The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Second Day: Wednesday, 21st November, 1945
(Part 1 of 8)

[Page 47]

THE PRESIDENT: A motion has been filed with the Tribunal and the Tribunal has given it consideration. In so far as it may be a plea to the jurisdiction the Tribunal, it conflicts with Article 3 of the Charter and will not be entertained. In so far as it may contain other arguments which may be open to the defendants they may be heard at a later stage.

Now, in accordance with Article 24 of the Charter, which provides that, the indictment has been read in Court, the defendants shall be called upon plead guilty or not guilty, I direct the defendants to plead either guilty or not guilty.

DR. RUDOLF DIX (Counsel for defendant Schacht): May I speak to Your Lordship for just a moment?

THE PRESIDENT: You may not speak to me in support of the motion with I have just dealt on behalf of the Tribunal. I have told you so far as that motion is a plea to the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, it conflicts with Article 2 of the Charter and will not be entertained. In so far as it contains or may contain arguments which may be open to the defendants, those arguments may be heard hereafter.

DR. DIX: I do not wish to speak on the subject of a motion. As speaker for the defence I should like to broach a technical question and voice a request to this effect on behalf of the defence. May I do so? The defence counsel were forbidden to talk to the defendants this morning. It is absolutely necessary that the defence counsel should be able to speak to the defendants before the session. It often happens that after the session one cannot reach one's client at night. In all probability it might prove necessary to prepare matters overnight for the next morning which one wants to talk over with him. According to our experience it is always permissible for the defence counsel to speak to the defendant the session. The question of conferring between defence counsel and clients during sessions could be dealt with at a later date. At present I request, on behalf of the entire defence, that we be allowed to confer with our clients in the courtroom itself, into which they usually are brought at a very early hour. Otherwise we shall not be in a position to conduct the defence in an efficient and appropriate manner.

THE PRESIDENT: I am afraid that you cannot consult with your clients in the courtroom except by written communication. When you are out of the courtroom, security regulations can be carried out and you have, so far as those security regulations go, full opportunity to consult with your clients. In the courtroom we must confine you to written communications to your clients. At the end of each day's sitting, you will have full opportunity to consult with them in private.

DR. DIX: I shall discuss this with my colleagues of the defence and we should like if possible to return to this question.

DR. RALPH THOMA (Counsel for defendant Rosenberg): May I have the floor?

THE PRESIDENT: Will you state your name please.

DR. THOMA: Dr. Ralph Thoma. I represent the defendant Rosenberg. Yesterday my client gave me a statement as regards the question of guilt or innocence. I took this statement and promised him to talk with him about it. Neither last night nor this morning have I had an opportunity to talk with him; and, consequently, neither I nor my client are in a position to make a statement to-day as to whether he is guilty or not guilty. I therefore request an interruption of the trial so that I may speak with my client.

[Page 48]

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Thoma, the Tribunal will be prepared to adjourn for fifteen minutes in order that you may have an opportunity of consulting with your clients.

DR. THOMA: Thank you. I should like to make another statement. Some of my colleagues have just told me that they are in the same position as I, particularly ...

THE PRESIDENT: I meant that all defence counsel should have an opportunity of consulting with their clients; but I would point out to the defence counsel that they have had several weeks preparation for this trial, and that they must have anticipated that the provisions of Article 24 would be followed. Now we will adjourn for fifteen minutes in which all of you may consult with your clients.

DR. THOMA: May I say something further in that respect, your Honour ?


DR. THOMA: The defence asked whether the question of guilty or not guilty could only be answered with "yes" or "no" or whether a more extensive and longer statement could be made. We have obtained information on this point only the day before yesterday. I therefore had no opportunity to confer at length with my client on this matter.

THE PRESIDENT: One moment. The question will have to be answered in the words of Article 24 of the Charter, and those words are printed in italics:

"The tribunal shall ask each defendant whether he pleads guilty or not guilty."
That is what they have to do at that stage. Of course, the defendants will have a full opportunity themselves, if they are called as witnesses, and by their counsel, to make their defence fully at a later stage.

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: I will now call upon the defendants to plead guilty or not guilty to the charges against them. They will proceed in turn to a point in the dock opposite to the microphone.

