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Title Author Date
purim 1946 article Rubin, Ephraim Mar 25, 2004
Dear Mr. Bekerman --

There is a point to your claim that "Firing was… the standard form of military execution and was employed during and after World War II." Indeed, after the Tribunal’s verdict was given, the lawyers of several condemned Nazi officials (including Goering) pleaded to the Allies' Control Council for Germany for mitigation of the sentence to shooting on these very grounds. Yet their pleas were not granted, since the Tribunal verdict held them guilty of crimes that transcended the purely military sphere – i.e., crimes against humanity. See on this: T. Taylor, The Anatomy of Nuremberg Trials: A Personal Memoir, Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1992, pp. 601-607. (Taylor belonged to the American prosecution team during the trial.)
Given this consideration, it is indeed not surprising that the sentences to death by hanging were administered by the Tribunal itself. Thus, when the French judge Donnedieu de Vabres suggested that shooting be used as a more honorable form of execution than hanging, his suggestion was suppressed by the American judge F. Biddle, on the grounds that in the United States, hanging was the normal method of execution and shooting was employed only as a form of mitigation – without taking the "military aspect" of the punishment into consideration. Of course Biddle was firmly backed on this by the Soviet judge Nikitchenko, but hanging was not an exclusively or even primarily a Soviet idea. (B. F. Smith, Reaching Judgment at Nuremberg, New York: Basic Books, 1977, p. 172; by the way, Nikitchenko [sic!] was the Senior Tribunal Member for the USSR, not a member of the Soviet prosecution team).


E. Rubin

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