Reception history

The public's opinion of the Major War Criminals Trial held before an International Military Tribunal and the 12 Subsequent Nuremberg Trials held before U.S. American military tribunals in Nuremberg was very mixed over the years. Rallying around the accusation of "victor's justice," some elements of German society repeatedly questioned the jurisdiction of the military tribunals and pointed to an alleged violation of established legal principles by the victorious powers.

Above all, it was the numerous media reports on the Major War Criminals Trial that brought the violent crimes of the Nazi regime to the broader world's attention. For the German populace, these media reports entailed a painful confrontation with the atrocities of the Nazi regime, the extent of which could no longer be denied. Therefore, Germans continued to acknowledge the necessity of investigating these crimes and bringing the perpetrators to justice. Moreover, the public prosecution of the main perpetrators relativized the guilt of lower-level followers. Few were willing to accept personal responsibility.

Nonetheless, their proponents regarded these trials as having been generally fair and considered it imperative that the crimes be punished. Virtually no one today disputes the validity of the Nuremberg Trials. Moreover, since the 1990s the Major War Criminals Trial is no longer understood solely in the context of coming to terms with the crimes of the Nazi regime; instead, it is increasingly appreciated as the precedent for the international criminal courts of the present day.