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Sep 30, 2021
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For the first time, criminals who took possession of an entire state appeared before the court

Today we face a phenomenon fraught with a Nazi renaissance

75 years ago, on October 1, 1946, the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg ended its work with a verdict in the case of the main Nazi criminals. Its uniqueness lay in the fact that for the first time in history, not a single nation, but the entire world community, the United Nations lawfully punished those who criminally violated the generally recognized norms of international law, committed monstrous atrocities against the world and humanity.

Almost the entire ruling elite of Nazi Germany was in the dock, with the exception of Hitler, the head of the Reichsfuehrer SS Reichsfuehrer SS Himmler and the propaganda minister Goebbels, who committed suicide in the end of the war.

The number of the accused included 24 political and military leaders: G. Goering – Reichsmarschall, commander-in-chief of the German aviation; R. Hess – until 1940 Hitler’s deputy for the NSDAP, member of the Council of Ministers for the Defense of the Empire; I. Ribbentrop – Minister of Foreign Affairs, plenipotentiary of the fascist party on foreign policy; R. Ley – leader of the Labor Front, one of the leaders of the NSDAP; V. Keitel – Field Marshal, Chief of Staff of the Supreme High Command of the Armed Forces; E. Kaltenbrunner – SS Obergruppenfuehrer, head of the Reich Security Directorate and the Security Police; A. Rosenberg – Hitler’s Deputy for the Ideological Training of NSDAP Members, Reich Minister for the Eastern Occupied Territories; G. Frank – Reichsleiter of the fascist party, governor-general of the occupied Polish territories; V. Frick – Minister of Internal Affairs; J. Streicher – Gauleiter of Franconia, ideologue of racism and anti-Semitism; V. Funk – Minister of Economy, President of the Reichsbank, member of the Council of Ministers for the Defense of the Empire; G. Schacht – organizer of the rearmament of the Wehrmacht; G. Krupp – the head of a major military-industrial concern that took an active part in the preparation and implementation of the aggressive plans of German militarism; K. Dennitz – Grand Admiral, Commander of the Naval Forces, Hitler’s successor as head of state; E. Raeder – Grand Admiral, Commander-in-Chief of the Navy until 1943; B. Schirach – organizer and leader of fascist youth organizations in Germany; F. Sauckel – SS Obergruppenfuehrer, General Commissioner for the use of labor; A. Jodl – Colonel General, Chief of Staff of the Operations Directorate of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces; F. Papen – one of the organizers of the seizure of power in Germany by the Nazis; A. Seyss-Inquart – leader of the fascist party of Austria, deputy governor-general of Poland; A. Speer – Reich Minister of Armaments and Ammunition; K. Neurath – Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Protector of Bohemia and Moravia; G. Fritsche – Head of the Department in the Ministry of Propaganda and Head of the Radio Broadcasting Department; M. Bormann – since 1941 Hitler’s deputy for the NSDAP, head of the party office.

Bormann was brought to trial in absentia; his place of stay was never established. The case of the paralyzed Krupp was separated into a separate proceeding and suspended. Lei escaped the dock by hanging himself in his jail cell before the trial began.

The charges were brought against persons who were part of the highest political and military leadership of the Third Reich, both personally and as members of any of the following groups or organizations to which they belonged: government cabinet, leadership of the National Socialist Party (NSDAP), guard units of the German National Socialist Party (SS), including the Security Service (SD), the State Secret Police (Gestapo), the Assault Troops of the German National Socialist Party (SA), the General Staff and the High Command of the German Armed Forces.

Persons brought to trial at the Nuremberg Tribunal were accused of unleashing an aggressive war in order to establish world domination, that is, of crimes against peace; in the murder and torture of prisoners of war and civilians of the occupied countries, the deportation of civilians to Germany for forced labor, the killing of hostages, the robbery of public and private property, the aimless destruction of cities and villages, countless devastations not justified by military necessity, that is, in war crimes; in the extermination, enslavement, exile and other atrocities committed against the civilian population for political, racial or religious reasons (only through the death camps, the Nazis allowed 18 million people during the war years, of which 11 million were killed).

The chief prosecutor from the USSR R.A. Rudenko had every reason to declare in his opening speech on February 8, 1946, that “for the first time, criminals who took possession of an entire state and made the state the instrument of their monstrous crimes appeared before the court.”

