The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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                      FIFTY-FOURTH DAY

                 FRIDAY, 8TH FEBRUARY, 1946

                                            [Page 165]

THE PRESIDENT: I call on General Rudenko for the Soviet Union.

GENERAL RUDENKO: May it please Your Honours, on delivering
my opening statement, the last to be made at this Trial by
the Chief Prosecutors, I am fully conscious of the supreme
historical importance of these proceedings.

For the first time in the history of mankind is justice
confronted with crimes committed on so vast a scale, with
crimes which have entailed such grave consequences.

It is for the first time that criminals appear before a
court of justice, who have seized an entire State and made
this State an instrument of their monstrous crimes.

It is also for the first time that, by judging these
defendants, we sit in judgment not only on the defendants
themselves, but also on the criminal institutions and
organisations which they created, and on the inhuman
"theories" and "ideas" which they promulgated with a view to
committing Crimes against Peace and Humanity, crimes which
were designed by them far in advance of their perpetration.

Nine months ago, after having tortured for a number of years
of bloody warfare the freedom-loving nations of Europe,
Hitlerite Germany collapsed under the hammer blows of the
combined armed forces of the Anglo-Soviet-American
coalition. On 8th May, 1945, Hitlerite Germany was compelled
to lay down its arms, having suffered a military and
political defeat hitherto unequalled in history.

Hitlerism imposed upon the world a war which caused the
freedom-loving nations innumerable privations and endless
sufferings. Millions of people fell, victims of the war
initiated by the Hitlerite brigands, who embarked on a dream
of conquering the free peoples of the democratic countries
and of establishing the rule of Hitlerite tyranny in Europe
and in the entire world.

The day has come when the peoples of the world demand a just
retribution and a severe punishment of the Hitlerite
hangmen; when they demand severe punishment of the
criminals. All the outrages individually or jointly
committed by the major Hitlerite war criminals, all together
and each one individually, shall be considered by you, your
Honours, with all the thoroughness and attention which the
law, the Charter of the International Military Tribunal,
justice and our conscience require.

We charge the defendants with the initiation, instigation
and direct execution, individually and through their agents,
of the criminal Plan or Conspiracy. To the execution of this
plan was committed the entire machinery of the Hitlerite
State, with all its governmental agencies and institutions,
with its Army, its police, and its so-called public
agencies, as set out in the Indictment and particularly in
Appendix B.

Before entering upon the examination of the concrete events
and facts, which lie at the foundation of the charges raised
against the defendants, I think it necessary to dwell on
certain general legal questions connected with the
proceedings. This is indispensable, because the present
trial is the first one in history where justice is being
done by an agency of an international

                                                  [Page 166]
legal system -- the International Military Tribunal. This
also becomes necessary, since special consideration was
given to questions of law in both the written and oral
motions made before the Tribunal.

The first and the most general legal problem which, in my
opinion, has to be considered by the Tribunal is the problem
of legality. Contrary to the system of Fascist tyranny and
arbitrary Fascist practices, the great democracies which
have established this Tribunal, as well as all democracies
throughout the world, exist and act on a firm legal basis.
But neither the positive law nor the concept of law can be
identical in the national and in the international meaning
of these terms. "Lex" in the meaning of National Law is an
act of legislative power of a State, clothed in a proper
form. In the meaning of International Law it is different.
In the international field there never existed, nor do there
now exist, any legislative bodies which are competent to
pass laws which are binding on individual States. The legal
system of international relations, which include those
relations which are manifested in the co-ordinated effort to
combat criminality, is based on different legal principles.
In the international field the basic source of law and the
only legislative act is a treaty, an agreement between
States. Accordingly, in the same way as duly promulgated
laws, passed by legislative bodies and properly published,
are an absolute and sufficient legal basis for the
administration of national justice, so in the international
field an international treaty is an absolute and sufficient
legal basis for the implementation and the activity of
agencies of international justice created by the

The International Military Tribunal was established for the
trial and punishment of major war criminals on the basis of
the London Agreement, dated 8th August, 1945, signed by the
four countries acting in the interests of all freedom-loving
nations. Being an integral part of this agreement, the
Charter of the International Military Tribunal is to be
considered an unquestionable and sufficient legislative act,
defining and determining the basis and the procedure for the
trial and punishment of major war criminals. Provoked by
fear of responsibility or, at best, by insufficient
knowledge of the organic nature of international justice,
the references to the principle "nullum crimen sine lege" or
to the principle that "a statute cannot have retroactive
power," are not applicable because of the following
fundamental, decisive fact: The Charter of the Tribunal is
in force and in operation and all its provisions possess
absolute and binding force.

Pursuant to Article 6 of the Charter, the defendants are
charged with Crimes against Peace, Crimes committed in
Violation of Rules and Customs of War and Crimes against
Humanity. We must state with great satisfaction that, in
placing on such actions the stigma of criminality, the
Charter of the Tribunal has reduced to rules of law those
international principles and ideas which for many years were
set forth in the defence of law and justice in the field of
international relations.

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