American Justice of U.S. Supreme Court and United States Attorney General
Robert H. Jackson, fully Robert Houghwout Jackson
American Justice of U.S. Supreme Court and United States Attorney General
You will have difficulty, as I have, to look into the faces of these defendants and believe that in this twentieth century human beings could indict such sufferings as will be proved here on their own countrymen as well as upon their so-called "inferior" enemies. Particular crimes, and the responsibility of defendants for them, are to be dealt with by the Soviet Government's counsel, when committed in the East, and by counsel for the Republic of France when committed in the West. I advert to them only to show their magnitude as evidence of a purpose and a knowledge common to an defendants, of an official plan rather than of a capricious policy of some individual commander, and to show such a continuity of Jewish persecution from the rise of the Nazi conspiracy to its collapse as forbids us to believe that any person could be identified with any part of Nazi action without approving this most conspicuous item in their program.
Your job today tells me nothing of your future--your use of your leisure today tells me just what your tomorrow will be.
We would also make clear that we have no purpose to incriminate the whole German people. We know that the Nazi Party was not put in power by a majority of the German vote. We know it came to power by an evil alliance between the most extreme of the Nazi revolutionists, the most unrestrained of the German reactionaries, and the most aggressive of the German militarists. If the German populace had willingly accepted the Nazi program, no Storm-troopers would have been needed in the early days of the Party and there would have been no need for concentration camps or the Gestapo, both of which institutions were inaugurated as soon as the Nazis gained control of the German State. Only after these lawless innovations proved successful at home were they taken abroad.
What makes this inquest significant is that these prisoners represent sinister influences that will lurk in the world long after their bodies have returned to dust. We will show them to be living symbols of racial hatreds, of terrorism and violence, and of the arrogance and cruelty of power. They are symbols of fierce nationalisms and of militarism, of intrigue and war-making which have embroiled Europe generation after generation, crushing its manhood, destroying its homes, and impoverishing its life. They have so identified themselves with the philosophies they conceived and with the forces they directed that any tenderness to them is a victory and an encouragement to all the evils which are attached to their names. Civilization can afford no compromise with the social forces which would gain renewed strength if we deal ambiguously or indecisively with the men in whom those forces now precariously survive.
What these men stand for we will patiently and temperately disclose. We will give you undeniable proofs of incredible events. The catalog of crimes will omit nothing that could be conceived by a pathological pride, cruelty, and lust for power. These men created in Germany, under the "Fhrerprinzip", a National Socialist despotism equalled only by the dynasties of the ancient East. They took from the German people all those dignities and freedoms that we hold natural and inalienable rights in every human being. The people were compensated by inflaming and gratifying hatreds towards those who were marked as "scapegoats". Against their opponents, including Jews, Catholics, and free labor, the Nazis directed such a campaign of arrogance, brutality, and annihilation as the world has not witnessed since the pre-Christian ages. They excited the German ambition to be a "master race", which of course implies serfdom for others. They led their people on a mad gamble for domination. They diverted social energies and resources to the creation of what they thought to be an invincible war machine. They overran their neighbors. To sustain the "master race" in its war-making, they enslaved millions of human beings and brought them into Germany, where these hapless creatures now wander as "displaced persons". At length bestiality and bad faith reached such excess that they aroused the sleeping strength of imperiled Civilization. Its united efforts have ground the German war machine to fragments. But the struggle has left Europe a liberated yet prostrate land where a demoralized society struggles to survive. These are the fruits of the sinister forces that sit with these defendants in the prisoners' dock.
When I say that we do not ask for convictions unless we prove crime, I do not mean mere technical or incidental transgression of international conventions. We charge guilt on planned and intended conduct that involves moral as well as legal wrong. And we do not mean conduct that is a natural and human, even if illegal, cutting of corners, such as many of us might well have committed had we been in the defendants' positions. It is not because they yielded to the normal frailties of human beings that we accuse them. It is their abnormal and inhuman conduct which brings them to this bar.
When the [Supreme] Court moved to Washington in 1800, it was provided with no books, which probably accounts for the high quality of early opinions.
When the Court moved to Washington in 1800, it was provided with no books, which probably accounts for the high quality of early opinions.
When we went to school we were told that we were governed by laws, not men. As a result of that, many people think there is no need to pay any attention to judicial candidates because judges merely apply the law by some mathematical formula and a good judge and a bad judge all apply the same kind of law. The fact is that the most important part of a judge's work is the exercise of judgment and that the law in a court is never better than the common sense judgment of the judge that is presiding.
While the Declaration was directed against an excess of authority, the Constitution was directed against anarchy.
While the defendants and the prosecutors stand before you as individuals, it is not the triumph of either group alone that is committed to your judgment Above all personalities there are anonymous and impersonal forces whose conflict makes up much of human history. It is yours to throw the strength of the law back of either the one or the other of these forces for at least another generation. What are the real forces that are contending before you?
We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well.
We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants today is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow.
