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The Nuremberg Trial: A Legal Analysis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 August 2009

Extract

The major war criminals Goering, Hess, von Ribbentrop, and others were sentenced by an international military tribunal in Nuremberg for certain crimes or groups of crimes which had been formulated prior to the trial in a charter signed in August, 1945, by the representatives of the United States, France, Britain, and Russia. In the Charter of the International Military Tribunal adopted in London three major categories of delinquency had been set up dealing with crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Crimes against peace were to consist of acts such as planning, preparing, initiating or waging a war of aggression in violation of international treaties or participating in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of the foregoing. War crimes were to consist of violations of the laws or customs of war and were to include, among others, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave labor, ill-treatment of prisoners of war, killing of hostages, and wanton destruction of cities not justified by military necessity. As crimes against humanity were to be considered such acts as exterminations, enslavement, deportation of any civilian population before or during the war or any kind of persecution if the latter had occurred in execution of or in connection with any other crime under the jurisdiction of the tribunal.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © University of Notre Dame 1949

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References

1 International Military Tribunal. Trial of the Major War Criminals, I, 11.Google Scholar

2 Ibid., 218.

3 “Nemo plus juris transferee potest quam ipse habet.” Cf. Sohn, Rudolph, Institution des Roemischen Rechts, (15th ed.) 380.Google Scholar See also Schick, F. B.The Nuremberg Trial and the International Law of the Future”, American Journal of International Law, XLI (1947), 780781.Google Scholar

4 Penal laws are essentially territorial.”Dumas, Jacques, “Y a-t-il des crimes inter-nationaux?Revue de droit international et de législation comparée, LIX (1932), 721722.Google Scholar

5 Ibid., 722.

6 Harvard Research Draft Convention on Piracy quoted in Herbert Briggs, W., The Law of Nations, 369.Google Scholar

7 Oppenheim, L., International law (ed. Lauterpacht, , sixth ed.), II, 451.Google Scholar

8 Lauterpacht, H., “The Law of Nations and the Punishment of War Crimes,” British Yearbook of International Lav, XXI (1944), 62.Google Scholar

9 Ibid., 64.

10 Hudson, Manley O., International Tribunals, 181182.Google Scholar

11 See for instance: Glueck, Sheldon, “By What Tribunal Shall War Offenders be Tried?Harvard Law Review, LVI (1942–43), 1077;Google ScholarLevy, Albert G., “The Law and Procedure of War Crime Trials”, American Political Science Review, XXXVII (1943), 1077–78;Google ScholarManner, George, “The Legal Nature and Punishment of Criminal Acts of Violence Contrary to the Laws of War,” American Journal of International Law, XXXVII (1943), 409.MGoogle Scholar

12 Text of the Moscow Declaration, Department of State Bulletin, IX, 310.Google Scholar

13 Glueck, , loc. cit., 1077.Google Scholar

14 International Military Tribunal. Trial of the Major War Criminals, I, 218.Google Scholar

15 Colby, Elbridge, “War Crimes”, Michigan Law Review, XXIII (1924–;25), 489.Google Scholar

16 Ibid., 490.

17 A code in order to enjoy universal application must include fundamental principles for the exercise of repression which are accepted by all countries. But we know all the grave divergencies that exist between the Anglo-Saxon and the continental conceptions.” Procès-Verbaux des travaux de la commission chargée de la rédaction d'un projet de code international. Revue internationale de droit pénal, VII-VIII (1931–32), 196.Google Scholar

18 International Military Tribunal. Trial of the Major War Criminals, I, 12.Google Scholar

19 Schick, , loc. at., 787.Google Scholar

20 Art. 6 (c), Charter of the International Military Tribunal.

21 International Military Tribunal, Trial of the Major War Criminals, I, 219.Google Scholar

22 Wright, Quincy, A Study of War, I, 331.Google Scholar

23 “The powers declare … that Napoleon Buonoparte has placed himself beyond civil and social relations and that, as enemy and destroyer of the peace of the world, he has delivered himself to prosecution.” Quoted inBelliot, H. Hale, “The Detention of Napoleon Bonaparte”, Law Quarterly Review (London), XXXIX (1923), 170, n. 3.Google Scholar

24 “Napoleon Buonoparte has through his own actions deprived himself of all rights save those which humanity claims in his favor. And the measures of precaution which peace and public welfare may require with respect to him are submitted entirely to the enlightened discretion of the Sovereign Allies.” Quoted Ibid., 192.

25 See for instance: Larnaude, F. andde Lapradelle, A., “Examen de la responsabilité pénale de l'empereur Guillaume II d'allemagne”, Journal du Droit International Privé, XLVI (1919), 133167Google Scholar and the bibliography in Garner, James W., “Punishment of Offenders against the Laws and Customs of War”, American Journal of International Law,XIV (1920), 72, n. 5.Google Scholar

26 Manner, , loc. cit., 424.Google Scholar

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28 Ibid., 98.

