Historical & Special Collections • Et. Seq: The Harvard Law School Library Blog

852 RARE: An Update on the Antonin Scalia Collection

Two years ago, the Harvard Law School Library received an extraordinary archival collection when the family of Justice Antonin Scalia decided to donate his papers here. As project archivist for the Scalia papers, I’ve been surveying and processing this remarkable collection, with the goal of identifying, processing, and making accessible those parts of the collection that will be open in 2020. To date, material that should be open next year includes:

  • Pre-Supreme Court files (1970-1986)
  • Correspondence (through 1989 only)
  • Speaking engagement and event files (through 1989 only)
  • Photographs (circa 1982-2016)
  • Miscellaneous files such as subject files and articles about Scalia (1986-2016)

I am currently working to process the more heavily restricted parts of the collection, which include records from Scalia’s time on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (1982-1986) and the Supreme Court (1986-2016). Pending further review, a tentative estimate is that roughly half of the case files from Scalia’s four terms on the Court of Appeals may be opened at some point in 2020.

Scalia papers arriving at Harvard’s offsite storage, November 2017
Scalia papers arriving at Harvard’s offsite storage, November 2017

We will continue to post updates here as the project continues and welcome all inquiries. As is true for all archival collections at the Harvard Law School Library, the portion of the Scalia papers opening next year will be open to all. Historical & Special Collections’ Planning Your Visit page provides details on how to schedule an appointment and request material.

852 RARE: Serving Up a Sampling of Plates

Inspired by the array of objects in this drawer, I wanted to highlight some of the plates we have in Historical & Special Collections for this installment of 852 RARE. They come in a variety of materials and sizes and are from a number of different collections. Each has an interesting story to tell. I hope you enjoy this small sampling of plates!

Some of the plates in Historical & Special Collections, Harvard Law School Library

Campus Plates

Langdell Hall commemorative plate (blue), 1927
Wedgwood, Etruria England
22 cm Queensware plate
Accession no. 2017.19

This is one of two Wedgwood plates in the collection depicting Langdell Hall, the other copy is red and was issued in 1932. The 1927 set was the first set of college plates that Wedgwood issued. The set included 12 views of Harvard University with a fruit and flower border that according to one collector was based on a design used on Harvard dining hall china c.1840.

Dane Hall commemorative plate (red), 1952
Wedgwood of Etruria & Barlaston, England
26.5 cm Queensware plate
Accession no. 2005.02.1

This is one of two Wedgwood plates in the collection depicting Dane Hall ca.1852; the other copy is in blue. According to the stamp on the back, this is a limited edition plate made in England exclusively for the Harvard Cooperative Society. Wedgwood issued this as part of set of 12 dinner plates that featured images of Harvard in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. See our copy of the lithograph this image is based on olvwork364043

Walter Hastings Hall plate, Accession no. 2017.70

Walter Hastings Hall Commemorative plate, early 20th century?
Made in Germany
12 cm ceramic plate
Accession no. 2017.70

This small white decorative plate with gold edges and a color image of Walter Hastings Hall in the center was a gift of Anne Elizabeth Bishop “in Loving Memory of My Father, Dr. Orvel Calhoun Crowder, S.T.B. 1957 Harvard Divinity School and my Great Grandfather Dr. Hall Laurie Calhoun, M.A. 1903, Ph.D. 1904, Harvard.” Hastings Hall was completed in 1889 as a Harvard University dormitory. Law students have been living there since at least 1924—it is the oldest residence hall at the Harvard Law School and currently houses 97 students.

Student Plates

Melamine plate, black background, head and shoulder view of John G. Roberts.

Learned Handmade Plates, 2008
José Klein ’08
10-inch melamine plates
Accession no. 2008.01.1-31

Klein designed 31 melamine plates depicting Supreme Court justices, as well famous law school cases in order to fulfill his Harvard Law School written work requirement. For a period of time, Klein sold copies of the set to collectors via his personal website, which is how Historical & Special Collections came to acquire its set.

