Göring was perhaps the most influential person, next to Hitler, in the Nazi organization. He was one of only 12 Nazis elected to the Reichstag, or German legislative body, in 1928. Although he fell out of favor with Hitler in 1945, he was originally Hitler's designated successor in power. In the mid-1930's Goering was in charge of the confiscation of Jewish property, a policy which extended to Jews throughout Europe.
He founded the Gestapo or secret police which was feared throughout Germany. Göring was influential in the planning and execution of Kristallnacht, a crucial turning point in Germany’s policy regarding Jews. This “Night of Broken Glass” was the first organized widespread violent attack on Jews and may be considered as the actual beginning of the Holocaust. Throughout the war Göring was involved in mass amounts of plundering and confiscating mass amounts of priceless works of art and other property.
Göring emphasized his loyalty to Hitler and that he was always simply following Hitler’s order. He claimed to know nothing about what had happened in the concentration camps, which were under Heinrich Himmler's power. He gave evasive answers to all direct questions and had plausible excuses for all his actions during the war. He used the witness stand as a venue to expound at great length on his own role in the Reich, attempting to present himself as a peacemaker and diplomat before the outbreak of the war.
Kaltenbrunner was the highest surviving SS-leader and he also served as commander of the Einsatzgruppen. The Einsatzgruppen were the Nazi death squads who were responsible for the mass killing across Europe. The units targeted mostly Jews but also other political enemies of the 3rd Reich as well.
Kaltenbrunner was a life-long fanatical Nazi. He had much to do with developing the Mauthausen concentration camp and visited it frequently. He agreed with Himmler on the establishment of gas-chambers for execution 1942, became head of the security police 1943, and sent
millions of Jews and political suspects to their deaths in the concentration camps. He was also responsible for orders sanctioning the murder of prisoners of war.
Kaltenbrunner said during the trial that all decrees and legal documents which bore his signature were “rubber-stamped” and filed by his assistants. He insisted that he was only following the orders of Heinrich Himmler and it was Himmler that was culpable for the atrocities committed. During the trial he stressed that his position existed only in title and was only committed to matters of espionage and intelligence.
Höss was commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp, where the estimates of people killed range from 1 to 2.5 million. He planned, organized, and streamlined the techniques of mass murder which would allow the Nazis to implement the Final Solution. It was Höss who was the first to introduce the poison gas Zyklon B on prisoners.
It was this process of gassing prisoners at the camp that directly led to so many being killed. In fact, in just one day - May 8, 1944 - he supervised the killing of 430,000 Hungarian Jews.
When accused of murdering three and a half million people, Höss replied, “No. Only two and one half million – the rest died from disease and starvation.” A psychologist who interviewed him in prison said, “Höss is quite matter-of-fact and apathetic, shows some belated interest in the enormity of his crime, but gives the impression that it never would have occurred to him if somebody hadn't asked him. There is too much apathy to leave any suggestion of remorse and even the prospect of hanging does not unduly stress him. One gets the general impression of a man who is intellectually normal, but with the schizoid apathy, insensitivity and lack of empathy that could hardly be more extreme in a frank psychotic.”
Speer was Hitler's chief architect before becoming his Minister for Armaments during the war. He reformed Germany's war production to the extent that it continued to increase for over a year despite increasingly intensive Allied bombing. He was responsible for the use of slave labor in captured
territory and in Germany to boost war production. He used Jews from Germany’s concentration camps, captured Allied soldiers, and other civilian slave labor in production of war and defense materials.
At the trials, Speer apologized for Nazi atrocities and the only senior Nazi figure to admit guilt and express remorse. Speer “made the most straightforward impression of all and ... during the long trial spoke honestly and with no attempt to shirk his responsibility and his guilt.” Speer said he was an artist thrust into political life, who had always remained a non-ideologue and who had been promised by Hitler that he could return to architecture after the war. He also claimed that he had planned to kill Hitler in early 1945 by dropping a canister of poison gas into the bunker's air intake but that a newly built wall prevented him from doing so.