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1945
Nuremberg war-crimes trials begin
  • On this day in 1945, a series of trials of accused Nazi war criminals, conducted by a U.S., French, and Soviet military tribunal based in Nuremberg, Germany, begins. Twenty-four former Nazi officials were tried, and when it was all over, one year later, half would be sentenced to death by hanging.

    These trials of accused war criminals were authorized by the London Agreement, signed in August 1945 by the United States, Great Britain, the
    Soviet Union
    , and the provisional government of France. It was agreed at that time that those Axis officials whose war crimes extended beyond a particular geographic area would be tried by an international war tribunal (a trial for accused Japanese war criminals would be held in Tokyo). Nineteen other nations would eventually sign on to the provisions of the agreement.

    The charges against the 24 accused at Nuremberg were as follows: (1) crimes against peace, that is, the planning and waging of wars that violated international treaties; (2) crimes against humanity, that is, the deportation, extermination, and genocide of various populations; (3) war crimes, that is, those activities that violated the “rules” of war that had been laid down in light of the First World War and later international agreements; and (4) conspiracy to commit any and all of the crimes listed in the first three counts.

    The tribunal had the authority to find both individuals and organizations criminal; in the event of the latter, individual members of that organization could then be tried. Each of the four original signatories of the London Agreement picked one member and an alternate to sit on the tribunal. The chief prosecutor was U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, who was asked by President Harry S. Truman to create a structure for the proceedings. The defendants were arrayed in two rows of seats; each of the indicted listened to a simultaneous translation of the arguments through a headset.

  • There were 216 court sessions. On October 1, 1946, verdicts on 22 of the 24 defendants were handed down (two were not present; one had committed suicide in his prison cell, another was ultimately deemed mentally unfit): 12 of the defendants were sentenced to be hanged, including Julius Streicher (propagandist), Alfred Rosenberg (anti-Semitic ideologue and minister of the occupied eastern territories), Joachim von Ribbentrop (foreign affairs minister), Martin Bormann (Nazi Party secretary), and Herman Goering (Luftwaffe commander and Gestapo head). Ten of the 12 were hanged on October 16. Bormann was tried and sentenced in absentia (he was thought to have died trying to escape Hitler’s bunker at the close of the war, but was only declared officially dead in 1973). Goering committed suicide before he could be hanged. The rest of the defendants received prison sentences ranging from 10 years to life. All of the defenses offered by the accused were rejected, including the notion that only a state, not an individual, could commit a war crime proper.

1843
Blacksnake Hills trading post is renamed St. Joseph
  • Established as the Blacksnake Hills trading post in 1826, the growing community along the banks of the Missouri River adopts the more impressive St. Joseph as its name.

    As with many early western towns, St. Joseph began as a fur trading post. The French-Canadian Joseph Robidoux III shrewdly located his Blacksnake Hills post at the entrance to the Indian-controlled Platte country so he could trade cloth, metal pots, and other manufactured goods for Native Americans’ furs. As the numbers of Anglo settlers in the region increased and the fur-bearing animals disappeared, though, the Indians were steadily squeezed out. In June 1836, the Platte territory became part of the new state of Missouri.

    Although the fur trade declined after the 1830s, the town nonetheless prospered and continued to grow as a popular gateway to the West for overland travelers. No longer a mere trading post, the city leaders decided their little town needed a more impressive title than Blacksnake Hills and renamed it St. Joseph. The number of overland emigrants picking St. Joseph as a rendezvous spot and jumping-off point for their westbound wagon trains continued to grow, and the town prospered by providing these emigrants with the food, wagons, stock animals, and the many other supplies they needed to make the westward journey. In 1849 alone, more than 2,000 wagons crossed the Missouri River there. The emigrant demand for meat led some innovative St. Joseph businessmen to begin large-scale hog raising and meatpacking operations, two businesses that continued to play a major role in the town’s economy well into the 1950s.
 
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