High Command Trial

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The High Command Trial
Walter Warlimont in the defendants' dock of the High Command Case at Nuernberg
Full case nameThe United States of America vs. Wilhelm von Leeb, et al
IndictmentNovember 28, 1947
DecidedOctober 28, 1948, Nuremberg

The High Command Trial (officially, The United States of America vs. Wilhelm von Leeb, et al.), also known initially as Case No. 12 (the 13 Generals' trial),[1] and later as Case No. 72 (the German high command trial: Trial of Wilhelm von Leeb and thirteen others),[2] was the last of the twelve trials for war crimes the U.S. authorities held in their occupation zone of Germany in Nuremberg after the end of World War II.[3] These twelve trials were all held before U.S. military courts, not before the International Military Tribunal, but took place in the same rooms at the Palace of Justice. The twelve U.S. trials are collectively known as the "Subsequent Nuremberg Trials" or, more formally, as the "Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals" (NMT).


Chief of Counsel for the Prosecution Telford Taylor at the High Command Trial

The accused in this trial were high-ranking generals of the German Wehrmacht (including two field marshals and a former admiral), some of whom had been members of the High Command of Nazi Germany's military forces. They were charged with having participated in or planned or facilitated the execution of the numerous war crimes and atrocities committed in countries occupied by the German forces during the war.

The judges in this case, heard before Military Tribunal V-A, were the American John C. Young (presiding judge), Winfield B. Hale, and Justin W. Harding. The Chief of Counsel for the Prosecution was Telford Taylor. The indictment was filed on November 28, 1947; the trial lasted from December 30 that year until October 28, 1948. Of the 14 defendants indicted, two were acquitted on all counts. Johannes Blaskowitz committed suicide during the trial. The remaining defendants received prison sentences ranging from three years including time served to lifetime imprisonment.


The accused faced four charges of having committed war crimes and crimes against humanity:

  1. Crimes against peace by waging aggressive war against other nations and violating international treaties.
  2. War crimes by being responsible for murder, ill-treatment and other crimes against prisoners of war and enemy belligerents.
  3. Crimes against humanity by participating or ordering the murder, torture, deportation, hostage-taking, etc. of civilians in military-occupied countries.
  4. Participating and organizing the formulations and execution of a common plan and conspiracy to commit aforementioned crimes.

All defendants were indicted on all counts; they all pleaded "not guilty". Count 4 of the indictment—the conspiracy charge—was soon dropped by the tribunal because it was already covered by the other charges. On count 1, the tribunal considered all accused not guilty, stating that they were not the policy-makers and that preparing for war and fighting a war on orders was not a criminal offense under the applicable international law of the time.

Defendants and judgements[edit]

The accused were, with respect to each charge, either indicted but not convicted (I) or indicted and found guilty (G), as listed below by defendant, charge, and eventual outcome. All sentences included time already served in custody since April 7, 1945.

