— Robert H. Jackson
Context: These men saw no evil, spoke none, and none was uttered in their presence. This claim might sound very plausible if made by one defendant. But when we put all their stories together, the impression which emerges of the Third Reich, which was to last a thousand years, is ludicrous. If we combine only the stories of the front bench, this is the ridiculous composite picture of Hitler's Government that emerges. It was composed of:
A No. 2 man who knew nothing of the excesses of the Gestapo which he created, and never suspected the Jewish extermination programme although he was the signer of over a score of decrees which instituted the persecution of that race;
A No. 3 man who was merely an innocent middleman transmitting Hitler's orders without even reading them, like a postman or delivery boy;
A Foreign Minister who knew little of foreign affairs and nothing of foreign policy;
A Field-Marshal who issued orders to the armed forces but had no idea of the results they would have in practice …
… This may seem like a fantastic exaggeration, but this is what you would actually be obliged to conclude if you were to acquit these defendants.
They do protest too much. They deny knowing what was common knowledge. They deny knowing plans and programmes that were as public as Mein Kampf and the Party programme. They deny even knowing the contents of documents which they received and acted upon. … The defendants have been unanimous, when pressed, in shifting the blame on other men, sometimes on one and sometimes on another. But the names they have repeatedly picked are Hitler, Himmler, Heydrich, Goebbels, and Bormann. All of these are dead or missing. No matter how hard we have pressed the defendants on the stand, they have never pointed the finger at a living man as guilty. It is a temptation to ponder the wondrous workings of a fate which has left only the guilty dead and only the innocent alive. It is almost too remarkable.
The chief villain on whom blame is placed — some of the defendants vie with each other in producing appropriate epithets — is Hitler. He is the man at whom nearly every defendant has pointed an accusing finger.
I shall not dissent from this consensus, nor do I deny that all these dead and missing men shared the guilt. In crimes so reprehensible that degrees of guilt have lost their significance they may have played the most evil parts. But their guilt cannot exculpate the defendants. Hitler did not carry all responsibility to the grave with him. All the guilt is not wrapped in Himmler's shroud. It was these dead men whom these living chose to be their partners in this great conspiratorial brotherhood, and the crimes that they did together they must pay for one by one.
Summation for the Prosecution, July 26, 1946