February 4-11: At the Yalta Conference, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin declare, "It is our inflexible purpose to destroy German militarism and Nazism and ... to bring all war criminals to just and swift punishment."
April 12: While on vacation in Warm Springs, Georgia, President Roosevelt dies of a cerebral hemorrhage. Vice President Harry Truman is sworn in as president.
April 30: Adolf Hitler commits suicide in his bunker below Berlin.
May 2: President Truman appoints Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson as Chief U.S. Counsel for the prosecution of Nazi war criminals.
May 6: Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring surrenders to the Allies. Housed in a castle in Kitzbühel, Austria, Göring is first toasted with champagne, then transferred to Bad Mondorf in Luxembourg, where indicted Nazi leaders are held before transfer to Nuremberg.
May 7: Germany surrenders unconditionally. World War II in Europe ends.
May 23: British tanks enter Flensburg, Germany, where troops capture several Nazis who will be tried at Nuremberg, including Navy Chief Karl Doenitz; Army Chief Alfred Jodl; Head of Armed Forces High Command Wilhelm Keitel; Protector of the Eastern Occupied Territories Alfred Rosenberg; and Reich Minister of Armaments and Munitions Albert Speer. Heinrich Himmler, SS chief and the most powerful surviving Nazi leader, commits suicide.
June 18: Robert Jackson departs Washington, D.C., for London to work out the logistics of a war crimes trial. The Allies decide to use the adversarial system of law favored by the Americans and British, rather than the inquisitive system favored by the French and Soviets. They agree to prohibit the defense that the criminals were simply following orders, but to allow its consideration in sentencing.
June 26: Representatives of 50 countries who had declared war on Germany and Japan meet in San Francisco to sign the United Nations charter and "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind."
July 5: In the wake of the Nazis' unconditional surrender, the Allies create the Allied Control Council, under which the United States, Soviet Union, United Kingdom, and France assume control over Germany. The Allies partition Germany into four zones of military occupation: American, British, French and Soviet. The city of Berlin is divided along similar lines.
July 7: Jackson visits Nuremberg, once the site of major Nazi rallies, and recommends the Palace of Justice for the upcoming trials. Largely undamaged by Allied bombing, the building contains 20 courtrooms and a prison with room for 1,200 inmates. The Soviets suggest that the trials take place within their zone of occupation in Berlin. They compromise: the trial will open in Berlin and unfold at Nuremberg.
July 25: Two months after the surrender, Churchill, Stalin, and Truman meet in Potsdam, Germany to discuss the fate of Germany. Both the United States and Russia want their own economic and political systems to prevail in the areas their soldiers have liberated. Churchill is replaced by a Conservative, Clement Atlee, at Potsdam after he and the Labour Party are defeated in general elections in Britain.
August 6: Following President Truman's order, the B-29 bomber Enola Gay, piloted by Paul W. Tibbetts, drops the uranium atomic bomb code-named "Little Boy" on Hiroshima, Japan, killing 80,000 civilians and injuring 140,000. Three days later, the B-29 bomber "Bockscar", piloted by Charles Sweeney, will drop a second bomb, "Fat Man" on the Japanese city of Nagasaki, killing 42,000 persons and injuring 40,000.
August 8: The Allies sign the London Charter, which forms the International Military Tribunal (I.M.T.) and lays the ground rules for the prosecution of Nazi war criminals. Allied crimes are not eligible for consideration.
August 12: The Germans being held in Luxembourg are flown to Nuremberg, where they are locked up in a prison next to the Palace of Justice.
September 2: Japan surrenders. World War II ends.
September: President Truman names former attorney general Francis Biddle as the American judge at Nuremberg. John Parker, a federal judge from North Carolina, is appointed as the U.S. alternate.
October 14: British representative Sir Geoffrey Lawrence is elected president of the I.M.T., making him lead judge for the proceedings.
October 19: The I.M.T. indicts 24 Nazi leaders on four counts: conspiracy to wage aggressive war, crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
October 25: Nazi defendant Robert Ley, former chief of the German Labor Front, commits suicide before the trial begins.
November 20: At 6 a.m. the defendants are awakened, fed oatmeal and coffee, shaved, and issued court clothing -- uniforms without insignias for soldiers and suits and ties for civilians. At 9 a.m. they are brought through a covered walkway from the prison to an elevator that opens onto the prisoners' dock in the courtroom, where they take their places on wooden benches in the order listed on the indictment. At 9:30 a.m. the courtroom doors open to 250 journalists. A half hour later, the eight judges enter and the I.M.T. convenes for the first time.
November 21: The defendants enter pleas of not guilty. Göring wants to make a statement, but the judges prevent it. Jackson delivers his opening statement, calling the trial "one of the most significant tributes that power has ever paid to reason."
November 29: The prosecution introduces film shot by Allied photographers in the liberated concentration camps of Dachau, Buchenwald, and Bergen-Belsen. The graphic footage of Nazi horrors causes weeping in the courtroom. Defendants Joachim von Ribbentrop, Hans Frank, and Walther Funk appear shocked by what they see. Former Reichsbank president Hjalmar Schacht turns his back to the screen. Göring appears unmoved. He later laments, "... they showed that awful film, and it just spoiled everything."
December 11, 1945: American prosecutors offer into evidence The Nazi Plan, a 45-minute film that includes footage from German propaganda films, including Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, and scenes of shocking atrocities.
December 13: The prosecution introduces grisly evidence from the Buchenwald concentration camp, including tattooed human skin (favored by the commandant's wife for table lamps and other household furnishings) and the shrunken head of an executed Polish worker, which was used as a paperweight by camp commander Karl Koch.
December 18: The prosecution introduces evidence to prove the criminality of seven German organizations: the Nazi Party leadership; the German High Command; the Schutzstaffel (SS) or Protective Squadron; Sturmabteilung (SA) or Storm Troopers; the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) or Security Service; the Reich Cabinet; and the Gestapo.