29 Memorandum of Reservations Presented by the Representatives of the United States to the Report of the Commission on ResponsibilitiesGoogle Scholar, Ibid., 128.

30 Commission on Responsibilities of Authors of the War, Ibid., 118.

31 Ibid., 119.

32 Ibid., 120.

33 American Memorandum, Ibid., 139.

34 Commission on Responsibility of Authors of the War, Ibid., 122.

35 American Memoranaum, Ibid., 134.

36 Ibid., 142.

37 Garner, , loc. at., 90, n. 49.Google Scholar

38 Reprinted American Journal of International Law, XIII (1919), Supplement, 250.Google Scholar

39 Retranslation from Strupp, op. cit., 43;Google Scholar Sollte einmal der Voelkerbund ein Straf-recht schaffen, nach dem kuenftige Verletzungen des Kriegsrechts geahndet werden sollten, und einen internationalen Gerichtshof ins Leben rufen, der solche Taten abzuurteilen haette, so wuerde die Niederlande sich an diesen neuen Aufgaben beteiligen.“ Cf. also Jellinek, Walter, “Wilhelm II in den Niederlanden”, Deutsche Juristenzeitung, XXIV (1919), 47.Google Scholar

40 Translated.

41 “Nobody can be punished but in virtue of a law which has been established and promulgated before a crime and which has been legally applied. … And now one wants to renounce this principle in the first penal procedure which will be prosecuted on behalf of the international community of law; one wants to punish what in general is not even taken for a violation of a rule of law; one wants to punish according to a formula so vague and so indefinite that the judge can do with it whatever he wants.” Simons, D., “L'Baradition de l'ex-Empereur d'Allemagne et la Hollande”, Journal du Droit International Prive, XLVI (1919), 954.Google Scholar

42 Ibid., 960.

43 Ibid., 961.

44 Commission on Responsibility of Authors of the War, American Journal of International Law, XIV (1920), 120.Google Scholar

45 American Memorandum, Ibid., 140.

46 See for instance: Fauchille, Paul. Traité de Droit International Public, II, 319;Google Scholar Permanent Court of International Justice, Advisory Committee of Jurists, Procès-V erbaux of the Proceedings of Committee, June 16th-July 24th, 1920, 498ff; Phillimore, Lord, “An International Criminal Court and the Resolution of the Committee of Jurists,” British Yearbook of International Law, III (1922–1923), 7986.Google Scholar

47 Procès-Verbaux des travaux de la commission chargée de la redaction d'un projet de code pénal international, Revue Internationale de Droit Pénale, VII-VII (19311932), 196.Google Scholar

48 For a survey of the history of international criminal jurisdiction see Hudson, Manley O., “The Proposed International Criminal Court”, American Journal of International Law, XXXII (1938), 549ff.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

49 Wright, Quincy, “Due Process and International Law”, (editorial comment), American Journal of International Law, XL (1946), 402.Google Scholar

50 Procès-Verbaux de la commission chargée de la redaction d'un projet de code penal international, loc. cit., 207.Google Scholar

51 Hudson, Manley O., International Tribunals, 186.Google Scholar

52 For the full text see United States, Department of State, Treaty for the Renunciation of War, Publication N. 468 (1933).Google Scholar

53 International Military Tribunal. Trials of the Major War Criminals, I, 220221.Google Scholar

54 For an analysis of the Pact of Paris see Sharp, Walter R. and Kirk, Grayson, Contemporary International Politics, 558.Google Scholar

55 Finch, George A., “The Nuremberg Trial and International Law”, American Journal of International Law, XLI (1947), 30.Google Scholar

56 International Law Association, XXXVIII (1934), 170.Google Scholar

57 Cited by Finch, , loc. cit., 32.Google Scholar

58 Cf. Potter, Pitman B. in New York Times (editorial), June 2, 1946;Google ScholarBorchard, Edwin, “International Law and Organization,” (editorial), American Journal of International Law, XVI (1947), 106108;CrossRefGoogle ScholarFinch, , loc. cit., 2633,Google ScholarSchick, , loc. cit., 782786.Google Scholar

59 “Perhaps the judges to be named could say what these principles are and what, necessarily, ought to count as such. But they will judge then according to norms which up to now have not been used and which, according to all appearances, will not soon be applicable. And in virtue of such norms, indefinite, unwritten, and non-applicable, one would pronounce a verdict.” Simons, , loc. cit., 960961.Google Scholar

60 International Military Tribunal. Trial of the Major Criminals, I, 221222.Google Scholar

61 Cf. Finch, , loc. cit., 26.Google Scholar

62 Glueck, Sheldon, The Nueremberg Trial and Aggressive War, 38.Google Scholar

63 Frequently reference is made only to the shorter version of “nulla poena sine lege”. For a detailed discussion see Hall, Jerome, “Nulla poena sine lege”, Yale Law Journal, XLVII (1937–1938), 165193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

64 See for instance D. 50. 16. 131: “Poena nbn irrogatur, nisi quae quaque lege vel alio jure specialiter huic delicto imposita est.”

