On this day in 1946, 12 high-ranking Nazis were sentenced to death by the International War Crimes Tribunal in Nuremberg. Among those condemned to death by hanging were Joachim von Ribbentrop, Foreign Minister of Germany; Hermann Goering, founder of the Gestapo and Commander-in-Chief of the German Air Force; and Wilhelm Frick, Minister of the Interior of the Third Reich. Seven others, including Adolf Hitler’s former deputy, Rudolf Hess, were given prison sentences ranging from 10 years to life. Three others were acquitted.
The first series of Nuremberg trials, which had lasted almost 10 months, were conducted by an international tribunal comprised of representatives from the United States, the USSR, France, and Great Britain. The trials were unprecedented, and the defendants faced charges ranging from crimes against peace to crimes of war and crimes against humanity.
On October 16, 10 war criminals were hung one after another. Although Hermann Goering was found guilty, he avoided execution by swallowing potassium cyanide. Nazi Party leader Martin Bormann was sentenced to death in absentia. He disappeared at the end of the war. However, a skeleton identified as his was later discovered in West Berlin.