Nuremberg Trials

Opening Address for the United States

Robert Jackson

This document was retrieved from the archives of Nizkor. Source: Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression, Volume I, Chapter VII, Office of the United States Chief Counsel for Prosecution of Axis Criminality, United States Government Printing Office, Washington, 1946.


The chief instrumentality of cohesion in plan and action was the National Socialist German Workers Party, known as the Nazi Party. Some of the defendants were with it from the beginning. Others joined only after success seemed to have validated its lawlessness or power had invested it with immunity from the processes of the law. Adolf Hitler became its supreme leader or fuehrer in 1921.

On the 24th of February, 1920, at Munich, it publicly had proclaimed its program (170-PS). Some of its purposes would commend themselves to many good citizens, such as the demands for "profit-sharing in the great industries," "generous development of provision for old age," 'creation and maintenance of a healthy middle class," "a land reform suitable to our national requirements," and "raising the standard of health." It also made a strong appeal to that sort of nationalism which in ourselves we call patriotism and in our rivals chauvinism. It demanded "equality of rights for the German people in its dealing with other nations and the evolution of the peace treaties of Versailles and St. Germaine." It demanded the "union of all

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Germans on the basis of the right of self-determination of peoples to form a Great Germany." It demanded "land and territory (colonies) for the enrichment of our people and the settlement of our surplus population." All these, of course, were legitimate objectives if they were to be attained without resort to aggressive warfare.

The Nazi Party from its inception, however, contemplated war. It demanded "the abolition of mercenary troops and the formation of a national army." It proclaimed that "In view of the enormous sacrifice of life and property demanded of a nation by every war, personal enrichment through war must be regarded a a crime against the nation. We demand, therefore, the ruthless confiscation of all war profits." I do not criticize this policy. indeed, I wish it were universal. I merely point out that in a time of peace, war was a preoccupation of the Party, and it started the work of making war less offensive to the masses of the people. With this it combined a program of physical training and sports for youth that became, as we shall see, the cloak for a secret program of military training.

The Nazi Party declaration also committed its members to an anti-Semitic program. It declared that no Jew or any person of non-German blood could be a member of the nation. Such persons were to be disfranchised, disqualified for office, subject to the alien laws, and entitled to nourishment only after the German population had first been provided for. All who had entered Germany after August 2, 1914 were to be required forthwith to depart, and all non-German immigration was to be prohibited. The Party also avowed, even in those early days, an authoritarian and totalitarian program for Germany. It demanded creation of a strong central power with unconditional authority, nationalization of all businesses which had been "amalgamated," and a "reconstruction" of the national system of education which "must aim at teaching the pupil to understand the idea of the state (state sociology)." Its hostility to civil liberties and freedom of the press was distinctly announced in these words: "It must be forbidden to publish newspapers which do not conduce the national welfare. We demand the legal prosecution of all tendencies in art or literature of a kind likely to disintegrate our life as a nation and the suppression of institutions which might militate against the above requirements."

The forecast of religious persecution was clothed in the language of religious liberty, for the Nazi program stated, "We demand liberty for all religious denominations in the State." But, it continues with the limitation, "so far as they are not a danger

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to it and do not militate against the morality and moral sense of the German race."

The Party program foreshadowed the campaign of terrorism. It announced, "We demand ruthless war upon those whose activities are injurious to the common interests", and it demanded that such offenses be punished with death.

It is significant that the leaders of this Party interpreted this program as a belligerent one certain to precipitate conflict. The Party platform concluded, "The leaders of the Party swear to proceed regardless of consequences--if necessary, at the sacrifice of their lives--toward the fulfillment of the foregoing points." It is this Leadership Corps of the Party, not its entire membership, that stands accused as a criminal organization.

Let us now see how the leaders of the Party fulfilled their pledge to proceed regardless of consequences. Obviously, their foreign objectives, which were nothing less than to undo international treaties and to wrest territory from foreign control, as well as most of their internal program, could be accomplished only by possession of the machinery of the German State. The first effort, accordingly, was to subvert the Weimar Republic by violent revolution. An abortive putsch at Munich in 1923 landed many of them in jail. The period of meditation which followed produced Mein Kampf, henceforth the source of law for the Party workers and a source of considerable revenue to its supreme leader. The Nazi plans for the violent overthrow of the feeble Republic then turned to plans for its capture.

No greater mistake could be made than to think of the Nazi Party in terms of the loose organizations which we of the western world call "political parties." In discipline, structure, and method the Nazi Party was not adapted to the democratic process of persuasion. It was an instrument of conspiracy and of coercion. The Party was not organized to take over power in the German State by winning support of a majority of the German people. It was organized to seize power in defiance of the will of the people.

