In the Nuremberg War Crime trial, what evidence was used to prove the guilt of the defendants?
The evidence against the 24 Nazi leaders on trial consisted in part of eyewitness accounts, including actual victims of Nazi abuses. It also included, however, the volumnious records kept by the German bureaucracy during the war. Many of the atrocities, including the Holocaust and the actions of the Einsatzgruppen on the eastern front were very well-documented, leaving a "paper trail" that the investigators used to tie Nazi leaders to actual crimes. Rudolph Hess, for example, was convicted on the basis of documents he had signed and his comments recorded in very detailed minutes kept of meetings with other German leaders, including Hitler. Ernst Kaltenbrunner was convicted after the court was shown letters bearing his signature that ordered the execution of Allied prisoners of war.
These men were typical in that they were convicted based on their documented participation in atrocities, or the planning of atrocities. Julius Streicher, however, was convicted for different reasons. He held no government position during the war, but had published Der Sturmer, a newspaper that published virulent ant-Semitic propaganda, including calls for "political and ethnic emasculation" of the Jewish people. Some other leaders confessed under a weight of circumstantial evidence. All in all, 12 of the original 24 defendants received death sentences, with the others receiving lesser sentences or being acquitted. Robert Ley, head of the German Labor Front, committed suicide before the trials, and Hermann Goering killed himself while awaiting execution.