The Sentencing and Execution of Nazi War Criminals, 1946

The Sentencing and Execution of Nazi War Criminals, 1946


The hangings were carried out during the early morning hours of October 16, 1946 in a small gymnasium erected in the prison's courtyard. Three gallows filled the room - two to be used alternatively as each condemned man was dispatched and the third to act as a spare. The executions were briskly conducted - the entire procedure lasted just over 3 1/2 hours. Herman Goering cheated the hangman by swallowing a cyanide capsule and dying in his cell shortly before his scheduled hanging. Kingsbury Smith was a reporter for the International News Service and was selected as the sole representative of the American press at the executions. Here are some of his observations

Stories about The Sentencing and Execution of Nazi War Criminals, 1946


    November 1945:

    Twenty-one men sat in the dock of a Nuremberg courtroom on trial for their lives. The group represented the "cream of the crop" of the Nazi leadership including Herman Goering, Hitler's heir apparent until falling out of favor in the closing days of the war, and Rudolph Hess, Hitler's deputy who had been in custody since parachuting into England in 1941. (A 22nd defendant - Martin Bormann - had escaped capture and was tried in absentia).

    Each defendant was accused of one or more of four charges: conspiracy to commit crimes alleged in other counts; crimes against peace; war crimes; or crimes against humanity. Specific charges included the murder of over 6 million Jews, pursuing an aggressive war, the brutality of the concentration camps and the use of slave labor. The judges represented the major victors in the war in Europe - Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the United States. The defendants all proclaimed their innocence, many declaring that they were just following orders or questioning the authority of the court to pass judgment.

    The verdicts were announced on October 1, 1946. Eighteen of the defendants were found guilty while three were acquitted. Eleven of the guilty were sentenced to death by hanging, the remainder received prison sentences ranging from 10 years to life.

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