This article is authored by Akash Krishnan, a law student from ICFAI Law School, Hyderabad. It discusses in detail the enactment of the Nuremberg laws and their aftermath under the Nazi regime. It further talks about the enactment of the Nuremberg Charter and the establishment of the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal and their significance in the evolution of international law. 

It has been published by Rachit Garg.


The enactment of the Nuremberg laws could be deemed as one of the most defining moments in the Nazi regime, as it was indeed the stepping stone towards creating a legal, state-sponsored anti-racial regime that led to the persecution of Jews in Germany. By studying these laws, one can understand what happens if the rule of law is superseded by an abuse of power by the government.

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These laws not only discriminated against people on the basis of their race but also divided the German nation into two parts, wherein people who had been living together in peace turned on each other overnight. The Jews along with other minorities were gradually excluded from the German society and over time, this exclusion took the form of a nationwide genocide, commonly referred to as the ‘Holocaust’.

Now that we have a brief background about the Nuremberg laws and their consequences, let us look into these concepts in detail.

The Nuremberg laws

It was in 1933 that the Nazis took control of Germany. With the Nazis came their ideology of purity in German blood and creating a nation for the purebloods. It was this ideology that led to the religious persecution of the Jews in the country along with other minority populations. However, this was a step-by-step process.

In 1933, Jews were prohibited from holding public offices or any position with respect to civil services in Germany. Then, the Jewish immigrants were stripped off of their German citizenship following which the Jews across the country were denied jobs in the press, radio stations, stock exchanges, etc. However, fearing internal and external opposition to its actions, the Nazi regime did not take any drastic steps toward the extermination of Jews. In 1935, the Nazis publicly announced their intention to violate the Treaty of Versailles through nuclear rearmament. Following this, the Nazis became more radical in their approach toward the establishment of a Jew-free Germany.

It was on September 15, 1935, that the Nazi party leaders announced the enactment of two laws that were based on the ideology of creating a pure-blood Germany. These laws were referred to as the Nuremberg laws because they were announced during an annual rally that was held in Nuremberg. The enactment of these laws was the first step taken by the Nazi regime to legally allow racial discrimination in Germany and to take away the rights of Jews. This further paved the way for the religious persecution of Jews in the following years. The Nuremberg laws consisted of two enactments, firstly, the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honour and secondly, the Reich Citizenship Law.

Now that we have understood the reasons behind the enactment of the Nuremberg laws, let us try and understand what these laws dealt with in general.

Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honour

The Nazis were of the notion that German blood was pure and it was upon them to ensure the purity of German blood in future generations. They were determined to create the German nation that was founded on true German blood, untainted by the Jews. This was one of the foremost reasons for the enactment of the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honour. Now let us try and understand the provisions of this law.

Article 1

It strictly prohibited all marriages between German nationals and Jews.  It further stated that any existing marriage between a German national and a Jew would be deemed invalid, thus giving the provision a retrospective effect as well. Further, this provision also gave this law an extra-territorial jurisdiction by invalidating all German-Jew marriages conclreplauded outside the German territories.

Article 2

It prohibited all extramarital relationships between Jews and German nationals.

Article 3

It prohibited Jews from employing female German nationals under the age of 45 for household chores.

Article 4

This provision restricted Jews from flying the German national flag or the Reich national flag. They were also prohibited from displaying Reich colours in any form. However, Jews were allowed to display Jewish colours in any form.

 Article 5

This Article consisted of penal provisions for violating the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honour. A violation of Article 1 was punishable with a prison sentence, while a violation of Article 2 was punishable with either a prison sentence or a jail term. A violation of Articles 3 and 4 was punishable with a 1-year jail term or a fine or with either of the aforesaid punishments for violations of Articles 1 or 2.

Article 6

This provision empowered the Reich Minister of the Interior to issue relations, both administrative and legal for implementing this law.

Reich Citizenship Law

This law was enacted with the aim of defining who is a German national and who is a Jew and therefore provided clarity on this matter and helped in the better implementation of the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honour. Now let us try and understand the provisions of this law.

