History was written in 1945 at the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg, where Nazi leaders had to answer for their crimes committed during the second world war. The trials set a precedent for international criminal law, that is, the prosecution of individuals (mainly leaders and state officials) for international crimes such as crimes of war and crimes against humanity.
On August 8th 1945, representatives from the United States of America, Great Britain, Soviet Union and France, signed the London Agreement that included the decision of creating an international military tribunal to conduct trials of major war criminals of the European Axis.
The trials took part between 20 November 1945 and 1 October 1946. Nuremberg was chosen as the Palace of Justice there was largely undamaged by war. Nuremberg was also the place where the Nazi Party Rallies were held, during which the Nuremberg Laws (antisemitic laws) were introduced.
Here 24 Nazi officials were brought to trial for one or more of four counts: crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and conspiracy to commit the crimes in the other three counts. Major nazists like Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, and Joseph Göbbels were never tried as they had all committed suicide towards the end of the war. Three defendants were acquitted. One had committed suicide before the end of the trials and one was deemed mentally and physically unfit to be tried. Seven were sentenced to imprisonment either ranging from 10 to 20 years or life; twelve were sentenced to death by hanging. Among these twelve was Martin Bormann who was tried and convicted in absentia, and Hermann Göring who committed suicide before the execution took place.
Today there is an exhibition commemorating the trials situated on the top floor of the building. Courtroom 600 where the trials took place is on the second floor. The room is still used for trials today, but one can visit it when court is not in session (usually Friday to Monday). The room was altered when the trials were about to take place; a wall was torn down to make more space. The windows were blacked for security reasons. The judges’ bench was located underneath the windows (on the right) and the defendants were placed on the opposite wall (on the left as one enters the courtroom). On the opposite wall as one enters the courtroom (which is where the judge’s bench is today) were the witnesses. The room was returned to its former state after the trials were finished.