WWII victors mark 65th anniversary of Nazi trials

21st November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Representatives of the four victors of World War II marked on Sunday 65 years since the landmark trials of top Nazis in Nuremberg, Germany, with the opening of a new exhibit.

"The Nuremberg Trials were the answer to the perversion of the law in National Socialist Germany," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said.

"The (Nazi) regime used the mask of the law to conceal terror and tyranny. The result was millions of dead and endless suffering."

The ceremony was attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov along iwth Stephen Rapp, US ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, British Attorney General Dominic Grieve and French former foreign minister Roland Dumas.

The Allies were tempted to have Hitler's surviving henchmen summarily executed in 1945 but it was decided to try them in a proper court of law, each with a lawyer, in full view of the world's, and Germany's, media.

The court, presided over by judges from the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain and France, passed down death sentences on Hermann Goering and 11 other senior members of the Nazi regime in October 1946.

Two weeks later, Goering cheated the hangman by swallowing cyanide in his cell hours before his scheduled execution. The others, except for Martin Bormann, sentenced in absentia, were hanged in Nuremberg.

Seven were jailed including Rudolf Hess, Hitler's one-time deputy, who killed himself in Spandau prison in West Berlin in 1987, aged 93. Three defendants were acquitted.

Nuremberg in Bavaria, southern Germany, was chosen because of its large courthouse and prison, but also because it was here that the Nazis drew up their infamous race laws against Jews and held enormous rallies.

The new exhibit includes the actual dock where Goering sat for the 218 trial days and is in the attic above courtroom 600 where they took place, partially preserved and which can be visited when not in use.

It covers the main points of the trials, their background and also how they inspired other countries recovering from wars including the former Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone.

"It was a great historical achievement for the Allies to have resisted the temptation to exact revenge," Westerwelle said.

© 2010 AFP

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