History •

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.

Scanning Nuremberg: comparing judicial systems, Grimm lexicography, and more

Post by Matt Seccombe, originally written July 6, 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

The June agenda was the defense case of Petersen and the majority of the case for Rothaug (one of the bulky sets); this covered 13 files, 309 documents, and 997 pages analyzed. These defendants were opposites in their roles, as Petersen was a minor figure as a lay-judge while Oswald Rothaug was notorious as a “blood judge” presiding at the Special Court at Nuremberg, with a reputation as a politically-connected Nazi. Even other defendants claimed that “I stayed away from Rothaug, and never joined him at the Blaue Traube,” the hotel restaurant where he was rumored to manage court politics. The Blue Grapes thus became a notable subject in the trial.

Defense by analogy: Petersen made the shared “general defense” that his work was part of a legitimate judicial system that differed from the Anglo-American model (regarded as “softer”) but was traditional in Europe, a more authoritarian and severe tradition in criminal justice. Petersen’s variation was to note that the Nazi courts were a close match to the Soviet judicial system. The point was presumably that if the Soviets could do it and be treated as allies by the US, it couldn’t be criminal for the Nazis to do the same. That’s logical, but it’s odd that the attorney would have thought the Soviets made a favorable example for American judges. Among the historical documents on this, one is factually quite interesting: when Himmler was getting his SS empire going in the mid-1930s, he wanted some senior officers to get advanced training in dealing with political suspects and detention camps, so he sent them to the experts, in the USSR.

Phrase of the month: As part of the general argument that the judges knew nothing of what went on inside the concentration camps, Petersen introduced vivid testimony from the IMT about how rumors of extermination operations were forcefully denied while the camps ran in “an iron ring of silence.”

Evidence of the month: Responding to evidence that Petersen had known about some form of extermination, Petersen presented counter-evidence about the meaning of the words used, including definitions provided by the Brothers Grimm, who had been lexicographers among other pursuits.

The prosecution over-makes its case: After presenting evidence that Rothaug’s court had dispensed death sentences indiscriminately, adding a list all the death sentences carried out, Rothaug responded with detailed evidence about several of the listed cases, showing that they had been handled scrupulously. Our copy of that document book has a prosecutor’s handwritten note: “Object to entire book” on grounds of irrelevance since those cases hadn’t been cited by the prosecution as improper. The tribunal overruled, since the prosecution had at least implied that Rothaug had operated indiscriminately; the defense material was accepted.

Name of the month: One of Rothaug’s documents is signed by “Dr. Orgg.” We have some surprising names in our authors’ list, including Tom Paine and Plato, and some very strange spellings, but I have a hard time with “Orgg.” I expect it’s a typo, but all we have to go on is the name as stated on the typescript, so Dr. Orgg goes in as an author.

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.

Scanning Nuremberg: Blue grapes again and smoking gun #2

Post by Matt Seccombe, originally written June 1, 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

The agenda for May was analyzing the defense material for Mettgenberg, Nebelung, and Oeschey; this covered 23 files, 259 documents, and approximately 1200 pages. Compared to recent months, the document count went down but the page count went up, as a number of long documents from Oeschey’s court cases gave us economies of scale. Mettgenberg and Nebelung made the now-familiar bureaucratic argument that they simply did office work; Oeschey was a Special Court judge, with more to answer for, and he made a voluminous and more interesting case.

The prosecutor’s use of a defendant’s evidence: By a lucky coincidence, one of Oeschey’s document books had been the in-trial copy read and used by one of the prosecutors (named Wooleyhan), and it has Wooleyhan’s marks and notes about points on which he cross-examined Oeschey and information concerning other defendants. This is the closest we’ve come to being able to see the documents at work in the trial.

The Blue Grapes on the table again: As noted previously, some evidence touches on Judge Rothaug’s reserved table at the Blaue Traube restaurant, where he gathered his circle of friends (or co-conspirators, depending on one’s viewpoint). Oeschey takes pains to say that he kept his distance from that table. (I expect Rothaug will go to great lengths to show that these meals were purely social and nutritional, not political and criminal.)

Smoking gun number 2, or, the other shoe drops: Smoking gun #1 was the document from 1939 in which Hitler announced that he had the authority to reverse any judicial decision that he didn’t like. Gun #2 comes in the summer of 1942 as Minister of Justice Thierack started to implement Hitler’s demand for a systematically Nazi judicial system. In August Oeschey wrote to his brother: “it is an absurdity to tell the judge in an individual case which is subject to his decision how he has to decide. Such a system would make the judge superfluous; such things have now come to pass. Naturally it was not done in an open manner; but even the most camouflaged form could not hide the fact that a directive was to be given. Thereby the office of judge is naturally abolished and the proceedings in a trial become a farce.”

