Nuremberg executions

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The Nuremberg executions took place on 16 October 1946, shortly after the conclusion of the Nuremberg trials. Ten prominent members of the political and military leadership of Nazi Germany were executed by hanging: Hans Frank, Wilhelm Frick, Alfred Jodl, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Wilhelm Keitel, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Alfred Rosenberg, Fritz Sauckel, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, and Julius Streicher. Hermann Göring was also scheduled to be hanged on that day, but committed suicide using a potassium cyanide capsule the night before. Martin Bormann was also sentenced to death in absentia; at the time his whereabouts were unknown, but it is now thought that he committed suicide or was killed by Soviet troops while attempting to escape Berlin on 2 May 1945.

The sentences were carried out in the gymnasium of Nuremberg Prison by the United States Army using the standard drop method instead of long drop.[1]

The executioners were Master Sergeant John C. Woods and his assistant, military policeman Joseph Malta. Woods' use of standard drops for the executions, meant that some of the men did not die quickly of an intended broken neck but instead strangled to death slowly.[2][3][4]

Some reports indicated some executions took from 14 to 28 minutes.[5][6] The Army denied claims that the drop length was too short or that the condemned died from strangulation instead of a broken neck.[7] Additionally, the trapdoor was too small, such that several of the condemned suffered bleeding head injuries when they hit the sides of the trapdoor while dropping through.[8]

The bodies were rumored to have been taken to Dachau for cremation, but were in fact incinerated in a crematorium in Munich and the ashes scattered over the river Isar.[9]

Kingsbury Smith of the International News Service wrote an eyewitness account of the hangings. His account appeared with photos in newspapers.[10]

Order of executions[edit]

The executions started at 1:11 a.m. with von Ribbentrop. The total span was just about two hours.

Scheduled order of executions
Order Name Final statement Time of death
1 Hermann Göring[a] N/A N/A
2 Joachim von Ribbentrop "God protect Germany. God have mercy on my soul. My final wish is that Germany should recover her unity and that, for the sake of peace, there should be an understanding between East and West. I wish peace to the world."[11]

Nuremberg Prison Commandant Burton C. Andrus later recalled that Ribbentrop turned to the prison's Lutheran chaplain, Henry F. Gerecke, immediately before the hood was placed over his head and whispered, "I'll see you again."[12]

01:30 a.m.
3 Wilhelm Keitel "I call on God Almighty to have mercy on the German people. More than two million German soldiers went to their death for the fatherland before me. I follow now my sons—all for Germany." 01:44 a.m.
4 Ernst Kaltenbrunner "I have loved my German people and my fatherland with a warm heart. I have done my duty by the laws of my people and I am sorry my people were led this time by men who were not soldiers and that crimes were committed of which I had no knowledge." 01:52 a.m.
5 Alfred Rosenberg 'No.' 01:59 a.m.
6 Hans Frank "I am thankful for the kind treatment during my captivity and I ask God to accept me with mercy." 02:08 a.m.
7 Wilhelm Frick 'Long live eternal Germany.' 02:20 a.m.
8 Julius Streicher "Adele, my dear wife."[b] Unknown
9 Fritz Sauckel "I am dying innocent. The sentence is wrong. God protect Germany and make Germany great again. Long live Germany! God protect my family." 02:40 a.m.
10 Alfred Jodl "My greetings to you, my Germany." 02:50 a.m.
11 Arthur Seyss-Inquart "I hope that this execution is the last act of the tragedy of the Second World War and that the lesson taken from this world war will be that peace and understanding should exist between peoples. I believe in Germany." 02:59 a.m.


  1. ^ Committed suicide the night before his scheduled execution.
  2. ^ Also reported as "The Bolsheviks will hang you one day."


  1. ^ By The Neck Until Dead: The Gallows of Nuremberg by Stanley Tilles with Jeffrey Denhart, Jona Books, Indiana: USA.
  2. ^ Time Magazine coverage, 28 October 1946, pg. 34.
  3. ^ Joseph Kingsbury-Smith: The Execution of Nazi War Criminals Archived 21 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Eyewitness Report; accessed 14 March 2018.
  4. ^ Turley, Mark (1 September 2008). From Nuremberg to Nineveh. ISBN 9780955981005 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ Shnayerson, Robert (October 1996). "Judgment at Nuremberg" (PDF). Smithsonian Magazine. pp. 124–141. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 April 2011. The trial removed 11 of the most despicable Nazis from life itself. In the early morning hours of Wednesday, October 16, 1946, ten men died in the courthouse gymnasium in a botched hanging that left some strangled to death for as long as 25 minutes.
  6. ^ "The Trial of the Century– and of All Time, part two". Flagpole Magazine. 17 July 2002. p. 6. Archived from the original on 2 March 2009. the experienced Army hangman, Master Sgt. John C. Woods, botched the execution, some alleging intentionally. A number of the hanged Nazis died, not quickly from a broken neck as intended, but agonizingly from slow strangulation. Ribbentrop and Sauckel each took 14 minutes to choke to death, while Keitel, whose death was the most painful, struggled for 28 minutes at the end of the rope before expiring.
  7. ^ "War Crimes: Night without Dawn",, 28 October 1946
  8. ^ Spiegel Online, Nürnberger Prozesse: Der Tod durch den Strick dauerte 15 Minuten (German), 16 January 2007.
  9. ^ Overy, Richard (2001). Interrogations: The Nazi Elite in Allied Hands. London: Allen Lane. ISBN 0-7139-9350-2., pg. 205
  10. ^ "The Nuremberg Trials
    The Execution of Nazi War Criminals"
    . Archived from the original on 22 February 2006. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
  11. ^ Bloch, p. 456.
  12. ^ Andrus, Burton C., I Was the Nuremberg Jailor, New York: Coward-McCann, 1969, p. 195.
  13. ^ Smith, Kingsbury (16 October 1946). "The Execution of Nazi War Criminals". Famous Trials. International News Service.