On August 8th 1945, the United States, England, France and the Soviet Union signed the Agreement for the Prosecution and Punishment of the Major War Criminals of the European Axis, and Charter of the International Military Tribunal. Best known as the “London Agreement”, it became the basis for the trials before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. This article highlights some of the related resources available online and at the ICRC Library.
The Nuremberg Trials
The “Nuremberg trials” refers to a series of thirteen trials that took place in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. The first trial opened on the 20th of November 1945 and was conducted by the International Military Tribunal. 24 high-ranking Nazi leaders were indicted under one or more of four counts: conspiracy, crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. This highly publicized trial has been the subject of numerous books and articles and remains the most well-known, in contrast with the subsequent trials held by the Nuremberg Military Tribunals which have been notably less studied, except maybe for the “medical case”. These twelve trials led by the American authorities prosecuted close to 180 members and allies of the Nazi apparatus: doctors (medical case), judges (justice case), military leaders (high command case), members of mobile killing squads (Einsatzgruppen case), industrialists and bankers, etc.
Overview of the main primary sources
Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg, 14 November 1945 – 1 October 1946. 42 vols. Nuremberg : IMT, 1947-1949.
This 42-volume series, also known as “the Blue Series”, is the official record of the first Nuremberg trial.
The library holds the British edition, The Trial of German Major War Criminals : Proceedings of the International Military Tribunal sitting at Nuremberg Germany in 23 volumes (without the reproduction of evidentiary documents) and the French edition, Procès des grands criminels de guerre devant le Tribunal militaire international : Nüremberg 14 novembre 1945 – 1er octobre 1946, in 42 volumes.
Trials of War Criminals before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals under Control Council Law No. 10. 15 vols. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1949-1953.
This publication by the United States Government Printing Office, also known as “the Green Series”, is the official abridged record of the individual indictments and judgments, as well as the administrative materials that were common to all the trials.
The library holds volume I of this series, The medical case.
Law Reports of Trials of War Criminals, selected and prepared by the United Nations War Crimes Commission. 15 vols. London : His Majesty’s stationary office, 1947-1949.
This 15-volume series summarizes the course of the most important proceedings taken against individuals accused of war crimes during World War II, excluding the major war criminals tried by the Nuremberg and Tokyo International Military Tribunals.
The library holds the complete series.
The literature on the Nuremberg trials comprises personal accounts, accounts by historians and legal scholars as well as analysis of legal aspects of the trials.
Notable documents include The anatomy of the Nuremberg trials, a memoir by Telford Taylor who worked as an assistant to Chief Counsel Robert Jackson during the IMT trial and as Chief Prosecutor for the following Nuremberg trials. In Prelude to Nuremberg: allied war crimes policy and the question of punishment, Arieh Kochavi focuses on the complicated process that led the Allied nations to decide to prosecute war criminals in the first place. The Nuremberg trial and international law, edited by George Ginsburgs and V. N. Kudriavtsev, and The Nuremberg war crimes trial and its policy consequences today, edited by Beth Griech-Polelle, are two interesting collections of essays examining the IMT trial and its legacy.
Regarding the lesser-known subsequent trials, The Nuremberg military tribunals and the origins of international criminal law by Kevin Jon Heller provides a comprehensive legal analysis of the twelve trials and their jurisprudential impact.
Additional resources available online
International Law Commission
Description of the International Law Commission’s work on the formulation of the Nürnberg principles with links to source materials.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
The Nuremberg Trials and their Legacy (includes historical film footage from the IMT)
Harvard Law School Library
Documents related to the trial before the International Military Tribunal (IMT) and to the twelve subsequent trials, including trial transcripts, briefs, document books, evidence files, and other papers. The documents are part of a multi-stage digitization project.
Avalon Project at the Yale Law School Lillian Goldman Law Library
Numerous documents related to the proceedings of the International Military Tribunal, including rules of procedure, motions, presentations of cases, testimonies of witnesses, etc.
Cornell University Law Library
Nuremberg trial transcripts and documents from the Collection of General William J. Donovan.
Robert H. Jackson Center
A collection of documents, photographs, and writings by or about Robert H. Jackson and his career, notably as Nuremberg prosecutor (1945-1946).
A historical timeline of the Nuremberg IMT Trial (1945-1946) that includes film footage.