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Hermann Goering testifies in his defense at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg.

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    Hermann Goering testifies in his defense at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg.
    Hermann Goering testifies in his defense at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg.


    Hermann Goering testifies in his defense at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg.
    Eddie Murphy
    October 1945 - October 1946
    Nuremberg, [Bavaria] Germany
    Variant Locale
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Eddie Murphy (Estate)
    Event History
    The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg indicted several Nazi groups and organizations which it declared to be criminal, in addition to the 21 individual leaders of the Third Reich that appeared in the defendants dock. These organizations included the Reich Cabinet, the Leadership Corps of the Nazi Party, the Elite Guard (SS), the Security Service (SD,) the Secret State Police (Gestapo), the Stormtroopers (SA), and the General Staff and High Command of the German Armed Forces.

    The idea behind this novel and controversial proposal was the desire to deal with two problems: (a) finding a legal basis for punishing German crimes committed before the war, and (b) developing a procedure for dealing with the hundreds of thousands of members of the SS and other Nazi organizations implicated in German atrocities. The prosecutors felt that in these organizations there were so many war criminals that individual trials were impossible and that the perpetrators could only be punished on the basis of their proven membership in a criminal organization.

    The tribunal, in accordance with its charter, ordered that notices of the impending trials be disseminated throughout Germany. Announcements were published in the German press, broadcast over the radio and posted in internment and POW camps where many of those affected were being held. The response to the trial notices was overwhelming. The deluge of letters, affidavits and applications to be heard in support of the Nazi organizations presented the tribunal with staggering logistical problems. In response, the judges on March 12, 1946 announced their decision to appoint a commissioner charged with the responsibility of reviewing the submissions and hearing witnesses. He was to report to the tribunal the results of his examinations. The judges also gave permission to defense counsel to visit the camps to select witnesses to testify about the accused organizations.

    Lt. Col. Airey Neave, a highly decorated British officer, was named commissioner. On May 20, 1946 he began to hear witnesses, but quickly found that there were too many for him to cope with alone. As a result, several assistant commissioners, one each from the US, the USSR and France, were appointed. Over the life of the commission (May 20-August 12, 1946), 101 witnesses were heard in person and hundreds of thousands of affidavits, submitted on behalf of the various Nazi organizations, were reviewed.

    The hearings were held in a large room at the Nuremberg courthouse that was dominated by an elevated platform, where the commissioner or his assistant sat. Next to him was the court reporter. In front and to the left of the court reporter were the representatives of the prosecution and defense, and on the right, at the front was the witness. Commission sessions usually lasted about three hours and were held in the morning and again in the afternoon. The single interpreter, who sat to the right and in front of the commissioner, was responsible for the consecutive interpretation from English to German and from German to English, the only two languages used in the proceedings. (The Russian prosecutor was usually accompanied by his personal interpreter.) A second interpreter (who was expected to relieve the one on duty at the break), usually sat behind the interpreter on duty. (There were a total of three interpreters, working two days on and one day off.) In the rear of the room were seats for perhaps twenty visitors.

    Examination of the witnesses was handled by lawyers designated to defend the organizations or, on occasion, by the lawyers of the individual defendants before the tribunal. Cross examination was generally handled by Robert Kempner, one of the American assistant prosecutors and Mervyn Griffith-Jones of the UK, and less frequently by Col. Yuri Pokrovsky of the USSR and Henri Monneray of France. The witnesses heard by the commission ranged from the top to the bottom of the hierarchical ladder, from Gauleiter, deputy minister and field marshal to local officials. Among the more prominent witnesses were: Dr. Helmut Knochen, head of the SD in France; Dieter Wilisceny, deputy to Adolf Eichmann, SS; Dr. Franz Schlegelberger, State Secretary/Deputy Minister of Justice; Walter Schellenberg, Chief, SS Foreign Intelligence; and General Field Marshalls Gerd von Rundstedt and Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb.

    After receiving the six reports submitted by the commission, the tribunal issued its judgement on September 30 and October 1, 1946. While the leadership corps of the Nazi Party, the Gestapo, SD and the SS were all found guilty, the SA, Reich Cabinet and General Staff and the High Command were found not guilty.

    [Source, Schwab, Gerald, "The Trial of Nazi Organizations as Part of the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal," (unpublished article, June 14, 2002)].

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Eddie Murphy (Estate)

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Hermann Goering (1893-1946), Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, President of the Reichstag, Reich Marshal, and initially Hitler's chosen successor. Goering first gained recognition as a World War I fighter ace. He joined the NSDAP in 1922. In 1923 he was wounded in the Beer Hall Putsch and forced to flee Germany for four years, during which time he developed a morphine addiction. He became a valuable asset to Hitler, using his connections in the army and business to gain support for the NSDAP. Upon Hitler's appointment to the Chancellorship, Goering was rewarded with high positions, including Commander-in-Chief of the Prussian Police and Gestapo, and Commissioner for Aviation. Goering set up the first concentration camps and organized the Gestapo with Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich. In 1935 he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force and Plenipotentiary of the Four Year Plan in 1936. It was Goering who instructed Heydrich to prepare a "General Solution" to the Jewish problem after Kristallnacht in November 1938. In June 1940 he was named Reich Marshal, a specially created position, reflecting the high esteem in which he was held by Hitler. After using the Air Force with great effectiveness in Poland and France, Goering confidently sent German air power into the Battle of Britain only to fail because of strategic errors. Hitler never forgave Goering for the defeat and began to lose faith in the Air Force. Throughout the war, Goering was increasingly under attack from Martin Bormann, Joseph Goebbels, Albert Speer, and Heinrich Himmler. In the last weeks of the war Hitler dismissed Goering from all his posts after he fled to Bavaria. Goering was subseqently captured by the Allies and put on trial before the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, where he emerged as the dominant figure among the accused Nazis, sometimes successfully defending himself against the prosecution. Nevertheless, he was found guilty of conspiracy to wage war, crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, for which he was sentenced to death. On October 15, 1946, just two hours before his execution, he committed suicide by swallowing a cyanide capsule that he had managed to smuggle into prison.

    [Sources: Wistrich, Robert. "Who's Who in Nazi Germany." MacMillan, 1982; Zentner, Christian. "Encyclopedia of the Third Reich." MacMillan, 1991.]

    Eddie Mills Murphy (the photographer) served as a Private First Class in the United States Army, 3264th Signal Photo Battalion. He was stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany and was assigned as a photographer at The International Military Tribunal, also known as the Nuremberg War Trials, in 1945 and 1946.
    Record last modified:
    2013-06-04 00:00:00
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