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The Nuremberg and Tokyo War Crimes Trials (redirected from The Nuremberg Trials)

Page history last edited by Robert W. Maloy 2 years, 2 months ago


PAGE SUMMARY: Kate Maskell, March 2022

This page details the events and significance of the Nuremberg and Tokyo Trials.The Nuremberg and Tokyo War Crime Trials (1945-1948) were the first international criminal tribunals. The Allied governments prosecuted high-level political and military figures for various war crimes and atrocities. The two sections of the page go into detail about the various events of the trials. 



Robert H. Jackson acting as Chief United States prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials







Nuremberg Trials 


 Here is a video from the History Channel that gives a basic outline of the Nuremberg Trials.


The Nuremberg Trials were held in Nuremberg, Germany from 1945 to 1949.


This was a series of 13 trials that sought to hold Nazi leaders responsible for their role in World War Two.


    • There were 199 defendants who were tried
    • 161 were convicted and 37 were sentenced to death.
    • Those that were given imprisonment rather than death served from 10 to 20 years.


Military officials were not the only ones that were being tried. Rather, industrialists, lawyers and doctors were also brought to justice. Missing from this trial was Adolf Hitler who had taken a cyanide capsule in order to commit suicide. 


The Nuremberg Trials are seen as a pivotal moment in history as they "established international court, and an important precedent for dealing with later instances of genocide and other crimes against humanity." (History.com)


Robert Jackson's Opening Address for the United States at the Nuremberg Trials


Overview of the Nuremberg Trials


Nuremberg Trials from the Library of Congress


The Nuremberg Trials and the Toyoko War Crimes Trials (1945-1948), Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State


 Search Thousands of Historical Documents from the Nuremberg Trials, from Harvard Law School


Click here to see files from the Nuremberg Trials courtesy of The Harry Truman Library Museum. 


Click here for a biography about the lead prosecutor during the Nuremberg Trials, Benjamin Berell Ferencz. 


Click here for a timeline. 




Tokyo Trials

Maj.Ben Bruce Blakenley, defense counsel, addresses the court at the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Far East, May 1946


Those that were being tried were held before an International Military Tribunal. Another International Military Tribunal tried the Japanese for their war crimes.


This was known as the "Tokyo Trials" or the International Military Tribunal for the Far East.


In both the Nuremberg Trials and the Tokyo Trials the highest military leaders, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito, were not tried. 


In the Nuremberg Trials, (and those in Tokyo) the judges had come from the countries that won the war, or the Allied powers. In particular, judges came from the United States, the Soviet Union, France and Great Britain. 


The list of crimes that the prosecutors were tasked with proving were: crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and conspiracy. 



This was the first international trial of war criminals and many more would follow.



Eventually, trials such as these would lead to the creation of the International Criminal Court, or the ICC, which includes judges from all over the world and seeks to convict those committing the

four heaviest crimes: crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. 



Those Tried: 


Click here to learn more about those that were convicted.  


Additionally, click here for a discussion of the punishment of women during the Nuremberg Trials as well as other war crime trials.                                                                                                                                                                Hideki Tojo at the Tokyo Trial 1946-1948

Definitions of Crimes: 


It is important to note that before the Nuremberg Trials, crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and conspiracy (on an international stage) did not exist. These laws found their legitimacy within the London Charter of the International Military Tribunal. 



  • Crimes Against Humanity
    • "widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian or an identifiable part of a civilian population." (Wikipedia.org). Click here to learn the history of this terminology and a more extensive definition of this crime. 


  • Conspiracy
    • "an agreement between two or more people to commit an illegal act, along with intent to achieve the agreements goal." (Cornell Law) It is important to understand that conspiracy means one intents to commit the crime(s) yet has not physically done so. Click here to understand more about what entails conspiracy within the U.S. 


Lasting Legacy: 


The Nuremberg Code

Although the Nuremberg Code has failed to find its way permanently into American or international law codes, its impact is undeniable. It provides a foundation for medical ethics. It is one of the most influential outcomes of the "Doctor's Trial". For more information click here.


1. The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential.

This means that the person involved should have legal capacity to give consent; should be so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, over-reaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion; and should have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of the elements of the subject matter involved as to enable him to make an understanding and enlightened decision. This latter element requires that before the acceptance of an affirmative decision by the experimental subject there should be made known to him the nature, duration, and purpose of the experiment; the method and means by which it is to be conducted; all inconveniences and hazards reasonably to be expected; and the effects upon his health or person which may possibly come from his participation in the experiment.

The duty and responsibility for ascertaining the quality of the consent rests upon each individual who initiates, directs or engages in the experiment. It is a personal duty and responsibility which may not be delegated to another with impunity.


2. The experiment should be such as to yield fruitful results for the good of society, unprocurable by other methods or means of study, and not random and unnecessary in nature.


3. The experiment should be so designed and based on the results of animal experimentation and a knowledge of the natural history of the disease or other problem under study that the anticipated results will justify the performance of the experiment.


4. The experiment should be so conducted as to avoid all unnecessary physical and mental suffering and injury.


5. No experiment should be conducted where there is an a priori reason to believe that death or disabling injury will occur; except, perhaps, in those experiments where the experimental physicians also serve as subjects.


6. The degree of risk to be taken should never exceed that determined by the humanitarian importance of the problem to be solved by the experiment.


7. Proper preparations should be made and adequate facilities provided to protect the experimental subject against even remote possibilities of injury, disability, or death.


8. The experiment should be conducted only by scientifically qualified persons. The highest degree of skill and care should be required through all stages of the experiment of those who conduct or engage in the experiment.


9. During the course of the experiment the human subject should be at liberty to bring the experiment to an end if he has reached the physical or mental state where continuation of the experiment seems to him to be impossible.


10. During the course of the experiment the scientist in charge must be prepared to terminate the experiment at any stage, if he has probably cause to believe, in the exercise of the good faith, superior skill and careful judgment required of him that a continuation of the experiment is likely to result in injury, disability, or death to the experimental subject.



There are many ways in which international law developed from the Nuremberg Trials. In many ways it is considered a monumental success. The Nuremberg Trials set the precedent that crimes involving mass violence would not be tolerated nor ignored. Countries around the world have set up their own international tribunals in response to major crimes. Examples include: 




Click here to learn more about mass atrocities and the various ways in which countries and communities have responded.   



  Multimedia Resources


Movie Trailer for Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)


Click here for a crash course video about World War Two


Click here for a video that gives an overview of the Nuremberg Trial 


Click here for an interactive timeline of World War Two. 


Click here for a video about Benjamin Berell Ferencz. 


Click here for a video explaining the significance of film when presenting the case against the Nazi's at the Nuremberg Trails. 


Click here for a video that describes the Tokyo Trial and the context surrounding it.



Defendants in the dock during the Nuremberg war crimes trials, 1945




Learning Activities


The Nuremberg Trials from the Famous Trials website



Click here for a lesson plan in which students will: 

  • examine their own views on guilt and responsibility during wartime.


  • analyze who should have been judged - the individuals who gave orders, the people who carried them out, or the people allowed the atrocities to occur


  • evaluate whether justice was achieved at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials.

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