The Trials at Nuremburg
November 20, 1945:
The beginning of the Nuremberg trial of Nazi War Criminals
The opening day of the Nuremberg trail of Nazi War Criminals began on November 20, 1945. Lord Justice Lawrence, the British president of the international tribunal, oversaw the proceedings against the surviving major leaders of the Third Reich. In his opening statement, he called the trial "Unique in the history of the jurisprudence of the world" (Opening). And thus, the case of the United States, French Republic, United Kingdom, and Soviet Union against Germany was opened in Nuremberg, Germany. The prisoners appeared in the order of their names in the indictment, and were seated in two rows. The articles went on to describe
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The entire time of the court proceedings was taken up with the reading of the twenty-four thousand-word indictment, which will "stand out as a model of simplicity and directness" (Foust). The prisoners barely followed the proceedings, since they had already received the text in German thirty days prior, and had plenty of time to read it in the solitude of their cells. The reporter for The Manchester Guardian described it like this; "[The prisoners] might as well been attending business conventions" (Opening). The courtroom held an unreal, surreal atmosphere of shocked silence at the staggering totals and horrifying facts, that was broken up only by the vulgar laugh of Hans Frank (McLaughlin). Only three of the prisoners were in uniforms, and were completely stripped of their badges and insignia. There was little in the their demeanor and appearance to suggest that they were on trial for their lives, and they didn't seem to comprehend the vast size of the charges against them: "The charge of having planned, initiated, and waged wars of aggression, as well as having determined upon and practiced mass murder, extermination, enslavement and deportation of civilian populations both before and during the war" (Namier). The prisoners were essentially being charged with the weight of 20,000,000 deaths. At points in the indictment, individuals were named in connection with these crimes. Of the militarists and politicians, all except Goering fidgeted.