“As a collection, the Learned Handmade Plates represent an album of the American Law School Experience. The plates are snapshots from the core of law as it is taught. Most law students have been expected to memorize most of the cases depicted here. They have been evaluated on the basis of how well they can reproduce the information these cases contain. . . . The Supremes on the other hand, remain. They have established permanent settlements in the imagination of the American Law Student. They are fetish objects, things to be held in adulation and contempt, to be stared into but never penetrated. In this sense, the Supremes are oracles. . . . The plates ask the eater/viewer to engage with the law as it is made by judges. They turn the act of eating into an act of civic engagement.”


The Record, April 24, 2008, Volume 126, no. 12

“The plates ask the eater/viewer to engage with the law as it is made by judges. They turn the act of eating into an act of civic engagement.”


José Klein, The Record

Faculty Plates

Black-patterned Chinese plate, 1948
13.75 in. bronze enameled plate
Roscoe Pound Visual Materials Collection
Engraving: “Roscoe Pound / Given By The / Chinese National Government / 1948.”

Underside of bronze enameled plate. center of the bottom has an engraved message in Chinese and in English: “Roscoe Pound / Given By The / Chinese National Government / 1948.”
Underside of the bronze plate given to Roscoe Pound

Among our collection of Roscoe Pound visual materials is a bronze enameled plate given to him by the Chinese National Government in 1948. Pound served as dean of the Harvard Law School for twenty years (1916-1936) and in the 1940s served as an advisor to the Ministry of Justice in Nanking, China. The visual materials collection also includes photographs of Pound in China, including this photograph of Pound posing with members of the Hebei Court, Beiping, China.

Judge Baker Guidance Center plate, 1971?
Lunt Sterling
28 cm sterling silver plate
Eleanor T. (Eleanor Touroff) and Sheldon Glueck Visual Materials, Accession no. 1970.01.4
Engraving: “Eleanor Glueck / IN APPRECIATION OF / 40 YRS SERVICE / TO / THE JUDGE BAKER GUIDANCE CENTER”

Eleanor Glueck (1898-1972) and her husband, Sheldon spent their careers studying and writing about issues related to juvenile delinquency. In 1934 they published One Thousand Juvenile Delinquents: Their Treatment by Court and Clinic, a study of delinquents referred by the Boston juvenile court to the Judge Baker Guidance Center (JBGC). The JBGC (formerly known as the Judge Baker Foundation) was founded in 1917 “as a charitable and educational institution for the guidance of emotionally disturbed children.” Its work included community education, research, and training, eventually becoming the home of an organized program of training and research in child development. Eleanor served as trustee at the JBGC from 1932 until her death in 1972.

Golden Plate Award, 1967
American Academy of Achievement
Framed ceramic plate and metal plaque
Diplomas, honorary degrees, citations and awards of persons affiliated with Harvard Law School. 1834-, HOLLIS 990094615880203941

View of golden plate mounted on red velvet background with metal plate mounted on red velvet background in gold frame.
Paul Freund’s Golden Plate award

We have a number of commemorative plates given to Professor Paul Freund (1908-1992) over the years. The Golden Plate Award has been presented since 1961 by the American Academy of Achievement, a nonprofit foundation, founded by Brian Blaine Reynolds to “bring aspiring young people together with real-life heroes. . .” In 1967, Freund was honored in connection with his constitutional law scholarship. Printed on the plate: “American / Academy of Achievement / Prof. Paul A. Freund.”  Learned Hand, another Harvard Law School alumnus, was also a recipient in the 1960s.

852 RARE: When the French Revolution was a Current Event

A recent Harvard Law School Library project—undertaken in preparation for the renovation and re-purposing of the Lewis building—resulted in a spreadsheet of hundreds of older titles for me to sift through, verify, and (often) catalog.  While the list is daunting it has led to a trove of fascinating books and pamphlets all of them are intriguing to anyone who appreciates primary materials.