Article 1

This provision defined who is a Reich national. Any person who is a German national and who had the right to vote in the Reichstag elections at the time the Nuremberg Citizenship law came into effect was deemed to be a citizen of the Reich. Further, the Reich Minister of Interior was given the authority to grant preliminary citizenship to German nationals with the option of withdrawing such citizenship at any time.

Article 2

This provision gave express voting rights and the right to hold a public office only to Reich citizens. Further, the Reich Minister of Interior was empowered to make exceptions for allowing any person, other than a Reich citizen to hold a public office.

Article 3

This provision dealt with the citizenship and voting rights of Jews. It expressly prohibited Jews from becoming Reich citizens and disallowed them from voting in elections or holding public offices. It further directed all Jews who were holding public office to retire on or before December 13, 1935. However, this provision had the added benefit of providing a pension to all such Jews who had participated in the world war on behalf of Germany or its allies.

The affairs of Jewish religious organisations and conditions of service of teachers in Jewish schools were exempted from the aforesaid provisions till new rules were made in this regard.

Article 4

This provision defined a Jew as the following:

  1. Any person who is a descendant of 3 generations of fully racial Jews.
  2. Any person who is a descendant of two fully racial Jewish parents.
  3. Any person who is married to a Jewish person at the time of enactment or subsequent to the enactment of this law.
  4. Any child born out of a Jewish marriage that was concluded after the enactment of the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honour
  5. Any child born out of an extramarital relationship between a German national and a Jew.

Article 5

This provision exempted the requirement of being a German national for all other purposes, except those that were specifically provided under this law and the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honour.

Article 6

This provision empowered the Reich Chancellor to grant exemptions from the provisions under this law.

Other laws that backed the Nuremberg laws

Although the Nuremberg laws expressly dealt with Jews, they were impliedly applicable to all other minority communities in Germany as well. This included Blacks, Roma and other minority communities who were living within the territory of Germany and thus all the minority communities were affected at large by the enactment of these laws. It is also notable that, apart from the Nuremberg laws, during World War II, many countries that were allied to the Nazi regime had enacted similar laws to oppress Jews and other minorities in their countries. This included the enactment of anti-Jewish laws by Italy, France, Bulgaria, Romania, etc.

In the following years, multiple laws were enacted by the Nazis to further their ideology. These included the Law on the Alteration of Family and Personal Names, the Decree on Passports of Jews, and the Police Regulation on the Marking of Jews. Let us now discuss these laws in detail.

Law on the Alteration of Family and Personal Names

This law was enacted on August 17, 1938. This law primarily aimed at creating a new identity for Jews in Germany by giving them new first names. Under this law, any Jew who had the first name of a non-Jewish origin had to compulsorily adopt a new additional first name, i.e., Israel in cases of all men and Sara in cases of all women. Further, all Jews had to mandatorily carry an identity card with them which contained information about their cultural origin and heritage.  

Decree on Passports of Jews

This law was enacted on October 5, 1938. This law primarily dealt with invalidating all German passports that were issued to Jews and obligated them to surrender their passports to the appropriate authority. For revalidating the passports, the German Jews had to get the letter ‘J’ in red stamped on their passports.  

Police Regulation on the Marking of Jews

This law was enacted on September 1, 1941, and was applicable to all German Jews above the age of six. This law mandated that all Jews in Germany should wear a yellow badge whenever they were in public. This was a special badge that was palm-size and in the shape of a six-pointed star and had black outlining. Another specification was that the term ‘Jude’, i.e., the German word for Jew, was to be imprinted on the centre of this star. This badge was to be worn on the left side of their clothing at all times when in public.

The aftermath of the Nuremberg laws

In order to convince the German nationals, the Nazi regime put forth the ideology that if Germans and Jews continued to be together, such a mix of races would lead to race defilement and such couples would not have healthy children. They convinced the Germans that in order to have pure Aryan children and for the Aryan bloodline to continue, the pure-blood Germans should stay together and avoid any form of relationship with the Jews.

