Defendants at the Nuremberg trials hear the charges: (front row) Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Wilhelm Keitel, (back row) Karl Donitz, Erich Raeder, Baldur von Schirach, Friz Saukel. (All were found eventually found guilty of various charges.)
Photograph courtesy Office of the U.S. Chief of Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality, courtesy National Archives

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  • On November 20, 1945, military trials of more than 200 accused Nazi war criminals began at the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg, Germany. The Nuremberg Trials held Nazi political leaders, military personnel, medical professionals, bankers, and jurists accountable for their roles in World War II and Holocaust.


    Almost all defendants were found guilty and sentenced either to death by hanging or life imprisonment. The most high-ranking Nazis, including Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels, had committed suicide prior to Germany’s surrender and were not a part of the Nuremberg Trials.


    The trials were held in Nuremberg to symbolically mark the defeat of Nazi ideology, as the city had hosted annual propaganda rallies for the Nazi Party. It was also one of the few cities in Germany largely undamaged by Allied bombing.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    defendant Noun

    person or organization accused of a crime or other wrongdoing.

    Holocaust Noun

    (1933-1945) attempted genocide of the Jews of Europe, led by Nazi Germany. Also called the Shoah and the Final Solution.

    imprison Verb

    to confine or put in a jail-like facility.

    military Noun

    armed forces.

    Nazi noun, adjective

    (1919-1945) (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) having to do with the National Socialist German Workers' Party.

    political Adjective

    having to do with public policy, government, administration, or elected office.

    prior Adjective

    before or ahead of.

    propaganda Noun

    information or ideas specifically intended to help or hurt the cause of an organization.

    surrender Verb

    to give up.

    World War II Noun

    (1939-1945) armed conflict between the Allies (represented by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union) and the Axis (represented by Germany, Italy, and Japan.)