Scanning Nuremberg: Notes on the IMT

Scanning Nuremberg: Notes on the IMT

Post by Matt Seccombe, January 9, 2019

During November and December I worked on the prosecution documents concerning four institutions charged as being criminal organization (the party leadership, the cabinet, the SA, and the SS), with the documents on the plundering of artworks added as an illustration. This amounted to 232 documents and 996 pages of material. The totals for the year on the IMT (not including the final work on NMT 9) are 1420 documents and 8439 pages.

IMT and NMT compared: The NMT cases followed the IMT, but I worked on six NMT cases before starting the IMT. The striking difference is the complexity of the IMT. As far as I know there was no precedent for the IMT, and little time for preparation: the trial began just six months after the end of the European war. In addition, four different countries (US, UK, France, and the USSR) worked on the prosecution and appointed judges. Both the transcript and the trial documents reflect the complications and sometimes the confusions that resulted. Following the order in the trial (i.e., the transcript) means skipping from box to box in the collection. The transitions in the prosecution case, from one country to another and one subject to another, were not always neat. The document books were not always clearly identified. (One asset is a copy of the published IMT record, 42 volumes, aka the “Blue Set,” which has helpful document lists and indexes—but also its own share of errors and typos.) In contrast, the NMT cases were run by the US alone, and with the benefit of the IMT experience; those cases were much easier to follow and the documents were much better organized and identified. In the IMT work, I have needed to spend more “overhead” time figuring out the proceedings and tracking down the relevant documents, reducing the time available for document analysis.

Whose document is this, anyway? The most confusing IMT material (so far) is in a document book of rebuttal evidence entered late in the trial. It was prepared and labeled as a US document book, but some of the documents that became exhibits were recorded as UK or Soviet exhibits. Our database assumes that a document comes from one and only one source, so in these cases the documents were identified as being US documents, with the UK or Soviet exhibit numbers being recorded in the Notes field rather than the exhibit number field.

Party and state: The judges had considerable reluctance to consider the German government (the cabinet) as being a criminal organization, in contrast to the Nazi party. However, Hitler himself clarified the role of the government in relation to the party, when he told a party meeting in 1935: “It is not the State which gives orders to us; it is we who give orders to the State.”

The SS soldier: One German reported what he heard about a young Waffen SS man in 1943-44: “he could no longer sleep because he had had to take part in such horrible crimes in the East. He hoped he would be killed so that he would not have to carry these memories around with him.” (The soldier died in the war.)

The typist’s message: The 1945 sessions ended on December 20, 1945, and the mimeograph transcript (but not the published Blue Set transcript), marked the occasion: “MERRY CHRISTMAS.”

The HLS 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 posted five trials so far (NMT 1 through NMT 4 and NMT 7) and have completed digitization of all the documents and transcripts. 

We are now engaged in the process of analyzing, describing and making machine readable the remaining trials’ materials in preparation for posting them to the Web. We hope to complete this work as soon as possible based upon available funding.  For more information about this project, please contact Jocelyn Kennedy.

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