The Nazi Party, under the Fuehrerprinzip, was bound by an iron discipline into a pyramid, with the Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler, at the top and broadening into a numerous Leadership Corps, composed of overlords of a very extensive Party membership at the base. By no means all of those who may have supported the movement in one way or another were actual Party members. The membership took the Party oath which in effect, amounted to an abdication of personal intelligence and moral responsibility. This was the oath: "I vow inviolable fidelity to Adolf Hitler; I

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vow absolute obedience to him and to the leaders he designates for me." The membership in daily practice followed its leaders with an idolatry and self-surrender more Oriental than Western.

We will not be obliged to guess as to the motives or goal of the Nazi Party. The immediate aim was to undermine the Weimar Republic. The order to all Party members to work to that end was given in a letter from Hitler of August 24, 1931 to Rosenberg, of which we will produce the original. Hitler wrote,

"I am just reading in the VOELKISCHER BEOBACHTER, edition 235/236, page 1, an article entitled "Does Wirth intend to come over?" The tendency of the article is to prevent on our part a crumbling away from the present form of government. I myself am travelling all over Germany to achieve exactly the opposite. May I therefore ask that my own paper will not stab me in the back with tactically unwise articles *********" (047-PS).

Captured film enables us to present the defendant, Alfred Rosenberg, who from the screen will himself tell you the story. The SA practiced violent interference with elections. We have the reports of the SD describing in detail how its members later violated the secrecy of elections in order to identify those who opposed them. One of the reports makes this explanation:

"The control was effected in the following way: some members of the election-committee marked all the ballot papers with numbers. During the ballot itself, a voters' list was made up. The ballot-papers were handed out in numerical order, therefore it was possible afterwards with the aid of this list to find out the persons who cast no-votes or invalid votes. One sample of these marked ballot-papers is enclosed. The marking was done on the back of the ballot-papers with skimmed milk *********" (R142).

The Party activity, in addition to all the familiar forms of political contest, took on the aspect of a rehearsal for warfare. It utilized a Party formation, DIE STURMABTEILUNGEN. commonly known as the SA. This was a voluntary organization of youthful and fanatical Nazis trained for the use of violence under semi-military discipline. Its members began by acting as bodyguards for the Nazi leaders and rapidly expanded from defensive to offensive tactics. They became disciplined ruffians for he breaking up of opposition meetings and the terrorization of adversaries. They boasted that their task was to make the Nazi

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Party "master of the streets." The SA was the parent organization of a number of others. Its offspring include DIE SCHUTZSTAFFELN, commonly known as the SS, formed in 1925 and distinguished for the fanaticism and cruelty of its members; DER SICHERHEITSDIENST, known as the SD; and DIE GEHEIME STAATSPOLIZEI, the Secret State Police, the infamous Gestapo formed in 1934 after Nazi accession to power.

A glance at a chart of the Party organization (Chart No. 1) is enough to show how completely it differed from the political parties we know. It had its own source of law in the fuehrer and sub-fuehrers. It had its own courts and its own police. The conspirators set up a government within the Party to exercise outside the law every sanction that any legitimate state could exercise and many that it could not. Its chain of command was military, and its formations were martial in name as well as in function. They were composed of battalions set up to bear arms under military discipline, motorized corps, flying corps, and the infamous "Death Head Corps", which was not misnamed.

The Party had its own secret police, its security units, its intelligence and espionage division, its raiding forces, and its youth forces. It established elaborate administrative mechanisms to identify and liquidate spies and informers, to manage concentration camps, to operate death vans, and to finance the whole movement. Through concentric circles of authority, the Nazi Party, as its leadership later boasted, eventually organized and dominated every phase of German life but not until they had waged a bitter internal struggle characterized by brutal criminality. In preparation for this phase of their struggle, they created a party police system. This became the pattern and the instrument of the police state, which was the first goal in their plan.

The Party formations, including the Leadership Corps of the Party, the SD, the SS, the SA and the infamous Secret State Police, or Gestapo--all these stand accused before you as criminal organizations; organizations which, as we will prove from their own documents, were' recruited only from recklessly devoted Nazis, ready in conviction and temperament to do the most violent of deeds to advance the common program. They terrorized and silenced democratic opposition and were able at length to combine with political opportunists, militarists, industrialists, monarchists, and political reactionaries.

On January 30,1933 Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of the German Republic. An evil combination, represented in the prisoners' dock by its most eminent survivors, had succeeded in possessing itself of the machinery of the German Government, a facade be-

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hind which they thenceforth would operate to make a reality of the war of conquest they so long had plotted. The conspiracy had passed into its second phase.

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