I’ve particularly enjoyed working with copies of the French constitution in its various iterations, published in 1791, 1793, and 1795. Some are elegantly bound; others are still in their original paper wrappers.

A particularly lovely specimen of the former is this 1791 constitution, not even 10 cm (4 inches) tall, bound in green in morocco with marbled pastedowns, gold-tooled spines, and gilt edges. The frontispiece showing the King Louis XVI accepting the constitution, which established a constitutional monarchy.  Folded in towards the end of this pocket-size volume is a map of France.

An edition of the same constitution, printed in the provincial city of Le Puy in south central France, is in its original cheap (and wonderfully tactile) paper wrapper with the bookseller’s simple title and date (14 septiembre 1791) in manuscript and pages untrimmed.

Naturally events in France and its constitutions were of great interest beyond France, and a number of titles in the collection–such as these two–reflect that:

Detail of title page of London edition of the constitution published in Year I of the French republication calendar (1793).

 

Landau edition of the Year III constitution (1795), with manuscript note on title page: “5 Fructidor III” (i.e. 24. August 1795). Text is in French and German on facing pages.

 

 

Listening to the Law – the Neil Chayet collection of audio and transcripts from “Looking at the Law”

“This is Neil Chayet Looking at the Law.”

That was how Neil Chayet (HLS 63’) began each of the more than 10,000 recordings he made for his radio program “Looking at the Law,” which he recorded almost daily from 1976 to 2017. The Harvard Law School Library is pleased to announce that nearly all of these episodes are now available online and open for use.

The Neil Chayet collection of audio and transcripts from “Looking at the Law” allows users to listen to the shows, as well as read the transcripts.  In one or two minute segments Chayet would summarize court cases from around the country. He tended to be more interested in obscure or quirky cases rather than those more widely known.  It was likely his ability to make any case accessible to a general listener combined with a good sense of humor that resulted in the shows enduring popularity.

Examples of the show include:

Want to learn more about Cohen v. Minneapolis Star, et al?  Take a look at HLS alumnus Elliot C. Rothenberg’s case files from Cohen v. Cowles Media Company collection.  Rothenberg represented Cohen from February 1986 until it was heard by the Supreme Court in March 1991.

Digitization of the original cassettes is ongoing.  Audio for shows broadcast between 1976 and 1995 are available now, as are digitized transcripts from 1975 to 1989.  The entire collection should be available by early summer 2019.

Please direct any question to Historical & Special Collections.

NEW EXHIBIT! Creating Community: Harvard Law School and the Bauhaus

2019 marks the centennial of the Bauhaus, and Harvard is celebrating! The Bauhaus, considered the twentieth century’s most influential school of art and design, has deep connections to Harvard, including the Harvard Law School. Did you know that Harvard’s first example of modern architecture is on the HLS campus and was designed by Walter Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus? Or that Gropius commissioned Bauhaus pioneers to create site-specific artwork for the buildings? Come explore HLS’s connection to the Bauhaus and its role in shaping campus life.

 

Harvard Graduate Schools Alumni Day Luncheon on Jarvis Field, with Graduate Center and World Tree Sculpture in Background. Walter R. Fleischer, Harvard University News Office, June 1951, Photographs of Alumni Groups, Harvard Law School Library, Historical & Special Collections

Harvard Graduate Schools Alumni Day Luncheon on Jarvis Field, with Graduate Center and World Tree Sculpture in background. Walter R. Fleischer, Harvard University News Office, June 1951, Photographs of Alumni Groups, Harvard Law School Library, Historical & Special Collections

 

This exhibit was curated by Karen Beck and Lesley Schoenfeld, Historical & Special Collections. It is on view daily 9 to 5 from February 4 – July 31, 2019 in the HLS Library’s Caspersen Room, Langdell Hall. A sampling of the exhibit is available online.