Soon after, mixed couples were being harassed on a daily basis and several Germans were put on trial on account of race defilement. People started attacking and parading such mixed couples around the town. These couples were also under the fear of constant arrests. Germans of Jewish descent were also arrested and harassed as they lacked pure blood. Several Jewish institutions were also attacked time and again.

After the implementation of the laws, things only worsened. The police departments and justice systems started turning a blind eye towards the problems of Jews and started arresting and prosecuting, and punishing Jews even for petty things like staring at a police official. Germans involved in race defilement were harshly punished along with their Jewish counterparts. Being a state-sponsored dictate, all the German institutions were imbibed with the ideology of racial supremacy and thus Jews and other minorities were arrested and sent to concentration camps even without any proper trial.

In 1939, the Germans started to build Ghettos wherein most of the Jewish population along with other minorities were concentrated. Due to the dense population in a small area, famine and diseases spread quickly. The people who survived were shot and killed inside the ghettos themselves. It was in 1942 that six extermination camps were set across Germany and German-occupied Poland. These camps were actually concentration camps where Jews and other minorities were brought, tortured, and killed in gas chambers. In total, the Nazi regime killed over 6 million Jews which amounted to almost two-thirds of the European Jewish population.

The Nuremberg International Military Tribunal

With the Second World War coming to an end in the year 1945, the world had witnessed widespread human rights violations. From the racial persecution of Jews and other minorities in Germany to the war crimes committed during the war, the world had seen death and destruction at its worst with an estimated number of 40,000,000 to 50,000,000 people dying during the war. The question that loomed over the minds of the society at large was whether these war crimes would be punished and if yes, who would have the jurisdiction to punish these crimes. The answer to this question came with the establishment of the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal (NIMT) and the signing of the Nuremberg Charter by the allied and axial powers in the year 1945. The NIMT was established with the primary goal of conducting trials against people who had instigated, abetted or committed crimes against humanity during the Second World War. The NIMT was established with the ideology that the force of the law should prevail over the law of force.   

The Nuremberg Charter was signed in London on 8th August 1945. It was an agreement between the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union. The aim of this Agreement was to establish an ad hoc tribunal for the punishment of the major war criminals who were part of the European axis. The Charter for the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal, commonly referred to as the Nuremberg Charter, was an annexure to this Agreement.  The salient features of the Agreement have been listed below.

Provisions of the Agreement 

Article 1

An International Military Tribunal should be established for punishing war criminals, irrespective of the jurisdiction in which the crimes were committed.

Article 2

The constitution and jurisdiction of the International Military Tribunal shall be in accordance with the provisions of the Charter. 

Article 3

Each party to the Agreement shall take steps to ensure that the war criminals who have been detained by them are produced for investigation and trial before the International Military Tribunal. They should also endeavour to produce for investigation and trial those criminals who are not being detained in their territories. 

Article 4

The provisions of this Agreement shall be in addition to and not prejudicial to the provisions of the Moscow Declaration regarding the return of war criminals to the countries in which they committed the war crimes. 

Article 5

Any country which is part of the United Nations may choose to adhere to the provisions of this Agreement by issuing a notice to the United Kingdom for the same. 

Article 6

The provisions of this Agreement shall be in addition to and not prejudicial to the jurisdiction of any national court that has been established to try war criminals.

Article 7

The Agreement was to remain in force for an initial period of one year. Any party to the Agreement could terminate the same after the initial period of one year by giving a one-month notice. 

What followed this Agreement was the Charter of the International Military Tribunal, i.e., the provisions that governed the functioning of the infamous Nuremberg International Military Tribunal. Let us now try and understand the provisions of this Charter.  

The Nuremberg Charter

The Charter for the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal governs the composition,  jurisdiction, and functioning of the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal. The provisions of the Agreement have been listed below.

