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.


How a Government treats its own inhabitants generally is thought to be no concern of other Governments or of international society. Certainly few oppressions or cruelties would warrant the intervention of foreign powers. But the German mistreatment of Germans is now known to pass in magnitude and savagery any limits of what is tolerable by modern civilization. Other nations, by silence, would take a consenting part in such crimes. These Nazi persecutions, moreover, take character as international crimes because of the purpose for which they were undertaken.

The purpose, as we have seen, of getting rid of the influence of free labor, the churches, and the Jews was to clear their obstruction to the precipitation of aggressive war. If aggressive warfare in violation of treaty obligation is a matter of international cognizance, the preparations for it must also be of concern to the international community. Terrorism was the chief instrument for securing the cohesion of the German people in war purposes. Moreover, these cruelties in Germany served as

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atrocity practice to discipline the membership of the criminal organization to follow the pattern later in occupied countries. Through the police formations that before you are accused as criminal organizations, the Nazi Party leaders, aided at some point-in their basic and notorious purpose by each of the individual defendants instituted a reign of terror. These espionage and police organizations were utilized to hunt down every form of Opposition and to penalize every nonconformity. These organizations early founded and administered concentration camps -- Buchenwald in 1933, Dachau in 1934. But these notorious names were not alone. Concentration camps came to dot the German map and to number scores. At first they met with resistance from some Germans. We have a captured letter from Minister of Justice Guertner to Hitler which is revealing. A Gestapo official had been prosecuted for crimes committed in the camp at Hohnstein, and the Nazi Governor of Saxony had promptly asked that the proceeding be quashed. The Minister of Justice in June of 1935 protested because, as he said:

"In this camp unusually grave mistreatments of prisoners have occurred at least since Summer 1933. The prisoners not only were beaten with whips without cause, similarly as in the Concentration Camp Bredow near Stettin till they lost consciousness, but they were also tortured in other manners, e.g. with the help of a dripping apparatus constructed exclusively for this purpose, under which prisoners had to stand until they were suffering from serious purulent wounds of the scalp *********" (787-PS).

I shall not take time to detail the ghastly proceedings in these concentration camps. Beatings, starvings, tortures, and killings were routine-so routine that the tormenters became blase and careless. We have a report of discovery that in Ploetzens one night, 186 persons were executed while there were orders for only 180. Another report describes how the family of one victim received two urns of ashes by mistake. Inmates were compelled to execute each other. In 1942, they were paid five Reichsmarks per execution, but on June 27, 1942, SS General Gluecks ordered commandants of all concentration camps to reduce this honorarium to three cigarettes. In 1943, the Reichsleader of the SS and Chief of German Police ordered the corporal punishments on Russian women to be applied by Polish women and vice versa, but the price was not frozen. "As reward, a few cigarettes" was authorized. Under the Nazis, human life had been progressively

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devalued until it finally became worth less than a handful of tobacco -- ersatz tobacco. There were, however, some traces of the milk of human kindness. On August 11, 1942, an order went from Himmler to the commanders of fourteen concentration camps that "only German prisoners are allowed to beat other German prisoners." (2189-PS).

Mystery and suspense was added to cruelty in order to spread torture from the inmate to his family and friends. Men and women disappeared from their homes or business or from the streets, and no word came of them. The omission of notice was not due to overworked staff, it was due to policy. The Chief of the SD and Sipo reported that in accordance with orders from the Fuehrer anxiety should be created in the minds of the family of the arrested person (66-PS). Deportations and secret arrests were labeled, with a Nazi wit which seems a little ghoulish, Nacht und Nebel (Night and Fog) (90, 83-PS). One of the many orders for these actions gave this explanation:

"The decree carries a basic innovation. The Fuehrer and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces commands that crimes of the specified sort committed by civilians of the occupied territories are to be punished by the pertinent courts-martial in the occupied territories only when

a. the sentence calls for the death penalty, and

b. the sentence is pronounced within 8 days after the arrest.

