The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann trial

Trial of German Major War Criminals

First Day: Tuesday, 20th November, 1945
(Part 1 of 10)

THE PRESIDENT : Before the defendants in this case are called upon to make their pleas to the indictment which has been lodged against them, and in which they are charged with Crimes against Peace, War Crimes, and Crimes against Humanity, and with a Common Plan or Conspiracy to commit those Crimes, it is the wish of the Tribunal that I should make a very brief statement on behalf of the Tribunal.

This International Military Tribunal has been established pursuant to the Agreement of London, dated the 8th of August, 1945, and the Charter of the Tribunal annexed thereto. The purpose for which the Tribunal has been established is stated in Article I of the Charter to be the just and prompt trial and punishment of the Major War Criminals of the European Axis.

The signatories to the Agreement and Charter are the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Government of the United States of America, the Provisional Government of the French Republic and the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

The Committee of the Chief Prosecutors, appointed by the four signatories, have settled the final designation of the War Criminals to be tried by the Tribunal, and have approved the indictment on which the present defendants stand charged here today.

On Thursday, the 18th of October, 1945, in Berlin, the indictment was lodged with the Tribunal and a copy of that indictment in German has been furnished to each defendant, and has been in his possession for more than thirty days.

All the defendants are represented by counsel. In almost all cases the counsel appearing for the defendants have been chosen by the defendants themselves, but in cases where counsel could not be obtained the Tribunal has itself selected suitable counsel agreeable to the defendant.

The Tribunal has heard with great satisfaction of the steps which have been taken by the Chief Prosecutors to make available to defending counsel the numerous documents upon which the prosecution rely, with the aim of giving to the defendants every possibility for a just defence.

The trial which is now about to begin is unique in the history of the jurisprudence of the world and it is of supreme importance to millions of people all over the globe. For these reasons, there is laid upon everybody who takes any part in this trial a solemn responsibility to discharge his duties without fear or favour, in accordance with the sacred principles of law and justice.

The four signatories having invoked the judicial process, it is the duty of all concerned to see that the trial in no way departs from those principles and traditions which alone give justice its authority and the place it ought to occupy in the affairs of all civilised states.

This trial is a public trial in the fullest sense of those words, and I must, therefore, remind the public that the Tribunal will insist upon the complete maintenance of order and decorum, and will take the strictest measures to enforce it. It only remains for me to direct, in accordance with the provisions of the Charter, that the indictment shall now be read.

[Page 2]

MR. SIDNEY ALDERMAN: May it please the Tribunal:


I. The United States of America, the French Republic, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics by the undersigned, Robert H. Jackson, Francois de Menthon, Hartley Shawcross and R. A. Rudenko, duly appointed to represent their respective Governments in the investigation of the charges against and the prosecution of the major War Criminals, pursuant to the Agreement of London, dated 8th August, I945, and the Charter of this Tribunal annexed thereto, hereby accuse as guilty, in the respects hereinafter set forth, of Crimes against Peace, War Crimes, and Crimes against Humanity, and of a Common Plan or Conspiracy to commit those Crimes, all as defined in the Charter of the Tribunal, and accordingly name as defendants in this cause and as indicted on the counts hereinafter set out: HERMANN WILHELM GOERING, RUDOLF HESS, JOACHIM VON RIBBENTROP, ROBERT LEY, WILHELM KEITEL, ERNST KALTENBRUNNER, ALFRED ROSENBERG, HANS FRANK, WILHELM FRICK, JULIUS STREICHER, WALTER FUNK, HJALMAR SCHACHT, GUSTAV KRUPP VON BOHLEN UND HALBACH, KARL DOENITZ, ERICH RAEDER, BALDUR VON SCHIRACH, FRITZ SAUCKEL, ALFRED JODL, MARTIN BORMANN, FRANZ VON PAPEN, ARTUR SEYSS-INQUART, ALBERT SPEER, CONSTANTIN VON NEURATH and HANS FRITZSCHE, individually and as members of any of the Groups or Organisations next hereinafter named.

