Germany marks anniversary of Nuremberg

Germany marked the 60th anniversary of the start of the Nuremberg trials on Sunday with a ceremony in the oak-paneled courtroom where World War Two allies came together to prosecute Nazi leaders.

The first trial of 22 top Nazis - including Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess and Joachim von Ribbentrop - began on November 20, 1945, in the Bavarian city, picked because it had been a Nazi hotbed and the courts building was undamaged by the war.

Three of the defendants were acquitted entirely and 11 others of some of the charges against them. Twelve were sentenced to death, others to long prison terms. Goering was convicted but committed suicide first.

"There were this scrawny little men sitting there," said Susanne von Paczensky, the only journalist from Germany to cover the trials.

She remembered being surprised how unimportant the top Nazis looked without their uniforms.

"They looked so unclean in their baggy clothing without their medals," she told. "They looked more like bums sitting on the corner begging. You can't imagine how insignificant they looked."

The tribunal, which laid the ground for later war crimes trials and the International Criminal Court, rejected then and forever the argument of people accused of war crimes that they were "just following orders."

It established genocide as a recognized crime and it also defined the planning, preparing, initiating and waging wars of aggression as a crime, although it provided no definition of aggression, Reuters reports.


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