Be sure to visit all of Harvard’s Bauhaus-related exhibits, tours, and events happening in 2019!   #bauhausatHLS; #bauhaus100

 

Harvard Law School Students at an Orientation Party on Jarvis Field with Caspersen Center in background, 26 August 2016, Martha Stewart, photographer, HLS Communications

Harvard Law School Students at an Orientation Party on Jarvis Field with Caspersen Student Center in background, 26 August 2016, Martha Stewart, photographer, HLS Communications

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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.

Last Chance: Exhibit on HLS Student Orgs Closing Soon!

If you have not yet seen our exhibit on HLS student organizations, Spicy Reforms and Crystallizing Clap Trap, now is the time. Due to a January filming project in the Caspersen Room, the exhibit must close on Friday, December 21. A sneak peek is available here, but there’s so much more to see in person. Take a quick study break and visit the Caspersen Room, fourth floor of Langdell Hall, daily between 9 and 5 to see it all!

In Ruhleben Camp: Armistice Day at Ruhleben

In Ruhleben Camp follows the production schedule of the magazine created by prisoners at Ruhleben, an internment camp for British civilians in Germany during WWI. This special post by Marissa Grunes marks the centenary of Armistice Day (November 11, 1918).

The Ruhleben Camp Magazine was largely quiet in the second half of the First World War—as this blog series has been! In honor of Armistice Day yesterday and Veteran’s Day today, though, I wanted to offer a special post about the unusual end to the Great War for those passive participants, the British civilian internees at Ruhleben Camp outside Berlin.

In some ways the drama of Armistice Day was muted within Ruhleben Camp. Many internees had already been released, and those who remained were still busily engaged in camp cultural activities, with the last of the camp’s 128 theater productions opening after Armistice Day, as Davidson Ketchum notes (Ketchum, p. 240). The robust civic organization within the camp had also rendered the last year of the war comparatively gentle to Ruhlebenites. Thanks to the work of the Quaker peace activist Elisabeth Rotten and the Friends Emergency Committee, Ruhleben had access to a steady stream of books and scientific instruments as well as support funds, as the historian Matthew Stibbe relates (Stibbe, p. 144-6), and although the Ruhleben Camp Magazine seems to have closed its editorial offices in the summer of 1917, the Ruhleben Camp School (jocularly called Ruhleben University) remained in full swing (Ketchum, p. 198; In Ruhleben, p. 226). Meanwhile, “standardised” parcel delivery service, various clubs, and the civic administration were also still active (Ketchum, pp. 8).

Ruhleben Theatre, Diplomacy, June 1918. Maurice Ettinghausen collection of Ruhleben civilian internment camp visual materials. Harvard Law School Library. Image ID W422714_1

Ruhleben School of Fencing, March 1918. Maurice Ettinghausen collection of Ruhleben civilian internment camp visual materials. Harvard Law School Library. Image ID W423485_1

This bureaucratic organization was in some cases life-saving. When the Spanish flu struck Germany, leaving 187,000 German civilians and thousands of POWs dead, Ruhleben’s civilian camp authorities leaped into action, imposing quarantines and closing off parts of the camp, including the theatre and cinema. As a result, Ruhleben lost only two men (Stibbe, p. 151).

 

 

 

Ruhleben was also one of the few places in the region with sufficient food: after living behind the Allied blockade for nearly four years, Germans were dying of starvation, yet food parcels continued to arrive at Ruhleben (Stibbe, p. 70). The difference was so stark that in October 1918, the Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung carried a feature-length article claiming that a German businessman, one Herr Wittkowski, had asked the Ruhleben commandant to take his sons into the camp to be fed and receive an education (Stibbe, p. 149). One internee later recalled how he and his messmates, fearing that hungry Berliners might raid the camp, went so far as to bury a cache of food in what “was ostensibly a window-box…with emergency rations of canned beef, tripe, etc., and a few flowers planted on top.” He concludes gratefully, “We never needed it” (quoted in Stibbe, p. 153).