Photos Name Count Penalty Notes
1 2 3 4
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-2004-004-05, Johannes Blaskowitz.jpg Johannes Blaskowitz I I I I Former Generaloberst. Committed suicide during the trial on February 5, 1948.
Karl-Adolf Hollidt..jpg Karl-Adolf Hollidt I G G I 5 years Former Generaloberst. Released on good time credit in December 1949.[4] Died in 1985.
Hermann Hoth.jpg Hermann Hoth I G G I 15 years Commanded the 3rd Panzer Group during Operation Barbarossa in 1941, and the 4th Panzer Army during the Wehrmacht's 1942 summer offensive.[5] In support of the Commissar Order, issued a directive in November 1941 instructing his subordinate commanders to "immediately and pitilessly exterminate" "every sign of active or passive resistance (...) on the part of Jewish-Bolshevik agitators".[6] Sentence was reviewed with no changes in 1951. Released on parole in 1954; released from parole / sentence reduced to time served in 1957. Died in 1971.[7]
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-L08126, Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb.jpg Wilhelm von Leeb I I G I Time served Field marshal and commander of Army Group North in the Soviet Union (June 1941 − January 1942). Convicted of transmitting the Barbarossa Jurisdiction Order and its criminal application by subordinate units.[8] Released after trial.[8] Died in 1956.
Rudolf Lehmann 1947.jpg Rudolf Lehmann I G G I 7 years Judge Advocate-General of the OKW and responsible for the Barbarossa Jurisdiction Order which allowed the murder of civilians on the pretext of counteracting partisan activity[9] He drafted the December 1941 Night and Fog decree which removed access to due process from the accused. Wehrmacht troops applied the order in France, Holland, Ukraine, and other occupied countries.[10] Was involved in formulating the Commando Order and the Terror and Sabotage Decree.[11] Released in 1950 on good time credit. Died in 1955.[12]
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-R63872, Georg von Küchler.jpg Georg von Küchler I G G I 15 years Field marshal and commander of 18th Army on the Eastern Front, and later of Army Group North. Sentence reviewed in January 1951, with no changes. Released in 1952 on compassionate grounds.[12] Died in 1968.
BUNDESARCHIV, Georg-Hans Reinhardt 1.jpg Georg-Hans Reinhardt I G G I 15 years Former Generaloberst. Sentence reviewed in January 1951, with no changes. Released in 1952 on compassionate grounds.[12] Died in 1963.
Karl von Roques at the Nuremberg Trials.jpg Karl von Roques I G G I 20 years Former General der Infanterie. Died on December 24, 1949.
Hermann Reinecke.jpg Hermann Reinecke I G G I Life imprisonment Head of the OKW's General Office of the Armed Forces, responsible for creation and implementation of the POW policy that resulted in the deaths of approx. 3.3 million Soviet prisoners of war.[13] Released in 1954. Died in 1973.
Hans von Salmuth.jpg Hans von Salmuth I G G I 20 years Former Generaloberst. Sentence reviewed in 1951, commuted to 12 years and backdated to June 1945. Released in 1953 on good time credit.[14] Died in 1962.
Otto Schniewind.jpg Otto Schniewind I I I I Acquitted Former Generaladmiral. Died in 1964.
Hugo-Sperrle.jpg Hugo Sperrle I I I I Acquitted Former Generalfeldmarschall. Died in 1953.
Walter-Warlimont.jpg Walter Warlimont I G G I Life imprisonment Chief of the Department of the National Defense in the Wehrmacht Operations Staff and responsible the Barbarossa Jurisdiction Order which allowed the murder of civilians on the pretext of counteracting partisan activity.[9] Sentence commuted to 18 years in 1951. Released in 1954. Died in 1976.
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-2007-0313-500, Rumänien, Otto Wöhler bei Lagebesprechung.jpg Otto Wöhler I G G I 8 years Convicted of implementing the Barbarossa Jurisdiction Order, deportation of civilians for slave labor and cooperation with Einsatzgruppen.[11] Released in 1951. Died in 1987.


After the emergence of the Federal Republic, German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and the Bundestag weighed in on the side of the defendants. German leverage increased as the urgency of rearming Germany grew. Under these intense pressures, in 1950, U.S. High Commissioner John McCloy established a review panel chaired by Judge David Peck of New York and, on its recommendation, reduced the sentences of three of the six High Command defendants still in prison. After further proceedings by mixed commissions composed of Allied and German members, the last of the High Command defendants returned home in 1953.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Web Genocide Documentation Centre, Case No. 12 Archived 2012-04-01 at the Wayback Machine (the 13 Generals' trial); euRathlon, UWE Bristol.
  2. ^ Web Genocide Documentation Centre, Case No. 72 Archived 2005-02-21 at the Wayback Machine (The German high command trial: Trial of Wilhelm von Leeb and thirteen others), UWE Bristol.
  3. ^ There was also a "High Command Case" in the Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal. In that case, the German supreme command of the armed forces (OKWOberkommando Wehrmacht) was acquitted of the charge of having been a criminal organization.[1]
  4. ^ Hebert 2010, p. 219.
  5. ^ Heiber 2004, p. 938.
  6. ^ Burleigh 1997, p. 69.
  7. ^ Hebert 2010, pp. 216–217.
  8. ^ a b Hebert 2010, p. 150.
  9. ^ a b Hebert 2010, p. 3.
  10. ^ Hebert 2010, p. 90.
  11. ^ a b Hebert 2010, p. 151.
  12. ^ a b c Herber 2010, p. 218.
  13. ^ Herbert 2010, p. 3.
  14. ^ Hebert 2010, p. 218.
  15. ^ See Detlev F. Vagts, Book Review, American Journal of International Law vol. 104 (2010), p. 548, at 549; reviewing Valerie Geneviève Hébert, Hitler's Generals on Trial: The Last War Crimes Tribunal at Nuremberg. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2010.


  • Law Reports of Trials of War Criminals, Vol. XII, 1949 of the United Nations War Crimes Commission.
  • Hebert, Valerie (2010). Hitler's Generals on Trial: The Last War Crimes Tribunal at Nuremberg. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0-7006-1698-5.
  • Heiber, Helmut; Weinberg, Gerhard L.; Glantz, David (2004). Hitler and His Generals: Military Conferences 1942–1945. Enigma Books. ISBN 978-1929631285.
  • Heller, Kevin Jon (2011). The Nuremberg Military Tribunals and the Origins of International Criminal Law. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-955431-7.