The Nuremberg Trials
More than half a century has passed since the end of World War Two and to this day it is still difficult to fully understand the severity of what was by far the most destructive war in human history. More than sixty million people were killed during World War Two and more than half of those were innocent town’s people. Among the dead were over six million Jews, which was two thirds of the total living race in Europe at the time. Beyond these general statistics were thousands of stories of crimes committed against soldiers and civilians. These crimes against humanity included cases of prisoners of war being murdered, sent to concentration camps and abuse as well as harmless civilians being rounded up and “exterminated” in death camps. At the end of the war, the Allies (USA, France, Britain, and Russia) felt that the Germans had to be held accountable for their inhumane actions and felt justified to punish the Nazis in an international court of law. On November twentieth, 1945 the Nuremberg trials began where twenty one of the top Nazi leaders where being prosecuted for their crimes during the war. All of the Nazi defendants were considered innocent until proven guilty and were allowed to defend themselves against the charges. Some of the defendants such as Alfred Jodl, Wilhelm Keitel and Hans Frank used the defence that they were just following orders. Other defendants like Karl Doenitz and Albert Speer admitted their actions were wrong. Herman Goering believed his actions were for the greater good of Germany. After researching and gaining the knowledge of the Nuremberg Trials I believe that all six of these Nazi leaders are guilty and I think the judges decided on appropriate sentences for each of the accused. All six of these men helped lead the Germans to commit some of the most brutal crimes the world has ever seen and each of them had to face the consequences of their actions.
Throughout Germany during the early to mid-1900’s, people were taught to obey their hierarchy and to not question authority. From children listening to their parents to soldiers following the captain’s orders, the Germans were a nation who obeyed orders. During the Nuremberg Trails Alfred Jodl, Wilhelm Keitel, and Hans Frank used the defence that they did nothing wrong as they were just following orders. Alfred Jodl had been Chief of Operations for the German High in Command (OKW) and was Hitler’s principal military adviser. During the examination period, Alfred Jodl stated, “I don’t see how they (the tribunal) can fail to recognize a soldier’s obligations to obey orders. That’s the code I’ve lived by all my life. If we had disobeyed Hitler we would have been shot or arrested.” (Roland 69, originally said by Jodl). I do not agree with Jodl’s argument as you are never truly forced to do anything as there is always more than one option in handling a situation. Alfred had the knowledge to understand what he was doing was cruel, but he decided to go through with these actions and follow the orders from Hitler. During the verdict, Jodl was found guilty on all four counts and was sentenced to death by hanging. As the Chief of OKW operations, he had been responsible for planning the domination of Europe which is a war crime. He had also signed orders for the execution of unarmed prisoners of war which is a crime against humanity. Overall I think this was a fair sentence because Jodl had to serve the consequences for his gruesome actions. This sentence displayed to the world that these inhumane actions during the war will not be tolerated. Another accused Nazi that used the defence that he was just following orders was Wilhelm Keitel. Wilhelm was appointed Chief of Staff to the German High Command (OKW). During his time in prison Keitel told the psychiatrist Dr. Gilbert, “How in heaven’s name can they accuse me of conspiring to wage aggressive war when I was nothing but the mouthpiece to carry out the Fuhrer’s wishes? As Chief...
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