The upshot was that Armistice Day mattered less for the internees at Ruhleben Camp than did the chaos sweeping Germany. In early November 1918, German sailors in Kiel resisted orders to take to the seas for a final hopeless battle against the British. As the German imperial government crumbled, revolutionary sentiment spread, reaching Ruhleben on November 8, 1918, when the German guards followed the lead of their countrymen across Europe and deposed their officers. The guards then joined the prisoners in signing a “declaration of brotherhood” between the German and English people, and “hoisted the red flag before setting the prisoners free” (Stibbe, p. 16). The next day, the German republic was proclaimed by the socialist parliamentarian Philipp Scheidemann from the balcony of the Reichstag in Berlin: “That which is old and rotten, the monarchy has collapsed. Long live that which is new, long live the German republic!” Only a few hours later, a revolutionary admirer of Soviet Russia, Karl Liebknecht, walked up the stairs of the nearby imperial palace to instead proclaim a “free socialist German republic.”

This tension between the moderate and radical socialist revolutionaries cost Liebknecht his life weeks later and would persist throughout the years of Germany’s new Weimar Republic. Nevertheless, revolutionaries in 1918 hoped that socialism would inaugurate a new era in German history. Monarchism, it seemed, had torn the world apart, and socialism promised to heal it. Although this hope was short-lived, it glows from the declaration of peace and fraternity, signed by the inmates and guards at Ruhleben. I would like to conclude by reprinting the opening, as quoted by Matthew Stibbe:

“ENGLISHMEN! Brothers from over the Channel. It is tragic, deeply tragical, that a million dead on both sides were necessary in order to bring home to us that after all we are brothers, and members of the same race. Have Germans and British ever, until now, torn each other to pieces? From impressions gained in competent circles yesterday, it is our personal opinion that your release is only a matter of days. When you are at home again, let it be your task to make known that the German people, in spite of all its victories, still retained sufficient strength to take its destiny into its own hands and this time to keep it there. Let your aim be to make known that the German people, in this, its time of greatest need, which is also the proudest period of its history, instinctively casts its eyes across the water, looking for help.” (p. 155)*

* Jamie McSpadden kindly contributed his substantial expertise on modern German history to this post. Jamie is a Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow at the German Historical Institute in Washington, DC.

 

Bibliography & Further Reading

Ketchum, J. Davidson. Ruhleben: A Prison Camp Society. With a Foreword and Postscript by Robert B. MacLeod. Canada: University of Toronto Press, 1965. Foreword (Ithaca, NY, April 1964)

In Ruhleben: Letters from a Prisoner to His Mother. Edited and with an introduction by Douglas Sladen. Including “Civilian Prisoners: the Case for a Wholesale Exchange” by Sir Timothy Eden. London: Hurst and Blackett, Ltd. Paternoster House, E.C., 1917.

Stibbe, Matthew. British civilian internees in Germany. The Ruhleben camp, 1914-18. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2008.

 Marissa Grunes is a PhD candidate in English Literature at Harvard University, focusing on transatlantic literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her dissertation project explores frontier architecture in 19th century poetry, fiction, and non-fiction of the United States.

Scanning Nuremberg: IMT prosecution documents on persecution of the Jews, Germanization, and NSDAP Leadership Corps

Post by Matt Seccombe, November 3, 2018

During October I covered the IMT prosecution documents on the persecution of the Jews (a phrase that the prosecutors noted was far short of the reality), Germanization, and the first material on the Leadership Corps of the NSDAP [National Socialist German Workers Party], amounting to 157 documents and 663 pages of material. The prosecution detoured from counts 3 and 4 (war crimes and crimes against humanity) to the criminal organizations without any explanation, and will detour back to the plundering of artworks before moving on to the next organization (the Cabinet). For the IMT generally, we now have just over 1200 documents analyzed.

