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Telford Taylor delivers the prosecution's opening statement.

The Ministries Trial (or, officially, the United States of America vs. Ernst von Weizsäcker, et al.) was the eleventh of the twelve trials for war crimes the U.S. authorities held in their occupation zone in Germany in Nuremberg after the end of World War II. These twelve trials were all held before U.S. military courts, not before the International Military Tribunal, but took place in the same rooms at the Palace of Justice. The twelve U.S. trials are collectively known as the "Subsequent Nuremberg Trials" or, more formally, as the "Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals" (NMT).

This case is also known as the Wilhelmstrasse Trial, so-named because both the Reich Chancellery and the German Foreign Office were located at the Wilhelmstrasse street in Berlin, which was often used as a metonym for overall German governmental administration. The defendants in this case were officials of various Reich ministries, facing various charges for their roles in Nazi Germany and thus their participation in or responsibility for the numerous atrocities committed both in Germany and in occupied countries during the war.

The judges in this case, heard before Military Tribunal VI, were William C. Christianson (presiding judge) from Minnesota, Robert F. Maguire from Oregon and Leon W. Powers from Iowa. The Chief of Counsel for the Prosecution was Telford Taylor; the chief prosecutor was Robert Kempner. The indictment was filed on 15 November 1947; the hearings lasted from 6 January 1948 until 18 November that year. Five months later, on 11 April 1949, the judges presented their 833-page judgment. Sentences were handed down on 13 April 1949. Of all the twelve trials, this was the one that lasted longest and ended last. Of the 21 defendants arraigned, two were acquitted, the other 19 were found guilty on at least one count of their indictments and received prison sentences ranging from three years to 25 years.

The defendants were indicted on seven counts:

Count 1: Crimes Against Peace

Count 2: Taking part in a common plan or conspiracy to commit the aforementioned crimes

Count 3: War crimes

Count 4: Crimes Against Humanity

Count 5: War crimes and Crimes Against Humanity through the plundering and spoilation of the Occupied Territories

Count 6: War crimes and Crimes Against Humanity through the enslavement and deportation of concentration camp prisoners and civilians in the occupied countries for slave labor.

Count 7: Membership in a criminal organization, the NSDAP and the SS.

Count 2 was dropped by the NMT in all trials.

DefendantsEdit

Name Photo Function Sentence
Ernst von Weizsäcker   Permanent Secretary of State in the Auswärtiges Amt (Foreign Ministry) under Ribbentrop until 1943, then ambassador to the Holy See; SS-Brigadeführer. Indicted on all seven counts. 7 years' imprisonment for count 4; reduced to 5 years on 12 December 1949, released in October 1950.
Gustav Adolf Steengracht von Moyland   Successor of von Weizsäcker as Secretary of State in the Foreign Ministry (until 1945). Indicted on counts 3-6. 7 years' imprisonment for counts 3 and 5; reduced to 5 years on 12 December 1949, released 1950
Wilhelm Keppler   Secretary of State; Hitler's advisor for economy. Indicted on counts 1, 2, 4, 5, and 7. 10 years' imprisonment for all charges except count 2; released 1951
Ernst Wilhelm Bohle   NS-Gauleiter, Secretary of State in the Foreign Ministry; head of the Auslandorganisation (foreign organization) of the NSDAP. Indicted on Counts 2, 4, and 7. 5 years' imprisonment for Count 7.
Ernst Wörmann Secretary in the Foreign Ministry; head of the political division. German Ambassador to China, Wang Jingwei regime. Indicted on counts 1-4 and 7. 7 years' imprisonment for counts 1 and 4; reduced to 5 years on 12 December 1949; released 1951
Karl Ritter Liaison between Foreign Office and the High Command of the German armed forces. Indicted on Counts 1-4 and 6. 4 years' imprisonment incl. time already served for Count 3; released after the judgment.
Otto von Erdmannsdorff Secretary in the Foreign Ministry; deputy to Wörmann. Indicted on counts 2-4. acquitted
Edmund Veesenmayer   Plenipotentiary in Hungary. Indicted on counts 1, 2, and 4-7. 20 years' imprisonment for counts 6 and 7; reduced to 10 years in 1951 and released the same year.
Hans Heinrich Lammers   Head of the Reich Chancellery. Indicted on all counts. 20 years' imprisonment for counts 4-7; reduced to 10 years in January 1951 and released 16 December 1951.
Wilhelm Stuckart   Secretary of State in the Interior Ministry. Indicted on counts 1, 2, and 4-7. Time already served (3 years and 10 months) for counts 4, 5, and 7.1
Richard Walther Darré   Minister for Food and Agriculture. Indicted on counts 1, 2, and 4-7. 7 years' imprisonment for counts 4 and 5; released 1950
Otto Meissner   Head of the Presidential Chancellery. Indicted on counts 2 and 4. acquitted
Otto Dietrich   Reichspressechef of the NSDAP and Secretary of State in the Propagandaministerium. Indicted on counts 1-4 and 7. 7 years' imprisonment incl. time already served for counts 4 and 7; released in 1950.
Gottlob Berger   Head of the SS-Hauptamt, SS-Obergruppenführer. Indicted on all counts. 25 years' imprisonment for counts 3, 4, 6, and 7; reduced to 10 years in 1951; released the same year.
Walter Schellenberg   Second-in-command of the Gestapo, head of the SD and the Abwehr, and successor of Wilhelm Canaris as the head of the Combined Secret Services; SS-Brigadeführer. Indicted on counts 1, 2, 4, and 7. 6 years' imprisonment incl. time already served for count 4.
Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk   Minister of Finance. Indicted on counts 1, 2, 4, and 5. 10 years' imprisonment for counts 4 and 5; released in 1951
Emil Puhl   Vice-president of the Reichsbank. Indicted on counts 4 and 6. 5 years' imprisonment incl. time already served for count 4.
Karl Rasche   Director of the Dresdner Bank Indictd on counts 4-7. 7 years' imprisonment including time already served for count 7.
Paul Körner [de]   Secretary of State, deputy of Göring. Indicted on counts 1 and 5-7. 15 years' imprisonment. for all counts; reduced to 10 years in 1951; released the same year.
Paul Pleiger Head of the Reichswerke Hermann Göring (confiscated steel plants employing slave laborers) Indicted on counts 1, 2, 5, and 6. 15 years' imprisonment for counts 5 and 6; reduced to 10 years in 1951; released the same year.
Hans Kehrl [de]   Secretary in the Ministry of Armament; head of the planning office. Indicted on counts 4-7. 15 years' imprisonment for counts 5-7; released in 1951

^1 Stuckart was tried again in 1950 before a denazification court and sentenced as a Mitläufer (follower) a fine of DM 50,000.

Herbert Backe, the former minister for agriculture who should also have been tried, committed suicide on 6 April 1947 while in custody awaiting the trial.

ReferencesEdit

  • Description from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
  • Another description
  • Transcript of a German radio broadcast from 1999 (in German).
  • Heller, Kevin Jon (2011). The Nuremberg Military Tribunals and the Origins of International Criminal Law. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-955431-7.