THE PRESIDENT: Hermann Goering.

HERMANN GOERING: Before I answer the question of the high court whether or not I am guilty -

THE PRESIDENT: I announced that defendants were not entitled to make a statement. You must plead guilty or not guilty.

HERRMANN GOERING: I declare myself in the sense of the indictment not guilty.



THE PRESIDENT: That will be entered as a plea of not guilty. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: If there is any disturbance in Court, those who make it will have to leave the Court.

THE PRESIDENT: Joachim von Ribbentrop.

JOACHIM VON RIBBENTROP: I declare myself in the sense of the indictment not guilty.

THE PRESIDENT: Wilhelm Keitel.

WILHELM KEITEL: I declare myself not guilty.

THE PRESIDENT: In the absence of Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the trial will proceed against him, but he will have an opportunity of pleading when he is sufficiently well to be brought back into court.

THE PRESIDENT: Alfred Rosenberg.

ALFRED ROSENBERG: I declare myself in the sense of the indictment not guilty.


HANS FRANK: I declare myself not guilty.

THE PRESIDENT: Wilhelm Frick.

WILHELM FRICK: Not guilty.

THE PRESIDENT: Julius Streicher.


[Page 49]


WALTER FUNK: I declare myself not guilty.

THE PRESIDENT: Hjalmar Schacht.

HJALMAR SCHACHT: I am not guilty in any respect.


KARL DONITZ: Not guilty.

THE PRESIDENT: Erich Raeder.

ERICH RAEDER: I declare myself not guilty.

THE PRESIDENT: Baldur von Schirach.

BALDUR VON SCHIRACH: I declare myself in the sense of the indictment not guilty.

THE PRESIDENT: Fritz Sauckel.

FRITZ SAUCKEL: I declare myself in the sense of the indictment, before God and the world and particularly before my people, not guilty.


ALFRED JODL: Not guilty. What I have done or had to do, I have a pure conscience form before God, before history and my people.

THE PRESIDENT: Franz von Papen.

FRANZ VON PAPEN: I declare myself in no way guilty.

THE PRESIDENT: Artur Seyss-Inquart.

ARTUR SEYSS-INQUART: I declare myself not guilty.

THE PRESIDENT: Albert Speer.

ALBERT SPEER: Not guilty.

THE PRESIDENT: Constantin von Neurath.

CONSTANTIN VON NEURATH: I answer the question in the negative.

THE PRESIDENT: Hans Fritzsche.

HANS FRITZSCHE: As regard this indictment, not guilty.

(At this point Hermann Goering arose in the prisoners' box.)

THE PRESIDENT: You are not entitled to address the Tribunal, except through your counsel, at the present time. I will now call upon the Chief Prosecutor for the United States of America.

(At this point defendant Goering stood up in the prisoners' dock and attempted to address the Tribunal.)

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: May it please Your Honour, the privilege of opening the first trial in history for crimes against the peace of the world imposes a grave responsibility. The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant and so devastating, that civilisation cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated. That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury, stay the hands of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgement of the law, is one of the most significant tributes that Power ever has paid to Reason.

This Tribunal, while it is novel and experimental, is not the product of abstract speculations nor is it created to vindicate legalistic theories. This inquest represents the practical effort of four of the most mighty of nations, with the support of seventeen more, to utilise International Law to meet the greatest menace of our times - aggressive war. The common sense of mankind demands that law shall not stop with the punishment of petty crimes by little people. It must also reach men who possess themselves of great power and make deliberate and concerted use of it to set in motion evils which leave no home in the world untouched. It is a cause of that magnitude that the United Nations will lay before Your Honour.

In the prisoners' dock sit twenty-odd broken men. Reproached by the humiliation of those they have led, almost as bitterly as by the desolation of those they have attacked, their personal capacity for evil is forever past. It is hard now to perceive in these miserable men as captives the power by which as Nazi leaders

[Page 50]

they once dominated much of the world and terrified most of it. Merely as individuals their fate is of little consequence to the world.