65 Art. 8 of the Déclaration des droits de gens, August 26, 1789: “Nul ne peut être puni qu'en vertue d'une loi établie et promulgée entièrement au delit legalement appli-quée.” In Par. 3 of the Preamble to the Constitution of the 4th Republic special reference is made to the rights and liberties of the Declaration. Art. 8 has been recodified in Art. 4 of the present French Penal Code: “Nulle contravention, nul délit, nul crime ne peuvent êetre punis de peines qui n'étaient pas prononcées par la'loĩ avant qu'ils fussent commis.”

66 Art. 1, Sec. 9, par. 3: “No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed.”

67 Par. 2 of the Reich Criminal Code of May 15, 1871, provides: Eine Handlung cann nur dann mit einer Strafe belegt werden, wenn diese Tat gesetzlich bestimmt war, bevor die Handlung begangen wurde.” This paragraph was later inserted as Art. 116 into the “Grundrechte und Grundpflichten der Reichsverfassung.”

68 Quoted by Wright, Quincy, “Due Process and International Law”, American Journal of International Law, XL (1946), 403.Google Scholar

69 See Art. 9 par. 2 and the interesting discussion of the Nuremberg Trial in “Shaping the Declaration of Human Rights,” United Nations Bulletin, N. 11 (December 1, 1948), 967.Google Scholar

70 Procès Verbaux des Travaux de la commission chargée de la redaction d'un projet de code pénal international. Revue Internationale de Droit Pénal, VII-VIII (1931–1932), 197.Google Scholar

71 International Military Tribunal. Trial of the Major War Criminals, I, 219;Google Scholar similarly Levy, , loc. cit., 1077.Google Scholar

72 See “Nuremberg in Retrospect”, the Roundtable, 12, 1946, reprinted in M.I.T. Publications in International Affairs, International Relations, II, 176.Google Scholar

73 Publications de la Court Permanente de Justice Internationale, Ser. A/B, N. 65; Avis consultatif du 4 decembre, “Compatibilité de certains décrets-lois avec la constitution de la Ville Libre”, 45 ff.Google Scholar

74 Corresponding par. 2 of the Reichsstrajgesetzbuch. Cf. Supra, n. 67.

75 Reichsgesetzblatt 1935, I, 839.Google Scholar

76 “Nach dem Grundgedanken eines Strafgesetzes und nach gesundem Volksemp-finden.

77 The present writer drafted this petition. For the full text see: League of Nations Official Journal, XVI (1935), II, 13361337.Google Scholar

78 Permanent Court of International Justice, Ser. A/B, N. 65, 56–57.

79 Ex Quirin, Parte (1942, 317, U.S. 1), reprinted in American Journal of International Law. XXXVII (1943), 152 ff.Google Scholar

80 International Military Tribunal. Trial of the Major War Criminals, I, 223.Google Scholar

81 Case of the German Saboteurs, American Journal of International Law, XXXVII (1943), 160.Google Scholar

83 Ibid., 161.

84 The Supreme Court specifically referred to the common law interpretation of the law of war.

85 Cf. Manner, , loc. cit., 415Google Scholar and Hyde, Charles Cheney, “Aspects of the Saboteur Cases” (editorial), American Journal of International Law, XXXVII (1943), 8891.CrossRefGoogle Scholar For a different viewpoint see Glueck, Sheldon, “Tribunal for War Offenders,” Harvard Law Review, LVI (19421932), 10691072.Google Scholar

86 7 Cranch, , 32 (U.S., 1812).Google Scholar

87 Memorandum of Reservations Presented by the Representatives of the United States to the Report of the Commission on Responsibilities. American Journal of International Law, XIV (1920), 146.Google Scholar

88 See however Glueck, Sheldon, “Tribunal of War Offenders”, Harvard Law Review, LVI (19421932), 10851086.Google Scholar

89 International Military Tribunal, Trial of the Major War Criminals, I, 221.Google Scholar

90 See Wright, Quincy, “The Law of the Nuremberg Trial”, American Journal of International Law, XL (1947), 5859.Google Scholar

91 “War Crimes and International Law”, Law Quarterly Review (London), LXII (1946), 51Google Scholar quoted Ibid., 59.

