Nuremberg Trial #3

It was March 1947, and the horrors of World War II were still being remembered. Fifteen men sat in a courtroom. Upon indictment there were 16 men, one committed suicide. This was not any ordinary court case. This was case #3 of the Nuremberg Trials. Among the 15, nine were part of the Reich Ministry of Justice and the other remaining 6 were part of the People’s and Special Courts. They were being tried for the many inhumane things that they had done. When indicted four counts were listed with all the defendants charged with the first three: conspiracy to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity; war crimes against civilians of territories occupied by Germany and against soldiers of countries at war with Germany; and crimes against humanity, against German civilians and nationals of occupied territories. [1] Per Dr. Douglas O. Linder “no trial provides a better basis for understanding the nature and causes of evil than do the Nuremberg trials from 1945 to 1949.” Nuremberg truly defined what evil was and how morality was null during the oppression of Jewish people. Nuremberg exemplified the difference between moral justice and evil wrongdoings. The Nuremberg trial studied what war crimes are and actually gave more great in depth examples as to what they are and what the punishments for these will be.

15 German Judges on trial for many heinous crimes.

The 3rd Subsequent Trial of Nuremberg is known as United States of America v. Alstötter et al. The Judges involved in this trial tried to convince the jurors that they had no choice but to convict the Jewish men, women, and children of crimes that they had not convicted to get them into concentration camps where they could work to become better members of society. Difficulties with judging whether these wrongful convictions of Jewish people were by choice or by force became problematic when trying to convict. American prosecutors had stated that what these Nazi judges had done was a gross violation of human rights, stating issues from Extermination to Persecution of these people due to religious background and lineage. For the prosecutors to convict, they had to prove that each individual had violated human rights, and committed terrible crimes against humanity. [2]

Defendants/Defense attorney

The prosecutors began working, looking back to the beginning when the Nazis had put in place laws that would give a harsher punishment to Jewish people that had committed the same crime as other German citizens. Two features looked at were the fact that Germany had lacked what is known as “higher law” or ethical and constitutional standards, compared to The United States which does. Another aspect that was looked at is the fact that Germany did not have separation of powers, Hitler had all the power and all the say in which laws were made, so it was a question as to whether or not the Judges really did decide on their own conscious or that they had no choice to decide. Hitler also had the right to intervene in any case that he chose. The fifteen men that were on trial are as follows: Josef Altstötter, Paul Barnickel, Hermann Cuhorst, Karl Engert, Günther Joel, Herbert Klemm, Ernst Lautz, Wolfgang Mettgenberg, Günther Nebelung, Rudolf Oeschey, Hans Petersen, Oswald Rothaug, Curt Rothenberger, Franz Schlegelberger, and Wilhelm von Ammon. Schlegelberger argued that he was bound by Hitler’s rule to abide and convict the Jewish people no matter what he believed was right. Although under the Supreme Judge’s rule (Hitler) it was said that “half the Jews”, before the “Final Solution” were to be either sentenced to death or camps. Schlegelberger, however, gave the Jewish people a choice, either evacuation or sterilization. He claimed that “[he] worked because if he had quit he feared that someone far worse than him would replace him.”  Schlegelberger believed, the evil that he did was immoral and unjustified, he stated that he wished he could change what he had done.  With that being said, he was convicted guilty, because even though he was remorseful, he should have quit. This is a major example of struggles with this case, they had a tough call to make whether or not they would convict these judges based on their claims that they were not sympathetic toward Nazi ideals. There were many details that had to be studied to tell whether or not each man was guilty. After carefully studying and listening to each man’s testimony the verdict was as follows: Ten of the sixteen defendants convicted, four acquitted, one died before trial, one mistrial due to serious illness during trial. Sentences: Four defendants sentenced to life, the other six convicted defendants sentenced to terms ranging from five to ten years.

Allied judges who were seeing the case. Who would then read the convictions and sentenced those convicted.
Ally Judges

The Judge’s trial set forth new Ordinances. The new ordinances exemplified and defined what was meant by war crimes and what punishments will be given to those that commit these. The first one is the construction of the Control council law number 10, which stated that: “Article II, l.—Each of the following acts is recognized as a crime: . . . (b) War crimes. Atrocities or offenses against persons or property constituting violations of the laws or customs of war, including but not limited to, murder, ill treatment or deportation to slave labor or for any other purpose, of civilian population from occupied territory, murder or ill treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.” [3]

The Nuremberg trial studied what war crimes are and actually gave more great in depth examples as to what they are and what the punishments for these will be. Crimes against humanity was recognized after the second World War, and was defined as “murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds in execution or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated.” [4]  The crimes for which the Judges were charged have not really been seen (with such great example) before World War II. Trial #3 really helped show that morality was not in place during the Jewish convictions. Even though most judges claimed that they convicted the Jewish people because they were forced, it was evident that they had a choice whether or not to leave. This trial was very important in showing flaws in Germany during World War II, and in the Nazi/German Criminal Justice system. Nuremberg brought forth new ordinances as to make sure that these horrible crimes do not repeat and if they do they will know how to punish these atrocities.

Man sitting on stand, to testify his innocence in the wrongful conviction of Jewish people.
Defendant being Questioned

[1] “Subsequent Nuremberg Proceedings, Case #3, The Justice Case,” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, , accessed March 13, 2017,

[2] Douglas O Linder, “The Nuremberg Trials: An Account,” Famous Trials, , accessed March 15, 2017,

[3] “Subsequent Nuremberg Proceedings, Case #3, The Justice Case,” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, August 09, 2014, , accessed March 15, 2017,

[4] “Crimes against humanity,” ICD – Crimes against humanity – Asser Institute, , accessed March 15, 2017,


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