II. The following are named as Groups or Organisations (since dissolved) which should be declared criminal by reason of their aims and the means used for the accomplishment thereof, and in connection with the conviction of such of the named defendants as were members thereof: DIE REICHSREGIERUNG (REICH CABINET); DAS KORPS DER POLITISCHEN LEITER DER NATIONALSOZIALISTISCHEN DEUTSCFIEN ARBEITERPARTEI (LEADERSHIP CORPS OF THE NAZI PARTY); DIE SCHUTZSTAFFELN DER NATIONALSOZIALISTISCHEN DEUTSCHEN ARBEITERPARTEI (commonly known as the "SS") and including the SICHERHEITSDIENST (commonly known as the "SD"); DIE GEHEIME STAATSPOLIZEI (SECRET STATE POLICE), (commonly known as the "GESTAPO"); DIE STURMABTEILUNGEN DER N.S.D.A.P. (commonly known as the "SA"); and the GENERAL STAFF and the HIGH COMMAND of the GERMAN ARMED FORCES. The identity and membership of the Groups or Organisations referred to in the foregoing titles are hereinafter in Appendix B more particularly defined.

(Charter, Article 6, especially 6 (a))

III. Statement of the Offence

All the defendants, with divers other persons, during a period of years preceding 8th May, 1945, participated as leaders', organisers, instigators or accomplices in the formulation or execution of a common plan or conspiracy to commit, or which involved the commission of, Crimes against Peace, War Crimes, and Crimes against Humanity, as defined in the Charter of this Tribunal, and, in accordance with the provisions of the Charter, are individually responsible for their own acts and for all acts committed by any persons in the execution of such plan or conspiracy. The common plan or conspiracy embraced the commission of Crimes against Peace, in that the defendants planned, prepared, initiated and waged wars of aggression, which were also wars in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances. In the development and course of the common plan or conspiracy it came to embrace the commission of War Crimes, in that it contemplated, and the defendants determined upon and carried out, ruthless wars against countries and populations, in violation of the rules and customs of war, including as typical and systematic means by which the wars were prosecuted, murder, ill-treatment, deportation for slave labour and for other purposes of civilian populations of

[Page 3]

occupied territories, murder and ill-treatment of prisoners of war and of persons on the high seas, the taking and killing of hostages, the plunder of public and private property, the wanton destruction of cities, towns, and villages, and devastation not justified by military necessity. The common plan or conspiracy contemplated and came to embrace as typical and systematic, and the defendants determined upon and committed, Crimes against Humanity, both within Germany and within occupied territories, including murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhumane acts committed against civilian populations before and during the war, and persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds, in execution of the plan for preparing and prosecuting aggressive or illegal wars, many of such acts and persecutions being violations of the domestic laws of the countries where perpetrated.

IV. Particulars of the nature and development of the common plan or conspiracy


In 1921 Adolf Hitler became the supreme leader or Fuehrer of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers Party) also known as the Nazi Party, which had been founded in Germany in 1920. He continued as such throughout the period covered by this Indictment. The Nazi Party, together with certain of its subsidiary organisations, became the instrument of cohesion among the defendants and their co-conspirators and an instrument for the carrying out of the aims and purposes of their conspiracy. Each defendant became a member of the Nazi Party and of the conspiracy, with knowledge of their aims and purposes, or, with such knowledge, became an accessory to their aims and purposes at some stage of the development of the conspiracy.


The aims and purposes of the Nazi Party and of the defendants and divers other persons from time to time associated as leaders, members, supporters or adherents of the Nazi Party (hereinafter called collectively the "Nazi conspirators") were, or came to be, to accomplish the following by any means deemed opportune, including unlawful means, and contemplating ultimate resort to threat of force, force and aggressive war:

to abrogate and overthrow the Treaty of Versailles and its restrictions upon the military armament and activity of Germany;

to acquire the territories lost by Germany as the result of the World War of 1914-1918 and other territories in Europe asserted by the Nazi conspirators to be occupied principally by so-called "racial Germans";

to acquire still further territories in continental Europe and elsewhere claimed by the Nazi conspirators to be required by the "racial Germans" as "Lebensraum," or living space, all at the expense of neighbouring and other countries.

The aims and purposes of the Nazi conspirators were not fixed or static, but evolved and expanded as they acquired progressively greater power and became able to make more effective application of threats of force and threats of aggressive war. When their expanding aims and purposes became finally so great as to provoke such strength of resistance as could be overthrown only by armed force and aggressive war, and not simply by the opportunistic methods theretofore used, such as fraud, deceit, threats, intimidation, fifth column activities and propaganda, the Nazi conspirators deliberately planned, determined upon and launched their aggressive wars and wars in violation of international treaties, agreements and assurances by the phases and steps hereinafter more particularly described.


