When World War 2 came to an end the Allied Powers decided to punish enemy leaders who committed terrible crimes during the war. They held war crimes trials to determine what crimes had been committed and who was responsible. Many German and Japanese leaders were executed for their actions during the war.
The Nuremberg trials Source: US Government
What is a war crime?
At first you may think that there are no laws where war is concerned. Each side is trying to kill each other so anything goes. However, the world has established that some things are not okay even during war. These rules are put forth in agreements such as the Geneva Convention.
Actions that are considered war crimes include actions such as killing or mistreating prisoners of war, killing civilians, bombing cities and towns with no military objective, and killing hostages. During World War II many countries violated these basic laws of war. There were also "crimes against humanity" like the Holocaust in Germany.
Hermann Goering on Trial Source: US Government
Perhaps the most famous war trials held after World War 2 were the Nuremberg Trials. These trials took place in the German city of Nuremberg and looked to punish 23 of the most powerful Nazi leaders for the crimes they committed during the war. The men on trial included Martin Bormann (Hitler's private secretary), Hermann Goering (Head of the Gestapo), and Rudolf Hess (Deputy Fuhrer). Twelve of these men were found guilty and sentenced to death.
The Tokyo Trials were held in Tokyo, Japan and brought charges against many of the Japanese leaders during the war. The most famous leader brought to trial was Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo who was found guilty of several crimes and was executed. The Tokyo Trials lasted for three years. The Emperor of Japan, Hirohito, was not put on trial. He was allowed to continue as a figurehead by General MacArthur in order to maintain peace and stability in Japan.
The Tokyo Trials Photo by Unknown
Several other trials were held throughout the world. In Germany, trials were held at many of the German concentration camps punishing the leaders and doctors who ran the camps. In China there were multiple trials held including the Nanjing War Crimes Trail to punish those responsible for the Nanjing Massacre.
Interesting Facts about the War Crimes Trials of World War 2
Several Nazi leaders including Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler were not put on trial because they committed suicide at the end of the war.
The Nuremberg Trials were called "the greatest trial in history" by one of the British judges.
Several Nazi doctors were put on trial for crimes against humanity including the mass killings of people based on race as well as the handicapped. They also conducted medical experiments on people.
Some Nazi war criminals were able to escape to other countries and remain hidden for years. People known as "Nazi Hunters" spent much of their lives tracking the criminals down in hopes of bringing them to justice.