Closing remarks by Robert H. Jackson at Nuremberg (1946)

The following excerpt is taken from closing remarks given by Robert H. Jackson, chief prosecutor for the United States, at the trials of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg:

“Who are the guilty ones? Those who ordered the murder, those who carried it out, those who made money out of it, or those who kept quiet about it? The executioners pleaded orders from above, but the leaders of the Third Reich could remember nothing.

Those who did not escape trial by committing suicide were a sorry sight. For years they had not shrunk from any crime. Now, they all said it was not them. Goering, who had ordered the “final solution”, denied all knowledge of the mass murders. Kaltenbrunner, Heydrich’s successor in the RSHA, put all the blame on to the dead Himmler. Ribbentrop, the Foreign Minister, described himself as Hitler’s messenger boy, without any influence; Keitel, the Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces, maintained that he had been led astray; and Streicher, the Party Whip for the anti-Semitic murder campaign, styled himself a harmless writer.

These two-score years in this twentieth century will be recorded in the book of years as some of the most bloody in all annals. Two world wars have left a legacy of dead which number more than all the armies engaged in any war that made ancient or medieval history. No half-century ever witnessed slaughter on such a scale, such cruelties and inhumanities, such wholesale deportations of peoples into slavery, such annihilations of minorities.

The terror of Torquemada pales before the Nazi Inquisition. These deeds are the overshadowing historical facts by which generations to come will remember this decade. If we cannot eliminate the causes and prevent the repetition of these barbaric events, it is not an irresponsible prophecy to say that this 20th century may yet succeed in bringing the doom of civilisation.”