) signed in Moscow a declaration that warned that the Allies were determined to bring to justice those "German officers and men and members of the Nazi Party who have been responsible for atrocities, massacres and executions."
In May 1945, Winston Churchill, Harry S. Truman, Joseph Stalin and Charles De Gaulle agreed that an international military tribunal should try the leaders of Nazi Germany for war crimes. It was decided to charge the men and women on four counts: crimes against peace (planning and making war); war crimes (responsibility for crimes during war); crimes against humanity (racial persecution) and conspiracy to commit other crimes.
The tribunal's judges included Frances Biddle (USA), Norman Birkett (Britain), Robert Falco (France), Geoffrey Lawrence (Britain), John Parker (USA), Roman Rudenko (Soviet Union) and Henry Donnedieu de Vabres (France). Several Nazi leaders such as Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels were dead while Martin Bormann and Heinrich Mueller had not been captured. The list of 23 defendants included Hermann Goering, Wilhelm Frick, Hans Frank, Rudolf Hess, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Alfred Rosenberg, Albert Speer, Julius Streicher, Alfred Jodl, Fritz Saukel, Robert Ley, Erich Raeder, Wilhelm Keitel, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Hjalmar Schacht, Karl Doenitz, Franz von Papen, Constantin von Neurath and Joachim von Ribbentrop.
Robert Ley and Hermann Goering both committed suicide during the trial. Michael R. Marrus the author of The Nuremberg War Crimes Trial 1945-46 (1997) has pointed out: "How much did the defendants know about the crimes against humanity, about the murders in the east, about the final solution, the concentration camps, or Auschwitz?" Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the head of the vast Main Office for Reich Security - the vast SS police apparatus - said he did not know of the final solution before 1943. "Immediately after receiving knowledge of this fact I fought, just as I had done previously, not only against the final solution, but also against this type of treatment of the Jewish problem.... I protested to Hitler and the next day to Himmler. I did not only draw their attention to my personal attitude and my completely different conception which I had brought over from Austria and to my humanitarian qualms, but immediately from the first day, I concluded practically every one of my situation reports right to the very end by saying that there was no hostile power that would negotiate with a Reich which had burdened itself with this guilt." Chiefly thanks to his intervention, Kaitenbrunner ventured, the persecution of Jews ended in October 1944.
Telford Taylor, prosecuting counsel, argued that: "In the sterilization experiments conducted by the defendants at Auschwitz, Ravensbrueck, and other concentration camps, the destructive nature of the Nazi medical program comes out most forcibly. The Nazis were searching for methods of extermination, both by murder and sterilization, of large population groups by the most scientific and least conspicuous means. They were developing a new branch of medical science which would give them the scientific tools for the planning and practice of genocide. The primary purpose was to discover an inexpensive, unobtrusive, and rapid method of sterilization which could be used to wipe out Russians, Poles, Jews, and other people. Surgical sterilization was thought to be too slow and expensive to be used on a mass scale. A method to bring about an unnoticed sterilization was thought desirable."
Hans Frank was one of the defendants who accepted his guilt in these war crimes. "Having lived through the five months of this trial, and particularly after having heard the testimony of, the witness Hoess, my conscience does not allow me to throw the responsibility solely on these minor people. I myself have never installed an extermination camp for Jews, or promoted the existence of such camps; but if Adolf Hitler personally has laid that dreadful responsibility on his people, then it is mine too, for we have fought against Jewry for years; and we have indulged in the most horrible utterances.... A thousand years will pass and still this guilt of Germany will not have been erased." However, Wilhelm Frick, refused to accept any responsibility for the crimes: "As far as the charge against me is concerned I have a clear conscience. My whole life was service to people and the Fatherland. By the fulfillment of my legal and moral duty I think I have earned punishment just as little as the tens of thousands of dutiful German officials who have now been imprisoned only because they carried out their duties."
Alfred Thoma, who defended Alfred Rosenberg argued that he did use terms such as the "extermination of Jewry." However, he added: "Exaggerated expressions were always part of the National Socialist weapons of propaganda. A Hitler speech was hardly imaginable without insults to his internal or external political opponents, or without threats of extermination. Every one of Hitler's speeches was echoed a million times by Goebbels down to the last speaker of the Party in a small country inn. The same sentences and words which Hitler had used were repeated, and not only in all the political speeches, but in the German press as well, in all the editorials and essays, until, weeks or months later, a new speech was given which brought about a new echo of a similar kind. Rosenberg was no exception. He repeated, as everyone did... Apparently, like Hitler's other supporters, he gave as much or as little thought to the fact that in reality none of those phrases were clear but that they had a sinister double meaning and, while they might have meant real expulsion, they might also have implied the physical annihilation and murder of the Jews."
Wilhelm Frick, Hans Frank, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Walther Funk, Fritz Saukel, Alfred Rosenberg, Julius Streicher, Alfred Jodl, Wilhelm Keitel, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Karl Brandt, Viktor Brack and Joachim von Ribbentrop were found guilty and executed on 16th October, 1946. Rudolf Hess, Erich Raeder, were sentenced to life imprisonment and Albert Speer to 25 years. Karl Doenitz , Walther Funk, Franz von Papen, Alfried Krupp, Friedrich Flick and Constantin von Neurath were also found guilty and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. At other war crime trials Josef Kramer and Irma Grese were also executed.
In January, 1951, John McCloy, the US High Commissioner for Germany, announced that Alfried Krupp and eight members of his board of directors who had been convicted with him, were to be released. Krupt had been convicted of plundering occupied territories and being responsible for the barbaric treatment of prisoners of war and concentration camp inmates. Documents showed that Krupp initiated the request for slave labour and signed detailed contracts with the SS, giving them responsibility for inflicting punishment on the workers. His property, valued at around 45 million, and his numerous companies were also restored to him.
Others that McCloy decided to free included Friedrich Flick, one of the main financial supporters of Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). During the Second World War Flick became extremely wealthy by using 48,000 slave labourers from SS concentration camps in his various industrial enterprises. It is estimated that 80 per cent of these workers died as a result of the way they were treated during the war. His property was restored to him and like Krupp became one of the richest men in Germany.
Others serving life-imprisonment at Spandau Prison were also released: Erich Raeder (1955), Karl Doenitz (1956), Friedrich Flick (1957) and Albert Speer (1966). However, the Soviet Union and Britain refused to release Rudolf Hess.