"Only when both conditions are met does the Fuehrer and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces hope for the desired deterrent effect from the conduct of punitive proceedings in the occupied territories.

"In other cases in the future the accused are to be secretly brought to Germany and the further conduct of the trial carried on here. The deterrent effect of those measures lies

a. in allowing the disappearance of the accused without a trace,

b. therein, that no information whatsoever may be given about their whereabouts and their fate." (833-PS).

To clumsy cruelty, scientific skill was added. "Undesirables" were exterminated by injection of drugs into the bloodstream, by asphyxiation in gas chambers. They were shot with poison bullets, to study the effects (L-103).

Then, to cruel experiments the Nazi added obscene ones. These

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were not the work of underlying degenerates but of master minds high in the Nazi conspiracy. In 5/20/1942, General Field Marshal Milch authorized SS General Wolff to go ahead at Dachau Camp with so-called "cold experiments"; and four female gypsies were supplied for the purpose. Himmler gave permission to carry on these "experiments" also in other camps (1617-PS). At Dachau, the reports of the "doctor" in charge show that victims were immersed in cold water until their body temperature was reduced to 28 degrees centigrade (82.4 degrees Fahrenheit), when they all died immediately (1618-PS). This was in August 1942. But the "doctor's" technique improved. By February, 1943, he was able to report that thirty persons were chilled to 27 to 29 degrees, their hands and feet frozen white, and their bodies "rewarmed" by a hot bath. But the Nazi scientific triumph was "rewarming with animal heat." The victim, all but frozen to death, was surrounded with bodies of living women until he revived and responded to his environment by having sexual intercourse (1616-PS). Here Nazi degeneracy reached its nadir.

I dislike to encumber the record with such morbid tales, but we are in the grim business of trying men as criminals, and these are the things their own agents say happened. We will show you these concentration camps in motion pictures, just as the Allied armies found them when they arrived, and the measures General Eisenhower had to take to clean them up. Our proof will be disgusting and you will say I have robbed you of your sleep. But these are the things which have turned the stomach of the world and set every civilized hand against Nazi Germany.

Germany became one vast torture chamber. Cries of its victims were heard round the world and brought shudders to civilized people everywhere. I am one who received during this war most atrocity tales with suspicion and skepticism. But the proof here will be so overwhelming that I venture to predict not one word I have spoken will be denied. These defendants will only deny personal responsibility or knowledge.

Under the clutch of the most intricate web of espionage and intrigue that any modern state has endured, and persecution and torture of a kind that has not been visited upon the world in many centuries, the elements of the German population which were both decent and courageous were annihilated. Those which were decent but weak were intimidated. Open resistance, which had never been more tan feeble and irresolute, disappeared. But resistance I am happy to say, always remained, although it was manifest in only such events as the abortive effort to assassinate

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Hitler on July 20, 1944. With resistance driven underground, the Nazi had the German State in his own hands.

But the Nazis not only silenced discordant voices. They created positive controls as effective as their negative ones. Propaganda organs, on a scale never before known, stimulated the party and party formations with a permanent enthusiasm and abandon such as we democratic people can work up only for a few days before a general election. They inculcated and practiced the fuehrerprinzip, which centralized control of the Party and of the Party-controlled state over the lives and thought of the German people, who are accustomed to look upon the German State by whomever controlled with a mysticism that is incomprehensible to my people.

All these controls from their inception were exerted with unparalleled energy and singlemindedness to put Germany on a war footing. We will show from the Nazis' own documents their secret training of military personnel, their secret creation of a military air force. Finally, a conscript army was brought into being. Financiers, economists, industrialists, joined in the plan and promoted elaborate alterations in industry and finance to support an unprecedented concentration of resources and energies upon preparations for war. Germany's rearmament so outstripped the strength of her neighbors that in about a year she was able to crush the whole military force of Continental Europe, exclusive of that of Soviet Russia, and then to push the Russian armies back to the Volga. These preparations were of a magnitude which surpassed all need of defense and every defendant, and every intelligent German, well understood them to be for aggressive purposes.

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