The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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                   I. CRIMINAL AGGRESSION

For a number of decades, nations interested in strengthening
the cause of peace were proclaiming and advocating the idea
that aggression is the gravest encroachment on the peaceful
relations between nations, a most serious international
crime. These hopes and demands on the part of nations found
their expression in a series of acts and documents which
officially recognised aggression as an international crime.

On 27th August, 1928, the Briand-Kellogg Pact was signed in
"Persuaded," proclaimed the agreement, "that the time has
come when a frank renunciation of war as an instrument of
national policy should be made... Convinced that all changes
in their relations with one another should be sought only by
pacific means...the High Contracting Parties solemnly
declare in

                                                  [Page 167]

the names of their respective peoples that they condemn
recourse to war for the solution of international
controversies, and renounce it as an instrument of national
policy in their relations with one another."

In 1929, a year after the signing of the Paris Pact, at the
Congress of the International Association of Criminal Law at
Bucharest, a resolution was passed which squarely raised the
question of criminal responsibility for aggression. "Whereas
war has been outlawed by the Paris Pact of 1928, and
acknowledging the necessity of securing international order
and harmony by means of effective sanctions..." the Congress
considered imperative "the establishment of an international
penal judicial system" as well as of the principle of
criminal responsibility of States and single individuals for
acts of aggression.

Thus, long ago was proclaimed the principle of penal
responsibility for criminal aggression, the principle which
found its clear legal expression in sub-paragraph (a) of
Article 6 of the Charter of the International Military

Consequently, the Fascist aggressors, the defendants, knew
that by their predatory attacks on other countries they
committed the gravest crimes against peace. They knew it,
and they know it now, and that is the reason why they
attempted and are now attempting to camouflage their
criminal aggression with lies about defence.

Furthermore, it has been repeatedly and authoritatively
declared that violations of laws and customs of war
established by international conventions must entail
criminal responsibility.

In this connection, it is necessary to note that the gravest
outrages in violation of laws and customs of war committed
by the Hitlerites -- murder, violence, arson, and plunder --
are considered punishable criminal acts by all criminal
codes throughout the world. Moreover, the international
conventions signed especially for the purpose of
establishing laws and rules of war, stipulate criminal
responsibility for violation of these laws and rules. Thus
Article 56 of the Hague Convention in 1907 declares:

     "The property of municipalities, of institutions
     dedicated to religion, charity and education, the arts,
     and sciences, even when State property, shall be
     treated as private property. All seizure of,
     destruction or willful damage done to institutions of
     this character, historic monuments, works of art and
     science, is forbidden, and shall be made the subject of
     legal proceedings."
Thus, the Hague Convention not only forbids the violation of
rules of war, but also stipulates that these violations
"should be made the subject of legal proceedings", i.e.,
must entail criminal responsibility.

Article 29 of the 1929 Geneva Convention states with still
greater precision that "The Governments of the High
Contracting Parties whose penal laws may not be adequate
shall likewise take or recommend to their legislatures the
necessary measures to repress in time of war all acts in
contravention of the provisions of the present convention."

Finally, the principle of criminal responsibility for all
acts in violation of the laws and customs of war is
expressed with the utmost precision in Article 3 of the
provisions of the "Washington Conference for the Reduction
of Armaments and for the Pacific and Far Eastern Problems,"
which states that:

     "The Contracting Powers, wishing to ensure the
     execution of promulgated laws...declare that any person
     in the service of any Power who violates one of these
     rules, and independently of the fact whether he is
     subordinated to an official personality or not, will be
     considered a transgressor of the laws of war and will
     be liable to be tried by civilian or military
Consequently, according to the directives of the Hague and
Geneva Conventions, and according to the provisions of the
Washington Conference, the

                                                  [Page 168]
enforcing of criminal responsibility for the violation of
the laws and customs of war is not only possible, but is
actually compulsory.

Thus, sub-paragraph "B" of Article 6 of the Charter of the
International Military Tribunal, concerning war crimes,
defined with greater precision and generalised the
principles and rules contained in the international
conventions previously signed.

The defendants knew that cynical mockery of the laws and
customs of war constituted the gravest of crimes. They knew
it, but they hoped that total war, by securing victory,
would also secure their impunity. But victory did not arrive
on the heels of the crimes. Instead came the complete and
unconditional surrender of Germany, and with it came an hour
of grim reckoning for all the outrages they had committed.

I myself, speaking on behalf of the Soviet Union and my
honored colleagues, the Chief Prosecutors of the United
States of America, England, and France, we all accuse the
defendants of having ruled over the entire German State and
war machine through a criminal conspiracy, and of turning
the machinery of the German State into a mechanism for the
preparation and prosecution of criminal aggression, into a
mechanism for the extermination of millions of innocent

When several criminals conspire to commit a murder, every
one of them plays a definite part. One works out the plan of
murder, another waits in the car, and the third actually
fires at the victim. But whatever may be the part played by
any individual participant, they all are murderers, and any
court of law in any country will reject any attempts to
assert that the first two should not be considered
murderers, since they themselves had not fired the bullet.

The more complicated and hazardous the conceived crime, the
more complicated and less tangible the links connecting the
individual participants. When a gang of bandits commits an
assault, responsibility for the raid is also shared by those
members of the gang who did not actually take part in the
assault. But when the size of the gang attains extraordinary
proportions, when the gang happens to be at the helm of the
ship of State, when the gang commits numerous and very grave
international crimes, then, of course, the ties and mutual
relations among the members of the gang become entangled to
the utmost. A highly ramified mechanism is here at work. It
consisted of a whole system of links and blocks,
(Zellenleiter, Blockleiter, Gauleiter, Reichsleiter, etc.),
extending from ministerial chairs to the hands of the

This is a consolidated and powerful mechanism, yet it is
powerless to conceal the basic and decisive fact that at the
core of the entire system operated a gang of conspirators
who were setting in motion the whole organisation which they
had created.

When entire regions of flourishing countryside were turned
into desert areas, and the soil was drenched with the blood
of those executed, it was the work of their hands, of their
organisation, their instigation, their leadership. And just
because the masses of the German people were made to
participate in these outrages, because, prior to setting
packs of dogs and executioners on millions of innocent
people, the defendants for years had poisoned the conscience
and the mind of an entire generation of Germans by
developing in them the conceit of "the chosen," the morals
of cannibals, and the greed of burglars, can it be said that
the guilt of the Hitlerite conspirators is any less great or
any less grave?

Expressing the will of nations, the Charter of the
International Military Tribunal has settled this question:
"Leaders, organisers, instigators and accomplices
participating in the formulation or execution of a Common
Plan or Conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing crimes are
responsible for all acts performed by any person in
execution of such plan." (Article 6 of the Charter.)

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