20
Nov
08

On This Day, 11-20-2008: Nuremberg

November 20, 1945

Nuremberg trials begin

Twenty-four high-ranking Nazis go on trial in Nuremberg, Germany, for atrocities committed during World War II.

The Nuremberg Trials were conducted by an international tribunal made up of representatives from the United States, the Soviet Union, France, and Great Britain. It was the first trial of its kind in history, and the defendants faced charges ranging from crimes against peace, to crimes of war, to crimes against humanity. Lord Justice Geoffrey Lawrence, the British member, presided over the proceedings, which lasted 10 months and consisted of 216 court sessions.

On October 1, 1946, 12 architects of Nazi policy were sentenced to death. Seven others were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 years to life, and three were acquitted. Of the original 24 defendants, one, Robert Ley, committed suicide while in prison, and another, Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, was deemed mentally and physically incompetent to stand trial. Among those condemned to death by hanging were Joachim von Ribbentrop, Nazi minister of foreign affairs; Hermann Goering, leader of the Gestapo and the Luftwaffe; Alfred Jodl, head of the German armed forces staff; and Wilhelm Frick, minister of the interior.

On October 16, 10 of the architects of Nazi policy were hanged. Goering, who at sentencing was called the “leading war aggressor and creator of the oppressive program against the Jews,” committed suicide by poison on the eve of his scheduled execution. Nazi Party leader Martin Bormann was condemned to death in absentia (but is now believed to have died in May 1945). Trials of lesser German and Axis war criminals continued in Germany into the 1950s and resulted in the conviction of 5,025 other defendants and the execution of 806.

“Nuremberg trials begin.” 2008. The History Channel website. 20 Nov 2008, 12:10 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=7087.

On This Day

1620 – Peregrine White was born aboard the Mayflower in Massachusetts Bay. White was the first child to be born of English parents in present-day New England.

1789 – New Jersey became the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights.

1818 – Simon Bolivar formally declared Venezuela independent of Spain.

1889 – Astronomer Edwin Hubble was born. Hubble discovered and developed the concept of an expanding universe. In 1924 he proved the existence of galaxies other than our own.

1901 – The second Hay-Pauncefoot Treaty provided for construction of the Panama Canal by the U.S.

1943 – During World War II, U.S. Marines began their landing on Tarawa and Makin atolls in the Gilbert Islands.

1959 – Britain, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark and Sweden met to create the European Free Trade Association.

1962 – The Cuban Missile Crisis ended. The Soviet Union removed its missiles and bombers from Cuba and the U.S. ended its blockade of the island.

1969 – The Nixon administration announced a halt to residential use of the pesticide DDT as part of a total phase out of the substance.

1977 – Egyptian President Anwar Sadat became the first Arab leader to address Israel’s parliament.

1988 – Egypt and China announced that they would recognize the Palestinian state proclaimed by the Palestine National Council.

November 20, 1969

Seymour Hersh files follow-up to My Lai story

In the United States, Seymour Hersh, an independent investigative journalist, files a second My Lai story based on interviews with Michael Terry and Michael Bernhardt, who served under 1st Lt. William Calley during the action that was later dubbed the My Lai massacre.

Also on this day, the Cleveland Plain Dealer published explicit photos of the dead at My Lai. The American public was stunned. Hersh broke the story earlier in the month, describing how soldiers from the Americal Division conducting a sweep of My Lai indiscriminately shot people as they ran from their huts, and then systematically rounded up the survivors, allegedly leading them to a ditch where they were executed per Calley’s orders.

Despite the fact that an Army board of inquiry found that 30 persons either participated in the atrocity or knew of it and failed to do anything, only 14 were charged with crimes. All eventually had their charges dismissed or were acquitted, except Calley, who was found guilty of murdering 22 civilians and was sentenced to life imprisonment. His sentence was reduced twice and he was paroled in November 1974.

“Seymour Hersh files follow-up to My Lai story.” 2008. The History Channel website. 20 Nov 2008, 12:06 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=1498.

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