We of the Western World heard of gas wagons in which Jews and political opponents were asphyxiated. We could not believe it. But here we have the report of May 16, 1942 from the German SS Officer Becker to his supervisor in Berlin which tells this story: Gas vans in C group can be driven to spot, which is generally stationed 10 to 15 kms. from main road, only in dry weather. Since those to be executed become frantic if conducted to this place, such vans become immobilized in wet weather. Gas vans in D group were camouflaged as cabin trailers, but vehicles well-known to authorities and civilian population which calls them 'death vans'. Writer of letter (Becker) ordered all men to keep as far away as possible during gassing. Unloading van has 'atrocious spiritual and physical effect' on men and they should be ordered not to participate in such work. (501-PS)
We set up government by consent of the governed, and the Bill of Rights denies those in power any legal opportunity to coerce that consent. Authority here is to be controlled by public opinion, not public opinion by authority.
We start down a rough road when we begin to mix compulsory public education with compulsory godliness.
We will not ask you to convict these men on the testimony of their foes. There is no count in the Indictment that cannot be proved by books and records. The Germans were always meticulous record keepers, and these defendants had their share of the Teutonic passion for thoroughness in putting things on paper. Nor were they without vanity. They arranged frequently to be photographed in action. We will show you their own films. You will see their own conduct and hear their own voices as these defendants re-enact for you, from the screen, some of the events in the course of the conspiracy.
We will not be obliged to guess as to the motives or goal of the Nazi Party. The immediate aim was to undermine the Weimar Republic. The order to all Party members to work to that end was given in a letter from Hitler of August 24, 1931 to Rosenberg, of which we will produce the original Hitler wrote: "I am just reading in the Volkischer Beobachter, edition 235/236, page 1, an article entitled "Does Wirth Intend To Come over?" The tendency of the article is to prevent on our part a crumbling away from the present form of government. I myself am travailing all over Germany to achieve exactly the opposite. May I therefore ask that my own paper will not stab me in the back with tactically unwise articles...." (047-PS)
We deal here with a phase of common criminality designed by the conspirators as part of the common plan. We can appreciate why these crimes against their European enemies were not of a casual character but were planned and disciplined crimes when we get at the reason for them. Hitler told his officers on August 22, 1939 that: "The main objective in Poland is the destruction of the enemy and not the reaching of a certain geographical line" (1014-PS). The project of deporting promising youth from occupied territories was approved by Rosenberg on the theory that "a desired weakening of the biological force" of the conquered people is being achieved (031-PS). To Germanize or to destroy was the program. Himmler announced, "Either we win over any good blood that we can use for ourselves and give it a place in our people or, gentlemen-you may call this cruel, but nature is cruel, -we destroy this blood." As to "racially good types" Himmler further advised, "Therefore, I think that it is our duty to take their children with us, to remove them from their environment, if necessary by robbing or stealing them" (L-70). He urged deportation of Slavic children to deprive potential enemies of future soldiers.
We find at this period two governments in Germany-the real and the ostensible. The forms of the German Republic were maintained for a time, and it was the outward and visible government. But the real authority in the State was outside and above the law and rested in the Leadership Corps of the Nazi Party.
We granted certiorari, and in this Court the parties changed positions as nimbly as if dancing a quadrille.
We have also accused as criminal organizations the High Command and the General Staff of the German Armed Forces. We recognize that to plan warfare is the business of professional soldiers in all countries. But it is one thing to plan strategic moves in the event war comes, and it is another thing to plot and intrigue to bring on that war. We will prove the leaders of the German General Staff and of the High Command to have been guilty of just that. Military men are not before you because they served their country. They are here because they mastered it, long with these others, and drove it to war. They are not here because they lost the war, but because they started it. Politicians may have thought of them as soldiers, but soldiers know they were politicians. We ask that the General Staff and the High Command, as defined in the Indictment, be condemned as a criminal group whose existence and tradition constitute a standing menace to the peace of the world. These individual defendants did not stand alone in crime and will not stand alone in punishment. Your verdict of "guilty" against these organizations will render prima facie guilty, as nearly as we can learn, thousands upon thousands of members now in custody of United States forces and of other armies.
We know the bloody sequel. Frontier incidents were staged. Demands were made for cession of territory. When Poland refused, the German forces invaded on September 1st, 1939. Warsaw was destroyed; Poland fell. The Nazis, in accordance with plan, moved swiftly to extend their aggression throughout Europe and to gain the advantage of surprise over their unprepared neighbors. Despite repeated and solemn assurances of peaceful intentions, they invaded Denmark and Norway on 9th April 1940; Belgium, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg on 10th May 1940; Yugoslavia and Greece on 6th April 1941.
We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it... No grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy.
Twice in my lifetime, the United States has sent its young manhood across the Atlantic, drained its resources, and burdened itself with debt to help defeat Germany. But the real hope and faith that has sustained the American people in these great efforts was that victory for ourselves and our Allies would lay the basis for an ordered international relationship in Europe and would end the centuries of strife on this embattled continent.