Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally to the Allies on May 8, 1945. The Four Allied Powers (America., Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union) decided that the leaders of Nazi Germany should be tried for the war-crimes committed against civilians. The Allies thus established the International Military Tribunal to conduct a trial in Nuremberg, Germany.

The Allied Military Tribunal in the months preceding the trial gathered and organized thousands of documents captured from the Nazi government at the end of the war. The Nuremberg Trial began on November 20, 1945. It lasted for ten months. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson acted as the chief prosecutor.

The Charter of the Allied Military Tribunal contained four indictments against Nazi Germany. First: conspiracy to commit aggressive war; second, aggressive war itself; third, war-crimes such as bombing civilians, mistreating prisoners of war, and executing hostages. The fourth indictment instituted a new legal category: crimes against humanity.

Crimes against humanity included the use of slave labor in occupied countries, the arrest and torture of innocent people, and the genocide committed against the Jew of Europe.

The Nazi defendants included Herman Goring, Reichmarshall of the German Air Force and director of the German economy; Rudolf Hess, Deputy Fuhrer; Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister; Wilhelm Keitel, Field Marshall within the German High Command; Ernst Kaltenbrunner of the Reich Security Service, which ran the Gestapo and SS; Alfred Rosenberg, Minister for the Eastern Territories; Hans Frank, Governor-General of Poland; Julius Streicher, publisher of a notorious anti-Semitic newspaper; Fritz Sauckel of the German Labor Service; Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Nazi Commissioner for the Netherlands; and Albert Speer, German Armaments Minister.

On September 30, 1946, eleven Nazis--among them Hermann Göring, Hans Frank, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, and Julius Streicher--were sentenced to death by hanging. Rudolf Hess was sentenced to life imprisonment, while the other defendants were given prison sentences ranging from ten to twenty years. Rudolf Hess was the last defendant to die: he spent forty-one years in prison until his death in 1987.

The Nuremberg Trial set important precedents for international justice and human rights. The plea of Hans Frank (that he had only followed orders) was rejected as a defense against certain kinds of criminal accusations. With the Nuremberg Trial, international law had clearly established the principle that individuals will be held responsible for crimes against humanity.