What makes this inquest significant is that these prisoners represent sinister influences that will lurk in the world long after their bodies have returned to dust. We will show them to be living symbols of racial hatreds, of terrorism and violence, and of the arrogance and cruelty of power. They are symbols of fierce nationalism and of militarism, of intrigue and war-making which embroiled Europe, generation after generation, crushing its manhood, destroying its homes, and impoverishing its life. They have so identified themselves with the philosophies they conceived, and with the forces they have directed, that tenderness to them is a victory and an encouragement to all the evils which attached to their names. Civilisation can afford no compromise with the forces which would gain renewed strength if we deal ambiguously or with the men in whom those forces now precariously survive.

What these men stand for we will patiently and temperately disclose. We will give you undeniable proofs of incredible events. The catalogue of crimes will omit nothing that could be conceived by a pathological pride, cruelty, and lust for power. These men created in Germany, under the "Fuehrerprinzip," a National Socialist despotism equalled only by the dynasties of the ancient East. They took from the German people all those dignities and freedoms that we hold natural and inalienable rights in every human being, The people were compensated by inflaming and gratifying hatreds towards those who were marked as "scapegoats." Against their opponents, including Jews, Catholics, and free labour the Nazis directed such a campaign of arrogance, brutality, and annihilation as the world has not witnessed since the pre-Christian ages. They excited the German ambition to be a "master race," which of course implies serfdom others. They led their people on a mad gamble for domination. They diverted social energies and resources to the creation of what they thought to be an invincible war machine. They overran their neighbours. To sustain the "master race" in its war-making, they enslaved millions of human beings and brought them into Germany, where these hapless creatures now wander as "displaced persons." At length, bestiality and bad faith reached such excess that they aroused the sleeping strength of imperilled Civilisation. Its united efforts have ground the German war machine to fragments. But the struggle has left Europe a liberated yet prostrate land where a demoralised society struggles to survive. These are the fruits of the sinister forces that sit with these defendants in the prisoners' dock.

In justice to the nations and the men associated in this prosecution, I must remind you of certain difficulties which may leave their mark on this case. Never before in legal history has an effort been made to bring within the scope of a single litigation the developments of a decade covering a whole continent, and involving a score of nations, countless individuals, and innumerable events. Despite the magnitude of the task, the world has demanded immediate action. This demand has had to be met, though perhaps at the cost of finished craftsmanship. In my country, established courts, following familiar procedures, applying well-thumbed precedents, and dealing with the legal consequences of local and limited events, seldom commence a trial within a year of the event in litigation. Yet less than eight months ago to- day the courtroom in which you sit was an enemy fortress in the hands of German S.S. troops. Less than eight months ago nearly all our witnesses and documents were in enemy hands. The law had not been codified, no procedures had been established, no tribunal was in existence, no usable courthouse stood here, none of the hundreds of tons of official German documents had been examined, no prosecuting staff had been assembled, nearly all of the present defendants were at large, and the four prosecuting powers had not yet joined in common cause to try them. I should be the last to deny that the case may well suffer from incomplete researches, and quite likely will not be the example of professional work which any of the prosecuting nations would

[Page 51]

normally wish to sponsor. It is, however, a completely adequate case to the judgement we shall ask you to render, and its full development we shall be obliged to leave to historians.

Before I discuss particulars of evidence, some general considerations which may affect the credit of this trial in the eyes of the world should be candidly faced. There is a dramatic disparity between the circumstances of the accusers and of the accused that might discredit our work if we should falter, in even minor matters, in being fair and temperate.

Unfortunately, the nature of these crimes is such that both prosecution and judgement must be by victor nations over vanquished foes. The world-wide scope of the aggressions carried out by these men has left but few real neutrals. Either the victors must judge the vanquished or we must leave the defeated to judge themselves. After the First World War we learned the futility of the latter course. The former high station of these defendants, the notoriety of their acts, and the adaptability of their conduct to provoke retaliation make it hard to distinguish between the demand for a just and measured retribution, and the unthinking cry for vengeance which arises from the anguish of war. It is our task, so far as is humanly possible, to draw the line between the two. We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants today is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our lips as well. We must summon such detachment and intellectual integrity to our task that this trial will commend itself to posterity as fulfilling humanity's aspirations to do justice.

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