Ten leading Nazis sentenced to death at the Nuremberg Tribunal on September 30th, 1946, were not told of the date or the place of their execution, but some of them suspected it was their last night when they went to bed on October 15th. They were right.
They were woken just before midnight and told to choose their last meal. A separate black cotton hood and a new rope, with the gruesome hangmans knot which tends to strangle rather than bring instant death, was used on each of the condemned.
The hanging scene on the morning of Wednesday, October 16th was the gymnasium of Nuremberg Prison. First to go was Joachim von Ribbentrop, 53, Hitlers last foreign minister. He was taken up 13 steps to the wooden platform on which three gallows were erected.
Hangman US Major-Sergeant John Woods took his time with the proceedings a witness said that Ribbentrop had to wait an infinity of time for death. When Woods released the trap the ex-minister fell like a stone, but he took ten minutes to die at the end of the rope.
Field Marshal Wilhelm von Keitel, 64, who ordered the killing of allied prisoners-of-war after an escape attempt, dangled at the end of the rope for 24 minutes before he died.
General Ernst Kaltenbrunner, 44, who had denied that there had been any atrocities in the concentration camps, was next, followed by Alfred Rosenberg, 53, former minister for occupied eastern territories, Hans Frank, 46, ex-governor general of Poland, and Wilhelm Frick, former minister of the interior, responsible for the anti-Semitic and concentration camp laws. Fricks nose was severed in the fall, either by his head hitting the edge of the trap or by the rope being too loosely fitted.
Julius Streicher, 61, Jew-baiter, pornographer, editor of the rabble-rousing Die St?rmer, and perpetrator of atrocities against the Jews, had to be dragged to the scaffold screaming Heil Hitler! wearing only his underclothes as he had refused to dress. He swung on the rope, groaning, for a long time.
Fritz Sauckel, responsible for the slave-labour programme, was also heard to groan as he slowly strangled and General Alfred Jodl, 56, former chief of the general staff, took 18 minutes to die. The last to hang, Artur von Seyss-Inquart, 54, was the former governor of Austria and later commissioner for occupied Holland.
The 10 executions took one hour and 43 minutes. One who missed them was Hermann Goering, the leading Nazi after Hitler, who took cyanide during the last night. Alongside the other 10 bodies his body was laid out on the gymnasium floor as symbolically hanged. Some reports claim that his corpse was hanged for real and there was nothing symbolic about it.
The hangings were brutally bungled and death had not been instantaneous. The bodies were taken immediately to Dachau, near Munich, and cremated in the concentration camps notorious ovens. The ashes were thrown into the River Isar.