After World War II, both international and domestic courts conducted trials of accused war criminals. The trial of leading German officials before the International Military Tribunal (IMT), took place in Nuremberg, Germany, with judges from the Allied powers (the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and France). Between October 18, 1945, and October 1, 1946, the IMT tried 22 "major" war criminals on charges of crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and conspiracy to commit such crimes. Twelve of those convicted were sentenced to death, three defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment, and four to prison terms ranging from 10 to 20 years. The IMT acquitted three of the defendants. US military tribunals conducted 12 additional trials of high-ranking German officials at Nuremberg. Leading physicians, members of mobile killing units, members of the German justice administration and German Foreign Office, members of the German military's High Command, and leading German industrialists were among those who stood trial.
The overwhelming majority of post-1945 war crimes trials involved lower-level officials and functionaries. In the immediate postwar years, the four Allied powers also held trials in their zones of occupation in Germany and Austria. Much of our early knowledge of the concentration camp system comes from the evidence and eyewitness testimonies at these trials. Both the German Federal Republic (West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) held trials against Nazi-era defendants in the decades following their establishment as independent states. Many nations which Germany occupied during World War II or which collaborated with the Germans in the persecution of civilian populations, especially Jews, have also held postwar national trials. Poland, the former Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, Hungary, Romania, and France, among others, have tried thousands of defendant—sboth Germans and indigenous collaborators. In 1961, the trial of Adolf Eichmann (chief architect in the deportation of European Jews) before an Israeli court captured worldwide attention. However, many perpetrators of Nazi-era criminality have never been prosecuted or punished and simply returned to their normal lives. The hunt for German and Axis war criminals still goes on today.