Documentary surpluses and deficits: When the Nuremberg trials staff sorted out the sets of documents for distribution, the folders on the Leadership Corps sent to HLS included a bonus: an extra copy of the trial indictment and an extra copy of the brief on the Corps. What HLS did not receive was a copy of the first document book on the Corps (the other document books are present). All things considered, I would have traded in the duplicates for that document book.

The extermination of the Jews: While official secrecy was maintained, within the regime the extermination of the Jews became explicit policy quickly, both as a military measure and as an end in itself. In Poland Hans Frank was concise: “We must annihilate the Jews.” By June 1943, one report noted that the “special treatment” of the Jews “requires no further discussion,” but some of the tactics were shocking to some people in the regime, such as the removal of dental gold from Jewish prisoners. Also, locking suspected partisan families inside barns and burning them alive “is not worthy of the German cause and hurts our reputation severely.” One paradoxical point in the report was that the atrocities were so extreme that if news of them got out, people “simply would not be ready to believe it.” Finally, in August 1944, Adolf Eichmann matter-of-factly summed up what the SS had done in a talk with a colleague, who recorded it in an affidavit: Four million Jews in the death camps, two million by the einsatzgruppen and similar actions; six million dead.

Germanization: This program had two sides, one to render the occupied territories useful to Germany and the second to gather in all Europeans of “Germanic blood” to the homeland. Frank stated the first task regarding Poland: “Poland shall be treated as a colony, the Poles shall be the slaves of the Greater German World Empire.” Himmler summed up the latter task in 1940: “to create an order of good blood.”

Hitler’s feast: The prize possession of the empire, of course, was to be the Soviet territory. In July 1941 Hitler assumed the military conquest would be swift, and he outlined for his generals a plan to dominate, administer, and exploit the resources, natural and human. What remained, he said, was “the task of cutting up the giant cake according to our needs.”

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.

Scanning Nuremberg: Ring of Silence

Post by Matt Seccombe, October 2, 2018

During September I worked through the final IMT prosecution documents covering count 2 (aggression), including the war against the US, and began the documents for counts 3 and 4 (war crimes and crimes against humanity, which were presented together), skipping forced labor (those documents are missing from our set), covering the concentration camp system, and the beginning of the persecution and extermination of the Jews (about which, more next month). The document analysis covered 88 documents and 601 pages of material. A lot of “overhead” time was required to track the documents in the transcript and get the relevant files identified and sorted out.

War against the US: Germany’s declaration of war on 11 December 1941 attributed the war to acts of aggression by the US navy, presumably in the course of the US effort to assist Britain. There was no mention of Japan or the events of December 7. Privately, however, Hitler expressed his approval to the Japanese a few days later: “one should strike—as hard as possible, indeed—and not waste time declaring war.” The Germans continued to press Japan to adopt a strategy that would help Germany: to attack the USSR from the east, which would indirectly lead to a British collapse and the isolation of the US. (The US and Britain engaged in similar strategic triangulation late in the war, urging the USSR to attack Japan, which it did at the end of the war.)

Evidence from the camps: The US prosecutor presented one particularly vivid exhibit from Buchenwald, as recorded in the transcript: “This exhibit, which is on the table, is a human head with the skull removed, shrunken, stuffed, and preserved. The Nazis had one of their many victims decapitated, after having had him hanged apparently for fraternizing with a German woman, and fashioned this terrible ornament from his head.”

The ring of silence: In the Justice Case (NMT 3) some defendants claimed that they had no knowledge of crimes committed in SS camps because the SS surrounded them with a “steel ring of silence.” This began at Dachau in 1933, where the commandant’s regulations provided that “agitators” would be hung. Agitators included anyone who “collects true or false information about the concentration camp . . ., receives such information, buries it, talks about it to others, smuggles it out of the camp . . . conceals it in clothing or other articles, throws stones and other objects over the camp wall containing such informations . . . [or] seeks contact with the outside by giving light or other signals . . . .” The punishment reflects the brutality of the regime, but the list of prohibited actions also suggests the determination and ingenuity of the inmates who tried to break through the secrecy.

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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