Scanning Nuremberg: Names and persons, patience, and the role of judges

Scanning Nuremberg: Names and persons, patience, and the role of judges

Post by Matt Seccombe, originally written August 5, 2015

Scanning Nuremberg shares the observations and insights of Matt Seccombe, Nuremberg Trials Project Metadata Manager/Document Analyst, as he analyzes documents for digitization as part of the HLS Library’s Nuremberg Trials Project website

My agenda for July was to complete the analysis of the defense documents for Rothaug and Rothenberger, and begin the documents for Schlegelberger, the final defendant in Case 3. This material covered 20 files, 234 documents, and 1105 pages of text.

Blue Grapes, again: Given the suspicion that Judge Rothaug plotted judicial crimes at the Blaue Traube restaurant, one of his colleagues admitted in an affidavit that the place was owned by a Nazi leader and that Rothaug and other jurists settled promotions there. The tribunal didn’t care about this, but since Rothaug had a reputation as a sinister figure, this was a bit of character evidence.

Names and persons: The most frequent puzzle in the work is identifying an author with incomplete or varying information. The Nazi courts at Nuremberg had a multitude of men named Hoffmann (various spellings), often signing a document with the surname and no other identifying information. Sometimes, however, another document provides more information, and that will clarify the authorship of other documents; thus, two apparently different Hoffmanns became one, Heinz Hoffmann. On the other hand, one person can become two, given enough information in different documents; thus Hans Meyer became two, with a 20-year age difference. Being able to compare documents side-by-side is the key to this sorting-out process.

Patience (and page-flipping) rewarded: While most defendants submitted most of their evidence during or after their testimony, making the document-transcript linkage easy in those cases, that did not always happen. Mettgenberg’s documents were not ready on time in the trial, so I had to analyze most of his documents without knowing when they appeared in the trial. But two months later, looking for other material, I serendipitously discovered the errant Mettgenberg document books in the transcript and was able to add the information into the document analysis, notably the exhibit numbers and any clarifications or corrections that were made in the court when they were entered. Looking ahead, I found where 8 of Schlegelberger’s document books appeared (with lots of complications explained in the transcript), but he had 9 document books. Schlegelberger document book supplement 1 is lurking somewhere in that 10,900-page transcript.

Rothenberger:  Judge Rothenberger seems to have been a naïve figure with a liberal background (by German standards) who managed to view Hitler as a patriotic figure and discount the extremist ideology. His mission was to reform the judicial system on the English model, and he tried to do this in the ministry in Berlin, re-labelling the project as a Nazi effort. He explained this to a colleague: “We must cater to the people’s taste, essential is only that we remain strong as far as the subject is concerned.”

Phrase of the month: As part of his campaign to raise the status of judges above that of bureaucrats, Rothenberger distributed a memo declaring that a judge should no longer call himself a civil servant but instead “the Fuehrer’s vassal.” The puzzle is why Rothenberger would consider this evidence as helping his case.

Question: The defendants were all Ministry of Justice officials and prosecutors and judges of the People’s Court and Special Court. However, much of the evidence indicates that it was the Reich Supreme Court that legitimized Nazi laws and interpreted them severely. Why were no Supreme Court judges on trial?

More about the Nuremberg Trials Project:

The Harvard Law School Library holds approximately one million pages of documents relating to the trial of military and political leaders of Nazi Germany before the International Military Tribunal (IMT) and to the twelve trials of other accused war criminals before the United States Nuremberg Military Tribunals (NMT). We have already digitized NMT 1 (U.S.A. v. Karl Brandt et al.), NMT 2 (U.S.A. v. Erhard Milch), and NMT 4 (U.S.A. v. Pohl et al.), and we’re in the process of digitizing our remaining holdings. We expect to have NMT 3 (The Judges’ Trial) completed and available to the public by the summer of 2015.

Although the digitization of the remaining trials will also be complete by the end of this year, they will require analysis and tagging work before they can be released to the public.  We hope to complete this work as soon as possible based upon available funding. For more information about this project, please contact Kim Dulin.

About: Meg Kribble

Research Librarian & Outreach Coordinator at the HLS Library.
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