Hjalmar Schacht was born on 22 January 1887 in Tinglev, in Schleswig. He was the son of a rich Danish businessman and studied economics in Germany before joining the Dresdner Bank in 1903.
Appointed President of the Reichsbank in December 1923, he succeeded in stabilising the new Mark after the disastrous hyperinflation crisis of 1923, but handed in his resignation in 1930 to protest against the continuance of war reparation payments, as dictated by the Treaty of Versailles.
Despite having very little sympathy for the Nazis from the beginning, he admired their electoral success, made the acquaintance of Hitler and facilitated contacts for him with the financial community in 1932. He agreed to again become head of the Reichsbank in March 1933 and became Minister of the Economy from 1934 till 1937. However, he became at loggerheads with Goring, who was in charge of the Four Year Plan, demanded a reduction in the cost of armaments and thus became a suspect of the regime. He was obliged to resign from the presidency of the Reichsbank in January 1939. Nevertheless he continued to hold his position of Minister without Portfolio until January 1943. Having made contact with the plotters of the attempted “coup” of 20 July 1944, he was arrested and sent to Dachau prison camp.
He was freed by the Americans but rearrested immediately afterwards due to his former position as a minister to Hitler.
Hjalmar Schacht was accused of having used his various official functions, his personal influence and his contacts with the Führer to promote the accession to power of the Nazi conspirators and the consolidation of their power in Germany, in terms of the count of indictment No1. He was also accused of encouraging preparations for war also in terms of count of indictment No. 1.Furthermore he was accused of participating in political and military planning and preparations for waging wars of aggression by the Nazi conspirators according to the terms of counts No 1 and 2.
When Dachau was liberated at the end of the war, Hjalmar Schacht, who was a prisoner there, was detained by the Americans due to his role as a former minister to Hitler.
Charged by the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal of counts 1 (concerted plan or conspiracy) and 2 (crimes against peace), he pleaded not guilty.
The Tribunal concluded that Schacht had played a major role in the re-armament policy desired by Hitler, by putting all the means available to the Reichsbank at the disposition of such policy. It was also ruled that Schacht had been an active participant in the organisation of the German war economy. Nevertheless in consideration of the fact that re-armament as such, was not a crime in terms of the Statute of the Tribunal, the judges acquitted Hjalmar Schacht on the first count.
Concerning the wars of aggression (count No. 2), the Tribunal allowed that Schacht had not been involved in their preparation. Not being a close collaborator of Hitler, he was even viewed with hostility by the group made up of those principally responsible for crimes against peace.
On 1st October 1946, the Tribunal therefore acquitted Hjalmar Schacht of the two charges brought against him. He was freed on the same day.
Following this Schacht was subjected to proceedings brought against him by the German authorities, and was sentenced to 8 years of forced labour in 1947. This ruling was nevertheless reversed on appeal in 1948.
He died on 3 June 1970 in Munich.
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.
BASIS UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW
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 ).
NUREMBERG TRIAL OF MAJOR WAR CRIMINALS
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.