92 Hall, Jerome, “Nulla poena sine lege,” Yale Law Journal, XLVII (19371932), 178.Google Scholar

94 Ibid., 179.

95 Levy, , loc. cit., 1069.Google Scholar

96 Wright, Quincy, “War Criminals,” American Journal of International Law, XXXIX (1945), 282.Google Scholar

97 Wright, Quincy, “Legal Positivism and the Nuremberg Court” (editorial), American Journal of International Law, XLII (1948), 409.Google Scholar For similar arguments at the end of the first world war see Larnaude, and Dapradelle, , Journal International de Droit Privé, XLVI (1919), 133, 144, 155157.Google Scholar

98 Cf. Rev. Walsh, Edmund A., , S.J., “Comments and Corollaries,” America, LXXVI (1946), 153: “The precepts of the moral law are as binding as the prohibitions of the common law, but ordinarily must wait the judgment of the Eternal Legislator for their complete sanction and ultimate vindication. A secular tribunal can only affirm the validity of the moral law in its fundamental postulates and then punish specific crimes in violation of such rules of conduct as have been explicitly incorporated in codes or statutes or which are reasonably assumed to be implicit in the concept of justice.” Father Walsh, however, held that the Nuremberg verdict concerning the crime against peace was compatible with the existing or developing legal order. The article was written in reply to Gustav Gundlach, S.J., “Moral Estimate of the Nuremberg Trial,” Ibid., 149–151. Father Gundlach had drawn attention to the weak foundation of the Nurember procedure “because the Court … was able to appeal only to the Briand-Kellogg Pact.” He was of the opinion that the Court should have examined the fundamental problem of “an offense against the absolute order of human society which as such can only be the order of God Himself.”Google Scholar

99 Cf. Deutsche Justk, XCVII, II (1935), 1108.Google Scholar

100 The Reichstag fire.

101 Evidence given in the Reichstag fire.

102 Forgery of Hindenburg's will.

103 Glueck, Sheldon, Tribunal for War Offenders“, Harvard Law Review, LVI (19421932), 1084.Google Scholar

104 Verdross in Strupp, Woerterbuch des Voelkerrechts und der Diplomatic, I, 776.Google Scholar

105 Cf. Lauterpacht, H., “The Law of Nations and the Punishment of War Crimes”, British Yearbook of International Law, XXI (1944), 67Google Scholar and Fenwick, Charles G., International Law (Third ed.), 669.Google Scholar

106 Cf. International Military Tribunal. Trial of the Major War Criminals, I, 223224.Google Scholar

107 Art. 4. Cf. also Anschuetz, Gerhard, Die Verfassung des Deutschen Reichs (12th edition), 6061.Google Scholar

108 Entscheidung des Reichsgerichts in Straffsachen, July 16, 1921,Google Scholar “Versus Dithmar and Boldt”; English version; Annual Digest of Public International Law Cases, 1923–1924, N. 231; quotation here from translation in Briggs, , op. cit., 772.Google Scholar

109 Reichsgericht, quoted from Ibid., 773. Cf. also Oppenheim, , op. tit., II, 452453Google Scholar and the literature referred; Wright, Quincy, “The Law of the Nuremberg Trial,” American Journal of International Law, XLI (1947), 7071;Google ScholarVerdross in Strupp, Woerterbuch des Voelkerrechts und der Diplomatic, I, 775.Google Scholar See, however, Schick, , loc. cit., 789792.Google Scholar

110 Cf. Reichsgericht, Ibid., and Art. 8 of the Charter, London, International Military Tribunal, I, 12.Google Scholar

111 Cf. Biddle, Judge Francis. Report of the International Military Tribunal. November' 9, 1946,Google ScholarDepartment of State Bulletin, November 24, 1946,Google Scholar reprinted in M.I.T. Publications in International Affairs, International Relations, II, 182.Google Scholar

112 Biddle, Report on the International Military Tribunal, Ibid.

113 Cf. “Die 43. Tagung des “institut de Droit International” Bruxelles, 27. Juli bis 3, August 1948”, Die Friedenswarte (Geneva), XLVIII, 234.Google Scholar See also Art. 1 of the recent Convention on Genocide which provides only for the national punishment of the newly created international crime. For the text of the Convention see United Nations Bulletin, V, N. 12 (12 15, 1948), 10121015.Google Scholar

114 For recent German treatments cf.: “Rueckschau auf den Nueremberg-prozess,” Deutsche Rechtszcitschrift, 1946, 140;Google ScholarMartius, , “Das Nueremberger Urteil in voelker-rechtlicher Beziehung,” Neue Juristische, 1947, 9;Google ScholarHansel, , “Das Urteil im Nueren-berger Juristenprozess,” Deutsche Rechszeitschrift, 1948, 40:Google ScholarErhardt, , “Der Nueren-berger Prozess gegen die Hauptkriegsverbrecher und das Voelkerrecht,” Sueddeutsche Juristenieitung, 1948, N. 7, col. 353,Google Scholar

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