Nazi Crimes and the Nuremberg Trial
The expansionist policy of the Nazi Germany was followed by the imminent repressions against the people of the occupied countries. The total number of victims among civilian population during the World War II was estimated at about 20 million people. The Jews were the subject of the most relentless oppression. The Holocaust claimed lives of about 6 million people. Their only guilt was their ethnic origin. Approximately 2.7 million of victims were Soviet citizens. The Germans routinely executed them en mass, as it was done at Babi Yar near Kiev, or at Zmievskaya Balka in Rostov-on-Don. About a half of Holocaust victims perished in the notorious death camps of Chelmno, Treblinka, Sobibor and Bełżec created specifically to exterminate Jewish people. Some of them were killed in such concentration camps as Auschwitz (Oświęcim) and Majdanek where people of different ethnic groups were imprisoned. The Germans pursued the similar genocide policy towards Gypsies (Sinti and Roma), albeit less persistently. 60% out of about 5 million of Soviet prisoners of war had not survived the appalling conditions and hard labor in concentration camps. The mortality rate among British prisoners of war, for comparison, was just 3% of their total number. This fact allows to qualifying the treatment of Soviet prisoners of war as an act of genocide.
The machine of Nazi terror employed a number of various methods. The first among them was the creation of the elaborate system of concentration camps run by SS (Dachau, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen, Mauthausen, etc.). Their prisoners of various categories – political opponents, disloyal citizens, members of lower social classes, criminals, prisoners of war, Gypsies, Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses – were mostly kept in inhumane conditions and forced to hard labor for the benefit of the German economy. This often had cost them their lives. As of 1944, the total number of prisoners in concentration camps and their hundreds of subsidiaries climbed to 750,000 people. Another method was the practice of mass punitive actions against disloyal population of occupied territories, including executions. According to official estimates, 7.4 million Soviet people were intentionally killed by Germans on occupied territories of the USSR. This number does not include at least 600,000 victims of Leningrad Blockade, which in itself was the biggest war crime ever, and tens of thousands of residents of Russian cities killed by the German airstrikes. The civilian population of Poland, Yugoslavia and other occupied countries also often faced the Nazi cruelty.
The scale of Nazi crimes against humanity made it impossible to single out certain perpetrators of those crimes. The Nazi extermination policy was based upon the well-developed system which involved hundreds of thousands of people. It included the High Nazi officials who masterminded this policy, corporations which capitalized on forced labor, hundreds of journalists who justified this policy in their publications, thousands of foreign collaborators who performed the dirtiest work and millions of ordinary Germans who approved or did not mind the actions of their government and benefited on appropriating the belongings of its victims. The Nuremberg trials became the symbol of justice. The first trial took place in 1945-1946. For the first time in history, the political leadership of the country appeared before the international tribunal. Moreover the crimes against humanity could not be justified by appealing to existing national law. Consequently, 12 high-ranking Nazi officials were sentenced to capital punishment and soon executed, 3 were sentenced to life in prison, and a number of others were sentenced to different prison terms.