The Constitution of the International Military Tribunal

Articles 1 to 5 of the Charter deal with the constitution of the IMT. Article 1 states that the object behind the enactment of the Tribunal, i.e., for conducting just and proper trials for the punishment of major war criminals. Article 2 provides that the IMT should have 4 main members and an alternate member for each main member who will act in the absence of the main members. These members are to be appointed by each signatory to the Agreement. Article 3 provides that the competence of the members cannot be challenged during the trial by the prosecution. Article 4 provides that the members should appoint a President among themselves for the purpose of casting the decisive votes in case of a tie between the members. Further, it provided that to constitute a quorum for every trial, all four members should be present. Article 5 provides for the establishment of identical tribunals if required.

Jurisdiction and general principles 

Articles 6 to 13 deal with the jurisdiction of the IMT and the general principles it should follow during the trials. Article 6 deals with the primary jurisdiction of the tribunal and provides for the types of crimes that attract individual responsibility and can be tried by the IMT. Three types of crimes were included herein, namely, crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. These crimes have been explained in brief below.

Crimes against peace

This includes planning or conspiring for initiating or waging a war of aggression or a war that was in violation of international treaties, principles and agreements. 

War crimes

In a broad sense, war crimes included all violations of laws or customs of war. It included murder and ill-treatment of slave labours, civilians, prisoners of war, persons on sea and hostages. It also included the wilful destruction of public and private properties, cities and villages when such destruction is not warranted by military necessity. 

Crimes against humanity 

It included the acts of murder, extermination, enslavement, and other inhumane acts that were committed against civilians, both before and during the war. Furthermore, it included all forms of persecution, whether based on racial, political or religious grounds.   

Article 7 provides that the official position that was held by the war criminal shall not be considered while determining the punishment. Article 8 provides that if any person has committed a crime due to an order from the government or his superior, he may be subjected to a mitigated punishment, if required, in the true spirit of justice. Article 9 empowers the IMT to declare any organisation as a criminal organisation while trying any individual who had committed a war crime while being a part of that organisation. Article 10 provides that once an organisation is declared as a criminal organisation, the parties to this Agreement will have the authority to try other individuals who were members of this organisation before their national or military courts on the ground of them being members of such criminal organisations. Article 11 provided that those individuals who were being tried under Article 10, could be charged and punished for other crimes as well by the national or military courts. These punishments were to be in addition to the punishments imposed by the IMT. Article 11 empowered IMT to try a person ex parte in his absence and also to award punishments if the individual could not be found. Article 13 empowered the IMT to form its own procedural rules. 

Committee for investigation and prosecution of major war criminals

Articles 14 and 15 provided for the constitution of a committee for the investigation and prosecution of major war criminals. Article 14 empowers each party to the Agreement to appoint a chief prosecutor for the purpose of investigating and prosecuting war criminals. These chief prosecutors had to form a committee and this committee had multiple duties including settling the final designation of war criminals, approving and lodging indictments against them, and recommending draft rules of procedure for the IMT. Article 15 imposed individual duties on the chief prosecutors. This included investigation and collection of evidence, examination of witnesses, prosecution of war criminals, preparing indictment for approval by the committee and other duties as may be necessary. 

Fair trials for the war criminals

Article 16 established a procedure that ensures that war criminals are subjected to a fair trial. This procedure included the following details:

  1. The indictment should include the details of all charges that are levelled against the defendant. This document should be provided to the defendant as well.
  2. The defendant shall have the right to give an explanation regarding the charges levelled against him during the preliminary investigation.
  3. The defendant should be capable of understanding the language of the preliminary investigation and the trial.
  4. The defendant has the right to defend himself at the trial either by himself or by appointing a counsel.
  5. The defendant has the right to produce evidence and cross-examine witnesses during the trial.

Powers of the Tribunal

Articles 17 to 25 deal with the powers of the IMT and the conduct of the trial by it. Article 17 gives the IMT the same powers as those of any national criminal court, i.e., the powers of summoning witnesses and requiring their attendance, interrogating the war criminal, requiring the production of documents, appointing officers for carrying out relevant duties, etc. Article 18 authorises the IMT to conduct summary trials for all the charges levelled against the defendant and to undertake any measure that is required for avoiding undue delay. Article 19 allowed the IMT to accept any evidence, irrespective of the form or manner of collection of evidence.  However, Article 20 provides that the prosecutor and defendant should inform the IMT about the source and nature of the evidence. Article 21 provides that the IMT shall not seek evidence regarding facts of common knowledge and shall consider the reports of the United Nations and any documents supplied by the committees of any country that is part of the allied powers.