Unfortunately for us, Oeschey continues, “I will not discuss who bears the guilt of such a development.” One suspect was Thierack’s use of “Judges’ Letters” to instruct all senior judges about the “reform” of the system that he was pursuing. Another was the practice of prosecutors conferring with the judge before a major case to discuss the issues and the predicted punishment. Not surprisingly, Oeschey’s letter got a lot of attention from prosecutor Wooleyhan.

Peculiar word of the month: “represculation.” That invites some imaginative speculation, but the rest of the document suggests it was the result of some verbal confusion compounded by a typo.

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.

German Passports and Identification Documents: A History

In browsing the library’s German stacks recently (“KK” call numbers – 3rd floor of the Lewis/ILS building) I discovered a very cool book: an illustrated history of German passports and identification documents from the middle ages to the present.

Der Passexpedient: Geschichte der Reisepässe und Ausweisdokumente – vom Mittelalter bis zum Personalausweis im Scheckkartenformat
Andreas Reisen
Nomos Verlag, 2012

Andreas Reisen (whose last name, interestingly, is the infinitive form of the German verb “to travel”) must have had a lot of fun researching this book and exploring historical and modern examples of German passports and travel/identification documents.  Some have been scanned and included as illustrations, making the book appealing even to those who don’t read German.

When I mentioned this book to one of my colleagues, she asked, “They had passports in the middle ages?”  Well, in a manner of speaking, yes.  They weren’t little books filled with border guard stamps, however.  Instead, for example, they might have looked like this:

According to the caption, this is an “accompanying letter from Kaiser Carl V for Martin Luther for travelling to Worms” from 1521.  This letter was issued during a crucial period in the course of Luther’s life, as he had recently been excommunicated from the Catholic Church and was called to appear before the Diet of Worms to answer for his criticism of the church.  Ultimately, this journey, as a result of which he was a labeled a “convicted heretic,” was a significant stepping stone toward Luther forming the Lutheran Church.

By the 1800s, statutory requirements for passports in the area we now know as Germany were coming into force.  One example of this is the 1813 Allgemeines Paßregelement of the Royal State of Prussia. According to this law, foreign nationals, “regardless of profession, age, gender and religious belief, regardless if [they] arrive by water or land, or through an official post, or otherwise by wagon, horseback, or on foot, whether [they] would like to remain in our territories or simply pass through them,” must provide personal documentation that states one of several acceptable reasons for admission into Prussia.

(By the way, the publication in which this law originally appeared, Gesetz-Sammlung für die königlichen Preußischen Staaten, is available in print through the Harvard Depository.  Harvard’s print copy has also been digitized and is available through the HathiTrust database.  Click here to see page 47 of the 1813 volume, where this law was originally published.)

Examples of passports from the various governing entities in Germany in the mid-1800s follow a common format, with the person’s biographical information listed in the left-hand column, and the description of the reason the person is travelling on the right.

60 61

Photos, however, did not start appearing in passports until the early 1900s.

96

The second half of the book describes and shows the evolution of personal identification and travel documentation in Germany throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.  It concludes by discussing the new personal ID card format that was introduced in 2010.

This is a fascinating historical survey of German passports and identification documents, thoroughly researched and well-illustrated with beautiful scanned images.  It’s well-worth a look, even if you don’t read much German.

Scanning Nuremberg: A smoking gun and the electrical wolf solved

Post by Matt Seccombe, originally written May 4, 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

The task for April was to analyze the defense documents of Ernst Lautz, who had a lot to answer for as the chief prosecutor of the notorious People’s Court. He answered at great length. In April I worked through 17 files, 287 documents, and approximately 900 pages. The document count set a monthly record but the page count was below average as Lautz’s attorney submitted many 1 or 2 page exhibits and the economies of scale went into reverse.

Routine under the shadows: Lautz’s primary argument was that he did ordinary business in a legitimate court. The People’s Court was not a Nazi invention; it was established in the 1920s to deal with a wave of political violence, and it followed ordinary though speeded-up procedures. High-profile political cases were managed by the Minister of Justice (the also-notorious and deceased Thierack) and decided by the judges, leaving Lautz (he argues) as the mere functionary in the middle. Much of his evidence seems calculated to show how boring his work was.

Even the boring documents carry a message when patterns emerge, and one was in the routine lead-in language for minor changes in law and procedure: All the changes were noted as the product of negotiations between Justice, the Reich Chancellery, and the Party Chancellery—which meant that everything went through Martin Bormann, Hitler’s deputy, who also had a veto over every appointment and promotion. The whole ministry operated under Party supervision.

A smoking gun: Amidst all the bland routine in Lautz’s material, one striking legal change sticks out, years before Hitler’s 1942 announcement of a future complete Nazification of German law. In 1939 Hitler announced that he had the legal authority to make an “extraordinary objection” to any judicial decision he disagreed with, thus overturning it. In case anyone missed the point, Judge Freisler published a memo explaining that German law no longer depended on traditional sources; it now depended on Nazi policy and Hitler’s wishes. In short, the rule of law was over.

