Martin Bormann

04.05.2016 ( Last modified: 06.06.2016 )
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Martin Bormann was born on 17 June 1900 in Halberstadt, in Sachsen-Anhalt, into a family of modest means. He served for a brief period in the artillery during the First World War, before joining right wing movements after the war. He became a member of the NSDAP, the Nazi party, in 1925.

Between 1928 and 1930 he was a member of the SA. Rising through the ranks of the party, Bormann was elected to the Reichstag in 1933. From July 1933 until 1941, he was head of Rudolf Hess’s cabinet office. After the latter’s flight to Great Britain, Bormann was appointed as Party Chancellor in May 1941. In April 1943, he became secretary to Hitler. As someone working behind the scenes, and closest collaborator of Hitler, Martin Bormann wielded enormous power, making him the No 2 in the declining regime.

Martin Bormann was accused of having used his various official functions, his personal influence and close contacts to 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. Bormann was also accused of participating in war preparations in terms of count of indictment No1. In addition he was also accused of having authorised, directed and taken part in acts constituting war crimes, in terms of count No 3, and of crimes against humanity according to count No 4, due especially to the numerous crimes committed against people and property .

Bormann was always known to have been an unrelenting proponent of draconian measures against the Jews, the people in the occupied territories in the East and prisoners of war. He took part in the discussions with a view to the expulsion of 60’000 Viennese Jews to Poland, in cooperation with the SS and the Gestapo. It was he who signed the decree of 31 May 1942 which extended the Nuremberg laws to cover the territories annexed in the East. In October 1942, he signed a decree which stated that “the permanent elimination of the Jews from the territories of Greater Germany, can no longer be realised through emigration but by the use of implacable force in the camps in the East” Another decree signed by Bormann on 1 July 1943, bestowed on Adolf Eichmann absolute power over the Jews, who from that point on were subject to the sole jurisdiction of the Gestapo, the secret police, and no longer to that of the regular courts.

Bormann played an important role in setting up the forced labour programme and in the orders related to prisoners of war. To take just a few examples, on 5 November 1941 he forbid any decent burial of Soviet prisoners of war. On 29 January 1943, he issued instructions allowing the use of firearms and corporal punishment against recalcitrant prisoners of war. On 30 September 1944, Bormann signed a decree which withdrew military jurisdiction for prisoners of war who, from that date, became subject to the sole judicial competence of Himmler and the SS.

Martin Bormann left Hitler’s bunker on 30 April 1945. His fate is not known. According to witnesses, he was reported to have been killed whilst trying to cross the Soviet lines. According to others, he committed suicide.

legal procedure

Since Martin Bormann had not been arrested, he was therefore tried in absentia by the International Military Tribunal.

He was charged with counts 1 (concerted plan or conspiracy), 3 (war crimes) and 4 (crimes against humanity).

Bormann’s lawyer pleaded that the former should be considered as dead and that the Tribunal could therefore not have him tried, even in absentia. The Tribunal did not follow this reasoning, ruling that the proof of Bormann’s death had not been established.

On 1 October 1946, the Tribunal therefore handed down its verdict on Martin Bormann. Considering that since he had not been present at the main meetings at which Hitler laid out his plans of aggression, the Tribunal acquitted him on count No 1. On the other hand, he was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity on counts No 3 and 4.

Consequently, Martin Bormann was sentenced to death in absentia.


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.