Article 22 is the provision that gives the tribunal the name of Nuremberg as it provides that Berlin will act as the permanent seat of the IMT and the first trial shall be held in Nuremberg. Article 23 imposes a duty on the chief prosecutors to take part in every trial. Article 24 provides for the format in which the trial is to be conducted. The procedure has been listed below:

  1. Each trial shall begin with an indictment that is to be read in the IMT.
  2. The IMT asks the defendant whether or not he wants to plead guilty.
  3. The opening statement of the prosecution.
  4. Evidence submission by the parties. 
  5. Interrogation and cross-examination of witnesses. 
  6. Address by the defendant and the prosecution. 
  7. Delivery of judgement by the IMT and imposition of punishment. 

Article 25 provides that the proceedings of the IMT should be conducted in English, French, Russian, the native language of the defendant.

Judgement and sentence

Articles 26 to 29 deal with the powers of the IMT to pass judgement and impose sentences. Article 26 provides that the judgements issued by the IMT shall be reasoned judgements and there shall be no appeal or review of the same. Article 27 authorises the IMT to issue a death sentence or any other appropriate punishment on conviction. Article 28 authorises the IMT to restore any stolen property under the possession of the defendant to the Control Council for Germany. Article 29 authorised the Control Council for Germany to carry out sentences. It also had the power to reduce sentences or increase them. However, the increased sentence could not be more severe than the sentence issued by the IMT. In case any fresh charge was discovered against the defendant after his conviction, the Control Council was to report the same to the committee of prosecutors. 


Article 30 dealt with expenses and provided that the expenses of the IMT shall be borne out of the funds allocated for the maintenance of the Control Council for Germany.

The precedent of precedents

One of the main reasons for the widespread death and destruction caused by World War 2 was the absence of effective international law. Before the establishment of the Nuremberg IMT, there were no international courts or tribunals that were in place and thus, there was a vacuum in international law regarding precedents. This vacuum was effectively filled by the judgements passed by the Nuremberg IMT. One of the fundamental principles of natural law that were adopted by the tribunal was to provide a fair and effective trial to the criminals irrespective of the nature of the crimes committed by the war criminals. Also, an opportunity was given to the war criminals to prove their innocence, and they were only pronounced guilty if there was proper evidence suggesting the same. This supplemented the principles of a fair trial. Apart from this, the Nuremberg Charter is also credited with being the first instrument under international law that defined offences of an international character and provided for individual criminal responsibility for these offences. Seated in a country which was the frontier of the world war, the Nuremberg tribunal gave its first judgement a year after its Constitution on 1st October 1946. Out of the 22 Nazi war criminals who were part of the first trial at the Nuremberg IMT, 12 were sentenced to death, 7 were sentenced to imprisonment for 10 years to life, and 3 were acquitted. 

The Nuremberg Tribunal was founded on three fundamental principles of international law. The principles have been enumerated below:

  1. International law prohibits all forms of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the planning or waging of aggressive wars.
  2. International law is not limited to imposing state liability but also imposes individual criminal responsibility on war criminals. 
  3. Even though the war crime was committed as part of following orders of a superior or government, it does not absolve the individual from criminal responsibility. However, it may act as a mitigating circumstance when deciding the punishment for such an individual.   

Even though the Tribunal was founded on the aforesaid principles, during its term, it established 7 principles that became an important part not only of the development of criminal statutes in the future but also of the development of international criminal law as a whole. Let us now discuss these principles and their significance. 

The 7 Nuremberg principles

Principle I 

Any individual who performs an act that is deemed a crime under international law will be held liable for the same under the principles of international law. 

