A series of trials was held between 1945 and 1947 to prosecute surviving German war criminals after the Second World War. The German city of Nuremberg was chosen as the location because it had been the symbolic birthplace of the National Socialist (‘Nazi’) Party.
The first trial was held before an international military tribunal composed of judges from the Allied nations of Russia, the USA, Britain and France. It focused on prominent leaders such as Hermann Göring and Rudolf Hess. Others, such as the so-called ‘doctors’ trial’ (officially USA v. Karl Brandt et al.), were held before US military courts.
The doctors’ trial was held between 9 December 1946 and 19 July 1947. It prosecuted Nazi doctors for their roles in human experiments conducted on prison camp inmates. Josef Mengele was one of the most notorious Nazi doctors, although he was not tried because he avoided capture.
This trial had a great effect worldwide. People were shocked by the horrific things done by doctors in the name of medical research and the Nuremberg Code was developed as a result. It is the basis for all rules regarding human experiments, including the requirement for informed consent.
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P J Weindling, Nazi Medicine and the Nuremberg Trials (New York: Houndmills, 2004)
G Mettraux (ed.), Perspectives on the Nuremberg Trial (Oxford: OUP, 2008)
H Freyhofer, The Nuremberg medical trial: the Holocaust and the origin of the Nuremberg Medical Code (New York: P Lang, 2004)