The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Individual Responsibility Of Defendants

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Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression, Volume II, Chapter XVI


The crime of conspiracy is recognized, in various forms, in nearly every legal system. The Anglo-American doctrine of conspiracy, despite technical differences, is analogous in purpose to the Soviet notion of a "criminal gang" and the French association de malfaiters. German law, both before and after the Nazi seizure of power, also contained a similar concept. The fundamentals of the doctrine, common to most systems of law, are reflected in Article 6 of the Charter, which declares it a crime to participate in "the formulation or execution of a common plan or conspiracy" to plan or wage aggressive war, to commit War Crimes, or to commit Crimes against Humanity. Count I of the Indictment charges the existence of such a conspiracy on the part of the defendants, acting together with divers other persons.

The essence of conspiracy is the joining together of persons to pursue unlawful ends, by legal or illegal means, or to pursue lawful ends by illegal means. A conspiracy may exist even though the ends or means employed by the conspirators might have been perfectly legal if carried out by one person acting alone. The gravamen of the crime is association and acting in concert for the purpose of formulating and executing a common plan involving criminal ends or means.

Participation in a common plan or conspiracy results in vicarious liability, in the sense that each member of the conspiracy is liable for the acts of every other conspirator, even though he may have actually committed no criminal acts himself. He still may be adjudged criminal for mere participation in a common plan to pursue a common criminal purpose, regardless of disparities in the functions performed by individual conspirators.

Nevertheless, in order to prove the participation of a certain person in a conspiracy, his own acts must be considered. The roles played by the various members of the Nazi conspiracy are necessarily different. The following sections sketch in rough outline the parts played by each of the 22 defendants (excepting Sauckel and Speer who are discussed in Chapter X) and the former defendant and co- conspirator, Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, in the conspiracy to commit Crimes against Peace, War Crimes against Humanity, as alleged in Count I of the Indictment. These sections are by no means exhaustive but merely indicate the general lines of a particular defendant's participation. Further and more detailed discussion of the parts played by the con-

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spirators in particular phases of the conspiracy will be found under the pertinent subject matter in the preceding chapters.

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