The artist Laura Knight gained special access to the broadcasting box just above the prisoners, where she was able to make charcoal studies of the main protagonists amongst the lawyers and the accused. Her painting reproduces faithfully the courtroom scene and is, in effect, a group portrait of the prisoners who are shown wearing the cumbersome headphones necessary to hear a translation of the proceedings. Knight was deeply disturbed by what she heard during the trial, and the painting shows a landscape of desolation floating above the courtroom like a shared nightmare.
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After the end of the Second World War in Europe and the Far East, the Allied powers undertook to bring the leading civilian and military representatives of wartime Germany and Japan to trial on charges of war crimes, crimes against peace and crimes against humanity. The principles of the trial of the Nazi leadership were agreed at a meeting of the 'Big Four' (Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union and France) in London in the summer of 1945, resulting in the Nuremberg Charter. In the Far East, the Tokyo Charter was largely the result of an executive decree by the Allied Supreme Commander, Douglas MacArthur, acting on instructions from the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. Eleven nations were represented in the prosecution team, including Britain, Australia and India.
The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg was in session from 14 November 1945 to 1 October 1946. Twenty-two leading Nazis were tried (one, Martin Bormann, in his absence), of whom 12 were sentenced to death by hanging, seven to terms of imprisonment and two were acquitted. One defendant, Robert Ley, committed suicide before sentence could be passed. Hermann Göring also escaped execution by taking his own life.
The International Military Tribunal at Tokyo sat from 3 May 1946 to 4 November 1948. Twenty-eight defendants were tried, of whom seven were sentenced to death by hanging and 18 to terms of imprisonment. Two of the defendants died during the trial and one was declared unfit to be sentenced.