Principle II

Even if there has been no penalty prescribed for a crime under international law, any individual who commits such a crime will not be absolved of liability.

Principle III

Even though the war crime was committed as part of the duty of being the head of state or as part of the government does not absolve the individual from criminal responsibility under international law. 

Principle IV

Even though the war crime was committed as part of following orders of a superior or government, it does not absolve the individual from criminal responsibility. However, it may act as a mitigating circumstance when deciding the punishment for such an individual if he had the opportunity to exercise his moral choice before committing the crime. 

Principle V

Any individual who has committed a crime under international law has the right to a fair trial. 

Principle VI

The crimes punishable under international law are crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

Principle VII

Aiding or abetting crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity is also punishable under international law. 

Impact of the Nuremberg IMT on international law

The seven principles of law that were introduced by the Nuremberg IMT formed the core of multiple laws and tribunals that came later. It began with the enactment of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide 1948, also referred to as the Genocide Convention. This Convention punished the killing of members of a group with the intention of exterminating a national, racial or religious group. The origins of this law can be traced to the definition of crimes against humanity as defined under the Nuremberg Charter. Similarly, the Geneva Convention of 1949dealt with the treatment of prisoners of war, a rule that can be traced back to the definition of war crimes under the Nuremberg Charter. Also, the second and third Geneva conventions have their roots in the Nuremberg Charter. Apart from these international treaties, multiple tribunals were incorporated on similar principles. This included the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the modern-day Internal Criminal Court (ICC) as well. 

With the aforesaid observations, one can conclude that the Nuremberg IMT played a crucial role in the development of international human rights laws as we know them today. The judgments of the Nuremberg IMT were referred to time and again by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the Tokyo Tribunals as well. The definition of crimes against humanity brought forth the notion that notwithstanding the status quo or position a person used to hold at the time of the commission of a crime, he will be held liable. This notion empowered the Nuremberg IMT to try war criminals, including heads of state with ease and bring them to justice. Thus, it can be concluded that the Nuremberg Charter and the precedents set by the Nuremberg IMT have helped in the evolution of international criminal law, international human rights law, and also international law as a whole. 

Now that we have understood the Nuremberberg laws that led to the holocaust and the Nuremberg Charter that brought in a sense of justice in the post-war era, let us look into some of the cases that were dealt with by the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal. 

Trials under the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal

The primary objective of the Nuremberg IMT was to try the Nazi war criminals among others. These war criminals were charged on 4 counts, i.e., crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity and aiding, abetting, and conspiring to commit the aforesaid crimes. Let us now look at the first Nuremberg trial in detail. 

The first Nuremberg trial

Indictment of offences

On November 20 1945, the first Nuremberg trial was set in motion with the indictment of 24 Nazi war criminals. However, out of the 24, only 22 individuals were tried. This was because one of the criminals committed suicide in prison and the other suffered from mental and physical incapacity due to which he could not be tried. All the 22 war criminals on trial were indicted on two counts, i.e., conspiracy to wage a war and crimes against peace. Apart from these two counts, multiple individuals were indicted on two other counts as well, i.e., war crimes and crimes against humanity. The crimes against peace included the act of waging war, whereas war crimes included the acts of violations of the laws and customs of war, i.e., killing and torture of the prisoners of war, use of chemical weapons, etc. The crimes against humanity included the crimes committed by the Nazi criminals against the Jews and other ethnic minorities of Germany, i.e., the crime of racially persecuting millions of individuals from these communities in Ghettos and gas chambers. It also included the killing of the civilian population of the allied powers and the wilful destruction of property in the allied territories. The first day of the trial ended with the reading of the offences for which the criminals were being tried. 

The prosecution case

The prosecution sought to establish the criminal liability of the Nazi criminals on two grounds, i.e., the crimes committed by them and the mens-rea behind the commission of the crimes. The prosecutors then started to prove the involvement of the Nazi criminals in the conspiracy to wage the war and the waging of an aggressive war against all the allied powers, and for doing this, the prosecution relied on documentary evidence, i.e., a series of letters and other forms of communications that discussed in detail the involvement of the Nazi criminals in the offences they were indicted for. They also presented a series of witnesses to support their case. These witnesses and documents not only showed their involvement in the crimes but also showcased the horrors that were inflicted upon society in the form of concentration camps and unwarranted military actions. Several concentration camp victims were also produced as witnesses, and their testimony was recorded. 

