The Nuremberg trials

The Nuremberg trials

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Title: The dock at the Nuremberg trials.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Creation date : 1945

Date shown: 1945

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Feature photo, US National Archives

Storage place: Memorial of Caen, City of History for Peace (Caen) website

Contact copyright: Caen Memorial Image © US Army / Le Mémorial de Caen

The dock at the Nuremberg trials.

© Image Mémorial de Caen US Army / Le Mémorial de Caen

Publication date: December 2012

Historical context

The Nuremberg trials

Introduced by the Allied forces against twenty-four senior Nazi officials, the Nuremberg trial was held from November 20, 1945 to 1er October 1946. It is placed under the authority of the International Military Tribunal established by the London Agreements of August 8, 1945 and composed of four judges, four prosecutors and four assessors, Soviet, French, American and British.

For more than ten months, the defendants appear on charges of conspiracy, crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. “The dock at the Nuremberg trials” is one of the countless photographs taken on this occasion. Very widely disseminated, they anchor in representations and consciences the image of legitimate justice in action and that, corollary, of the punishment of the vanquished.

Image Analysis

The accused at trial

Structured in three horizontal planes, the photograph offers a partial view of the dock. In the foreground, the lawyers (we recognize the attributes of the legal function) of the defendants, some of whom follow the trial using translators, a process then innovative - the language of the proceedings changing according to the speakers. Some of them have their heads turned to the right (for the spectator), where the witnesses speak and the images are projected on the screen specially placed in front of the audience, while others examine documents.

Standing in the background, three soldiers from the International Tribunal (recognizable by their white helmets and uniform) monitor the accused. Looking grave, solemn and almost harsh, two of them turn their heads slightly to their left, while the last, more martial, gazes straight ahead.

In the center, and as if caught between the two other groups, appear some of the twenty-four accused. In the first row from left to right: Hermann Göring (the empty seat on his left that day is usually occupied by Rudolf Hess), Joachim von Ribbentrop, Wilhelm Keitel, Alfred Rosenberg. Second row from left to right: Karl Dönitz, Erich Raeder, Baldur von Schirach, Fritz Sauckel and Alfred Jodl. With the exception of Göring, whose gaze seems to wander a bit, everyone is looking to their left.


Justice and those judged

“The Accused's Bench at the Nuremberg Trials” presents an interesting scenographic moment: the face-to-face between the defendants and the judges (in front of them) is suspended, since the latter indeed look almost all in the same direction. , probably following a testimony (of victim or executioner), a film on the camps (shot by the Allies while they were discovering them) or even the intervention of an expert. The tense faces of the soldiers and the interest of the accused suggest that the timing is quite important. Capturing all eyes, the off-camera structures the image and is perhaps the essential element.

The photography also shows the whole world a justice on the move, which follows its course and knows how to respect legal procedures. An exceptional trial (especially because it was continuously filmed and photographed), Nuremberg nevertheless remains within the framework of legal normality. Far from revenge, as opposed to the barbarism it judges, such justice does not violate the accused. They, dressed normally and in relatively good health, are allowed to follow the proceedings (translation) and to defend themselves (presence of lawyers). With the exception of Göring, who oscillates between inattention and disinterest, the judges seem rather focused on the debates. They stand in a defensive posture (arms crossed, eyebrows furrowed), while trying to maintain a certain dignity.

Beyond their documentary function, the images of the trial nevertheless have an accusatory value. It’s all about showing the world about criminals, their crimes and their punishment. Peaceful and humane, justice is also relentless, as the presence of the military in the background reminds us. The closed air of the soldiers, their uniforms and their handcuffs testify to the fact that, if force is here only the armed wing of the law, it nevertheless imposes itself on the vanquished who lost the war and who must today ' answer for their actions. The right to attend trial and to defend oneself then becomes a constraint, an injunction.

  • War of 39-45
  • Nazism
  • Germany
  • Nuremberg
  • Göring (Hermann)
  • Ribbentrop (Joachim von)


François de FONTETTE, The Nuremberg Trial, Paris, P.U.F., “Que-sais-je? 1996.

Christian DELAGE, The Truth by the Image, Paris, Denoël, 2006.

Michel DOBKINE, Crimes Against Humanity: Extracts from the Records of the Nuremberg Trials, October 18, 1945 - October 1, 1946, Paris, Romillat, coll. "Return to Text", 1992.

Annette WIEVIORKA (dir.), The Nuremberg and Tokyo Trials, Paris, Complex Editions, 1996.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "The Nuremberg Trials"

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