To incite others to join in the common plan or conspiracy, and as a means of securing for the Nazi conspirators the highest degree of control over the German community, they put forth, disseminated, and exploited certain doctrines, among others, as follows :-

1. That persons of so-called "German blood" (as specified by the Nazi

[Page 4]

conspirators) were a "master race" and were accordingly entitled to subjugate, dominate or exterminate other "races" and peoples

2. That the German people should be ruled under the Fuehrerprinzip (leadership principle) according to which power was to reside in a Fuehrer from whom sub-leader were to derive authority in a hierarchical order, each sub-leader to owe unconditional obedience to his immediate superior but to be absolute in his own sphere of jurisdiction; and the power of the leadership was to be unlimited, extending to all phases of public and private life

3. That war was a noble and necessary activity of Germans

4. That the leadership of the Nazi Party, as the sole bearer of the foregoing and other doctrines of the Nazi Party, was entitled to shape the structure, policies and practices of the German State and all related institutions, to direct and supervise activities of all individuals within the State, and to destroy all opponents.


1. First steps in acquisition of control of State machineryIn order to accomplish their aims and purposes, the Nazi conspirators prepared to seize totalitarian control over Germany to secure that no effective resistance against them could arise within Germany itself. After the failure of the Munich Putsch of 1923 aimed at the overthrow of the Weimar Republic by direct action, the Nazi conspirators set out through the Nazi Party to undermine and capture the German Government by "legal" forms supported by terrorism. They created and utilised, as a Party formation, Die Sturmabteilungen (SA), a semimilitary, voluntary Organisation of young men trained for and committed to the use of violence, whose mission was to make the Party the master of the streets.

2. Control acquired

On 30th January, 1933, Hitler became Chancellor of the German Republic. After the Reichstag fire of 28th February, 1933, clauses of the Weimar constitution guaranteeing personal liberty, freedom of speech, of the Press, of association and assembly were suspended. The Nazi conspirators secured the passage by the Reichstag of a "law for the Protection of the People and the Reich" giving Hitler and the members of his then cabinet plenary powers of legislation. The Nazi conspirators retained such powers after having changed the members of the cabinet. The conspirators caused all political parties except the Nazi Party to be prohibited. They caused the Nazi Party to be established as a para-governmental Organisation with extensive and extraordinary privileges.

3. Consolidation of control

Thus possessed of the machinery of the German State, the Nazi conspirators set about the consolidation of their position of power within Germany, the extermination of potential internal resistance and the placing of the German nation on a military footing.

(a) The Nazi conspirators reduced the Reichstag to a body of their own nominees and curtailed the freedom of popular elections throughout the country. They transformed the several states, provinces and municipalities, which had formerly exercised semiautonomous powers, into hardly more than administrative organs of the Central Government. They united the offices of the President and the Chancellor in the person Of Hitler, instituted a widespread purge of civil servants, and severely restricted the independence of the judiciary and rendered it subservient to Nazi ends. The conspirators greatly enlarged existing State and Party organisations, established a network of new State and Party organisations, and "coordinated" State agencies with the Nazi Party and its branches and affiliates, with the result that German life was dominated by Nazi doctrine and practice and progressively mobilised for the accomplishment of their aims.

(b) in order to make their rule secure from attack and to instil fear in the hearts of the German people, the Nazi conspirators established and extended

[Page 5]

a system of terror against opponents and supposed or suspected opponents of the regime. They imprisoned such persons without judicial process, holding them in "protective custody" and concentration camps, and subjected them to persecution, degradation, despoilment, enslavement, torture and murder. These concentration camps were established early in 1933 under the direction of the defendant Goering and expanded as a fixed part of the terroristic policy and method of the conspirators and used by them for the commission of the Crimes against Humanity hereinafter alleged. Among the principal agencies utilised in the perpetration of these crimes were the SS and the Gestapo, which, together with other favoured branches or agencies of the State and Party, were permitted to operate without restraint of law.

(c) The Nazi conspirators conceived that, in addition to the suppression of distinctively political opposition, it was necessary to suppress or exterminate certain other movements or groups which they regarded as obstacles to their retention of total control in Germany, and to the aggressive aims of the conspiracy abroad.

[ Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.