Conclusion of the Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal (IMT)
Throughout the trials, specifically between January and July 1946, the defendants and a number of witnesses were interviewed by American psychiatrist Leon Goldensohn.
His notes detailing the demeanor and personality of the defendants survive.
The death sentences were carried out 16 October 1946 by hanging using the standard drop method instead of long drop. The U.S. army denied claims that the drop length was too short which caused the condemned to die slowly from strangulation instead of quickly from a broken neck.
The executioner was John C. Woods. Although the rumor has long persisted that the bodies were taken to Dachau and burned there, they were actually incinerated in a crematorium in Munich, and the ashes scattered over the river Isar. The French judges suggested the use of a firing squad for the military condemned, as is standard for military courts-martial, but this was opposed by Biddle and the Soviet judges. These argued that the military officers had violated their military ethos and were not worthy of the firing squad, which was considered to be more dignified. The prisoners sentenced to incarceration were transferred to Spandau Prison in 1947.
Of the 12 defendants sentenced to death by hanging, two were not hanged: Hermann Göring committed suicide the night before the execution and Martin Bormann was not present when convicted. The remaining 10 defendants sentenced to death were hanged.
The definition of what constitutes a war crime is described by the Nuremberg Principles, a set of guidelines document which was created as a result of the trial. The medical experiments conducted by German doctors and prosecuted in the so-called Doctors' Trial led to the creation of the Nuremberg Code to control future trials involving human subjects, a set of research ethics principles for human experimentation.
The prosecution delivered evidence against the defendants in summary form, emphasizing instead the overall criminality of the Nazi regime. The defendants generally claimed ignorance of a larger plan and distanced themselves from the chain of command. Most admitted to the crimes of which they were accused, but claimed they were following orders. Defendants who were directly involved in killing received the death sentences: Bormann (in absentia); Hans Frank, leader of occupied Poland; Wilhelm Frick, minister of the interior; Göring; Alfred Jodl, Army chief; Ernst Kaltenbrunner, SS commander; Wilhelm Keitel, head of Armed Forces High Command; Erich Raeder, former commander of the Navy; Joachim von Ribbentrop, minister of foreign affairs; Alfred Rosenberg, protector of the Eastern Occupied Territories; Fritz Sauckel, plenipotentiary of the Nazi forced labor program; Arthur Seyss-Inquart, leader of occupied Holland; and Julius Streicher, the anti-Semitic newspaper editor.
Nazis who played key roles in the Holocaust, including high-level government officials and business executives who used concentration camp inmates as forced laborers, received prison sentences or acquittal. Karl Dönitz, head of the Navy was sentenced to ten years; Walter Funk, minister of economics and Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy were sentenced to life in prison; Konstantin von Neurath, protector of Bohemia and Moravia got 15 years; Baldur von Schirach, head of the Hitler Youth and Albert Speer, architect of the Third Reich and minister of armaments, were both sentenced to 20 years. Radio commentator Hans Fritzsch, former German Chancellor Franz von Papen, and former Reichsbank President Hjalmar Schacht were acquitted.