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US Prosecutor Jackson Delivers Opening Statement to International Military Tribunal

Prosecutor Robert H. Jackson —National Archives and Records Administration

Transcript

The privilege of opening the first trial in history for crimes against the peace of the world imposes a grave responsibility. The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated. That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury, stay the hands of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgement of the law, is one of the most significant tributes that Power ever has paid to Reason.

November 21, 1945

Robert H. Jackson delivers opening statement at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg.

In the summer of 1945, representatives of the victorious Allied nations—the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union—met in London to discuss the formation of an International Military Tribunal. The questions on the table were daunting: how and where such a court would convene, what the criminal charges would be, and which perpetrators would be put on trial. US President Harry S. Truman issued an executive order designating Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson to be the US representative and chief prosecutor.

The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated.

Robert H. Jackson

Chief American prosecutor Justice Robert Jackson delivers the opening speech of the American prosecution at the International Military Tribunal trial of war criminals at Nuremberg.

Chief American prosecutor Justice Robert Jackson delivers the opening speech of the American prosecution at the International Military Tribunal trial of war criminals at Nuremberg. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Gerald (Gerd) Schwab

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