Hans Fritzsche

02.05.2016 ( Last modified: 08.06.2016 )
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Hans Fritzsche was born on 21 April 1900. He worked as a journalist from 1923, and instituted a weekly radio programme entitled “Hans Fritzsche Speaking”. In 1932, he was appointed to the head of the Telegraphic News Service, a governmental agency. When in 1933 the Nazis incorporated this service into the Ministry for Propaganda, Fritzsche became a member of the National Socialist party and joined the Ministry.

In 1938, Fritzsche became Director of the ministry press section which had control over some 2300 daily newspapers. In November 1942, he was promoted to Chief of the Radio Broadcasting service of the Ministry for Propaganda and was present at the daily briefings which Goebbels held with his collaborators.

Fritzsche was accused of having taken advantage of his different functions and his personal influence to disseminate and exploit the doctrines of the Nazi conspirators, according to count 1 of the indictment. He was also accused of having supported, encouraged and incited others into committing war crimes and crimes against humanity according to counts 3 and 4, with particular reference to the anti-Jewish measures and the ruthless exploitation of the occupied territories.

Hans Fritzsche was arrested by the Soviet army on 2 May 1945.

legal procedure

Hans Fritzsche was arrested by the Soviet army on 2 May 1945.

Charged on counts 1 (common plan or conspiracy), 3 (war crimes) and 4 (crimes against humanity), he pleaded not guilty.

It became apparent to the Tribunal that Hans Fritzsche had never been to the fore in pushing for the persecution or extermination of the Jews, and that on two instances he had even attempted to stop publication of the anti-Semitic newspaper of Julius Streicher, “Der Stürmer”. His propaganda, according to the Tribunal, did not incite Germans to commit atrocities against the people of the conquered territories.

As a result, on October 1st, 1946, Hans Fritzsche was acquitted by the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal and immediately released.

The Soviet judge Major General Nikitchenko was opposed to his acquittal and filed a dissenting opinion.

He was ultimately sentenced to 9 years in prison by a German Tribunal but freed in 1950 following an amnesty.

In 1953, Hans Fritzsche died as a result of a cancer surgery.


After the Second World War numerous trials against war criminals and those responsible for Nazi crimes took place in Germany and other countries. It is not possible here to give an overview of all the trials. Below are the main facts concerning the major trials of war criminals at Nuremberg.


The German armed forces surrendered unconditionally on 7-8 May 1945. The Allies (USA, Soviet Union, Great Britain and France) took over all governmental functions in Germany, instituted the Allied Control Council and divided Germany into four zones of occupation.

After the adoption of the London Charter of 8 August 1945, the Allies set up the International Military Tribunal (IMT) in order to judge the major German war criminals. Annex III of the Agreement contains the Statute of the International Military Tribunal (IMT Statute [2]).


According to Articles 1-3 of the London Charter, war criminals with offenses having no particular geographical location were to be judged by the IMT. However in accordance with Articles 4 and 6 of the Convention, the principle of territoriality was to apply to the other German war criminals, with the courts of those states where crimes had been committed having the competence to try these criminals on the basis on their national laws.

Crimes within the jurisdiction of IMT:

– Crimes against peace;

– War crimes and

– Crimes against humanity (Article 6 of IMT Statute).

The IMT was composed of four judges and four substitutes who were appointed by the four Allied powers (Article 2 IMT Statute). In application of Article 13 of the IMT Statute, the Tribunal drew up its own Rules of Procedure

The IMT indicted 24 people in total. The trials took place from 14 November 1945 until 1 October 1946. Twelve defendants were sentenced to death, three were acquitted and seven others were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment. In one case, the procedure was suspended for health reasons and in another the defendant committed suicide before his trial.