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World War II

War Crimes Trials

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.

German leaders at the Nuremberg trials
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 under cross-examination
Hermann Goering on Trial
Source: US Government
Nuremberg Trials

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.

Tokyo Trials

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
The Tokyo Trials
Photo by Unknown


Other Trials

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
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  • Learn More about World War II:

    Overview:
    World War II Timeline
    Allied Powers and Leaders
    Axis Powers and Leaders
    Causes of WW2
    War in Europe
    War in the Pacific
    After the War

    Battles:
    Battle of Britain
    Battle of the Atlantic
    Pearl Harbor
    Battle of Stalingrad
    D-Day (Invasion of Normandy)
    Battle of the Bulge
    Battle of Berlin
    Battle of Midway
    Battle of Guadalcanal
    Battle of Iwo Jima

    Events:
    The Holocaust
    Japanese Internment Camps
    Bataan Death March
    Fireside Chats
    Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Atomic Bomb)
    War Crimes Trials
    Recovery and the Marshall Plan
    Leaders:
    Winston Churchill
    Charles de Gaulle
    Franklin D. Roosevelt
    Harry S. Truman
    Dwight D. Eisenhower
    Douglas MacArthur
    George Patton
    Adolf Hitler
    Joseph Stalin
    Benito Mussolini
    Hirohito
    Anne Frank
    Eleanor Roosevelt

    Other:
    The US Home Front
    Women of World War II
    African Americans in WW2
    Spies and Secret Agents
    Aircraft
    Aircraft Carriers
    Technology
    World War II Glossary and Terms

    Works Cited

    History >> World War 2 for Kids





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