‘Nicht schuldig.’ (Not guilty.)
These two German words pronounced somewhat defiantly, and almost flippantly, by 21 Nazi leaders, echoed through a very silent room of the Nuremberg Court on 21 November 1945, the second day of what the world would come to know as the Nuremberg Trials.
Establishing the International Military Tribunal had not been an easy task. The London Charter of 8 August 1945 (FO 93/1/266) had defined its principles and procedures but, in practice, it was a judicial nightmare. There was no precedent for such an international tribunal combining different legal traditions. These crimes were of such atrocity and on such a scale that they went beyond the scope of any existing legal system. How could they be judged? Who should be judged? Britain, France, the United States and the Soviet Union all had their own list. After difficult negotiations, they settled on 24 men (FO 371/51402). Continue reading »