November 21, 1945 – Justice Robert H. Jackson Delivers Opening Statement at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials

On this day in history, Supreme Court Associate Justice Robert H. Jackson, serving as Chief U.S. Prosecutor for the International Military Tribunal (IMT) at the request of President Harry S. Truman, delivered his opening statement to the court.

Justice Jackson delivering the opening statement to the IMT on November 21, 1946  Credit: U.S. Army  Signal Corps

Justice Jackson delivering the opening statement to the IMT on November 21, 1946
Credit: U.S. Army Signal Corps

The purpose of the IMT was to try twenty-three of the most important political and military leaders of the Third Reich following the end of World War II.

As explained on the website of The Robert H. Jackson Center, in his opening statement, Justice Jackson sought to characterize the meaning of the trial as well as the importance of extinguishing what helped foster the creation of the Nazis.

He began:

May it please Your Honors: The privilege of opening the first trial in history for crimes against the peace of the world imposes a grave responsibility. The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated. That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason.”

You can watch to his address here:

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