The Nuremberg Trial, which opened on November 20, 1945, was distinguished by unprecedented publicity: all 403 court sessions were open. They were attended by over 60 thousand people, including Germans. The process was conducted simultaneously in four languages, including German. About 250 correspondents covered its course in the world press.

The most important feature of the process was the impeccable legal validity. The court heard 116 witnesses called by both prosecutors and defense lawyers, and more than 4 thousand documentary evidence was examined. In this case, the decisive role was played by the official documents drawn up in due time by the defendants. The Hitlerite elite failed to dissociate themselves from their authorship.

The defense of the defendants tried to undermine the accusation by referring to the fact that international law supposedly considers only the actions of states and does not impose penalties for individuals who, although practically carried out the actions of the state, nevertheless cannot be personally responsible for them.

The International Military Tribunal has rightly indicated that crimes against international law are committed by people, not abstract categories, and only by punishing individuals who commit such crimes can the provisions of international law be respected. Thus, the fundamental principle was realized: “Specific individuals are subject to criminal liability”

The Tribunal proceeded from the conviction that the perpetrators of acts, which, according to international law, are condemned as criminal, “cannot hide behind their official position in order to avoid punishment in due course”.

Unable to hide behind their official position as representatives of the state, who supposedly cannot bear personal responsibility for the actions of this state, the defendants tried to shift the blame on Hitler, as well as Himmler and the imperial security structures headed by him. None of the defendants in the dock admitted their personal guilt in the crimes incriminated to him. The defense also adhered to the corresponding line, seeking to justify references to the order as a circumstance precluding criminal liability for the consequences of its execution.

The insignificance of such arguments was drawn not only by R.A. Rudenko. UK Chief Prosecutor X. Shawcross stated: “These people, along with Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels and several other accomplices, were simultaneously the leaders of the German people and their driving force. It was when they held the highest government posts and enjoyed tremendous influence that all these crimes were planned and committed. “

One of the merits of the judges of the Nuremberg Tribunal was that they thwarted the attempts of the main German war criminals to hide behind the need to comply with the order.

In accordance with the announced verdict, the International Military Tribunal sentenced Goering, Ribbentrop, Keitel, Kaltenbrunner, Rosenberg, Frank, Frick, Streicher, Sauckel, Jodl, Seyss-Inquart, as well as Bormann (in absentia) to death by hanging and Hess, Funen – to life imprisonment, Schirach and Speer – to 20, Neurath – to 15 and Doenitz – to 10 years in prison. Fritsche, Papen and Schacht were acquitted. After the rejection of the petitions of those sentenced to death for pardon by the Allied Control Council, which exercised supreme power in occupied Germany, the sentence was carried out on the night of October 16, 1946.

R.A. Rudenko expressed a special opinion provided for by the procedure, in which he declared disagreement with the acquittal of Fritsche, Papen and Schacht and the refusal to recognize the General Staff and members of the government cabinet as criminal organizations, although the tribunal had more than enough evidence of their guilt. Nevertheless, the main thing was achieved: the fascist leaders not only sat in the dock, but also suffered punishment in accordance with the severity of the deed. In addition, through the charter of the International Military Tribunal, it was possible to establish in international law the provision that, since fascist war criminals and their crimes against peace are international crimes, general criminal prescription is inapplicable to them. The offender must suffer inevitable punishment, no matter what time separates the court from the moment the crime was committed.

However, it is not the first year that the norms of international law established in Nuremberg have been deformed by the politicians of the Baltic countries, Ukraine, and their patrons in the West. Organizations of SS veterans operate legally in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, monuments and obelisks are erected to them, they are paid pensions, and official propaganda sympathetically speaks of the benefits of “re-education through labor” in Nazi concentration camps. And former soldiers and officers of the Red Army are often put on trial as “occupiers.” In Ukraine, the legionaries of the SS division “Galicia” are equal in rights with the participants of the Great Patriotic War.

Meanwhile, the criminality of an organization recognized as such by the International Tribunal (and he recognized “all persons who were officially accepted as members of the SS” as criminals) could not be further reviewed by the courts of individual countries. However, the norm introduced in Nuremberg into international law is being revised – and not even by the courts, but by the political authorities.

We are facing a phenomenon fraught with a revival of Nazism and militarism.

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