The case of the defendants

In a surprising turn of events, all the Nazi criminals under trial pleaded not guilty in the beginning. They justified their actions on the basis of a two-fold argument. Firstly, they wanted to stay in power and would take any steps for achieving the same irrespective of the consequences; and secondly, they justified the concentration camps as a means to maintain law and order in the country. Only a few of the defendants showed an ounce of guilt during the cross-examinations as they accepted their mistakes and made public apologies for their actions. 


After the conclusion of the closing arguments for both the defence and the prosecution. The prosecution in its closing argument countered all the points raised by the defence and made a mockery of their action to plead not guilty to all the charged offences. One of the defendants, Mr Albet Speer, even threatened the use of more powerful weapons against the world so as to stop any war from even beginning. 

Once the closing arguments were concluded, the judgement was pronounced. Firstly, the tribunal identified the individual who was deemed to be the acting force behind the war and other crimes that followed the war. This individual was Mr. Hermann Goering and he was pronounced guilty on all four charges. 


Out of the 22 defendants, 11 were sentenced to death by hanging. Two were sentenced to life imprisonment, two were sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, one was sentenced to 15 years life imprisonment and one was sentenced to 10 years life imprisonment.


The Nazi regime not only controlled the state bodies but also influenced the German nationals to segregate themselves from the Jewish population. Along with a state-sponsored attack on minorities, community outrage played an important role in the events that led to the Holocaust. What can be understood from the above discussion is that even though the Jews and minorities lived under an oppressive regime prior to the enactment of the Nuremberg laws, they were not subject to community outrage and exclusion by the German nationals themselves. It was only after the enactment of the Nuremberg laws that the German society as a whole systematically excluded Jews from society. The community at large believed that the state-sponsored laws and attitude toward the Jews were acceptable and contributed towards the same. In the years that followed, the Nazi regime fell, hundreds of people who participated in the chain of events leading to the Holocaust were punished, and the Nuremberg laws met their end. With racial discrimination at its peak in Germany, the question that we should ask ourselves is that was it the state or the people who were responsible for the mass genocide of Jews and other minorities?

With the evolution of international law, one can still find the Nuremberg Charter at its epicentre. Today, the statute of the International Criminal Court has the principles of the Nuremberg Charter at its core. Thus, we can observe that the Nuremberg Charter has not lost its significance in the modern era. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQ’s)

What was the object behind the enactment of the Nuremberg laws?

The Nuremberg laws were enacted by the Nazi regime to oppress the minority community, especially Jews in Germany, and to create a race of pure blood Aryans. This was the first step that enforced discrimination legally in the country. 

Was Adolf Hitler tried by the Nuremberg IMT?

No, Adolf Hitler was not tried by the Nuremberg IMT because, after the defeat of the Nazi regime, he committed suicide by consuming a cyanide pill and shooting himself in the head in an underground bunker in Berlin. His body was then burnt and buried by his followers. His wife also committed suicide along with him. 

Whether the Nuremberg IMT faced any criticism?

The Nuremberg IMT faced criticism regarding its independence and impartiality. It was seen as a body that was established just to seek vengeance against the Nazi officers under the guise of justice. This is because the Tribunal did not look into the war crimes committed by the officers of the allied powers during the Second World War and only tried the Nazi war criminals.  


  1. ARTICLE: Legalizing Hate: The Significance of the Nuremberg Laws and The Post-War Nuremberg Trials, 39 Loy. L.A. Int’l & Comp. L. Rev. 5
  2. ARTICLE: The Nuremberg Symposium An International Legal Symposium on The Nuremberg Laws The Nuremberg Trials, 39 Loy. L.A. Int’l & Comp. L. Rev. 319

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