Searching for what isn’t there: Given the necessity of finding where trial documents appeared in the trial, I continued to try to “map” the 11,000 page transcript, first for the cases of all the defendants (when they took the witness stand and made their case) and then for all their document books. Only the transcript can tell us whether a document was offered as an exhibit, whether it was accepted or not, what the exhibit number is (if accepted), and what errors might have been corrected when the document was introduced and discussed. Two defendants (Nebelung and Petersen) proved to be quite elusive. Finally I stumbled on a single sentence where the judges said they understood that the two were not going to testify at all—so I could stop looking. Fortunately I’ve found where their attorneys submitted their documents as evidence. However, most of defendant Mettgenberg’s document books haven’t been located in the transcript yet. After searching through the expected locations, it’s a matter of flipping through several subsequent transcript volumes, looking for the unaccounted-for evidence.

The wolf tracked down? Having noticed the puzzling phrase “electrical wolf” previously, I mentioned it recently to a German colleague, who said “That’s what we call a paper shredder.” It’s a plausible explanation for the phrase, which appears at the end of a secret legal draft.

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.

Scanning Nuremberg: The Blood-judge, false false rumors, and documentary dilemmas

Post by Matt Seccombe, originally written April 3, 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

During March I finished the Cuhorst files and covered 2 more defendants, Joel and Klemm, so 6 of the 14 have been completed. The work covered 33 files, 286 documents and ca. 1160 pages. For those calculating the numbers, in the defense files the number of documents has gone up while the number of pages has not, as many of them are very short, often 1 or 2 pages.

The bureaucratic defense: After Cuhorst’s colorful (and successful) defense of himself as a blood-judge who convicted often and enthusiastically but without discrimination or persecution, Joel and Klemm reverted to the familiar argument that they simply tended to their own offices and avoided the darker activities they didn’t want to learn about.

Night, fog, and shadows: The judges and prosecutors present a lot of evidence about looming forces beyond their control that kept them isolated. The Gestapo and the Interior Ministry under Himmler dominated the coercive forces, including the power to simply take anyone who couldn’t legally be charged or who was charged and acquitted. Joel and Klemm also show that the Justice Ministry under Minister Thierack (a Nazi true believer who committed suicide before he could be tried) answered to the Party Chancellery under Martin Bormann, who acted as Hitler’s agent on policy and appointments. In contrast to Roland Freisler, a People’s Court judge known in the ministry as “Raving Roland” (who was killed by a well-aimed Allied bomb), the defendants apparently kept a very low profile (according to them, of course) and avoided asking questions.

Going to the right source: One affidavit explains that in 1942-43 Klemm and a colleague handled the case of a man charged with spreading defamatory false rumors, namely that Jews were being sent to the east and gassed to death. As part of standard procedure they tried to establish that the rumor was indeed false, so they asked the Gestapo, which assured them it was completely false. If they still wondered, they probably knew it not safe to ask more questions.

The prosecution helps the defense: The evidence provided at the IMT and NMT trials was undeniable proof of crimes committed, but it could be ambiguous or confusing about who was responsible. Joel presented an IMT prosecution document (presented by the US) showing that his own office had written a letter criticizing the SA and SS for the abuse of concentration camp prisoners. Klemm presented other IMT prosecution documents showing that the Gestapo had kept government ministries in the dark, and that Himmler was the one who authorized the lynching of captured Allied airmen.

Documentary difficulties: One cardinal rule in a trial is that an attorney can submit documents but only the judges can enter them as exhibits (or reject them). Klemm’s attorney was unclear on the concept, and he labelled every single evidence document as an exhibit, posing a problem for the judges (who sorted it out) and for me, since 80 or so documents are incorrectly identified. The “Notes” field got a good workout to explain the situation. And a cardinal rule for our project is that physical documents and analyzed documents match 1-to-1, but one of Joel’s documents was added at the end of the preceding one, not separately (1 physical for 2 analytical). We could resolve this by making a duplicate image for the page with the second document.

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.

852 RARE: A Controversial Execution in 1818 Edinburgh

In December 1818, Robert Johnston, age 24, was executed for robbing Mr. John Charles of some £600 in pounds and notes, plus a watch key and chain. This single crime, trial, and execution ignited a swarm of controversy – evidence of which can be found in our collections. We recently acquired a pamphlet, Letter to the Magistrates of Edinburgh … with Regard to the Execution of Robert Johnston, which joins several others in our collection that describe the trial and gruesome execution that followed.

Letter to magistrates

Letter to the magistrates of Edinburgh, 1819, HOLLIS 14401279

Opinion diverged about Johnston and the severity of his punishment. Some noted that Johnston, a 24-year-old carter, had repeatedly been in custody on various charges; in fact, he had only been out a few days before robbing Mr. Charles. Others noted that his parents were “honest and industrious,” and pointed out that Johnston had been thrown out of work due to economic distress in Scotland. These writers thought his only choice was to steal or starve.

All agreed that the punishment – execution by hanging – was severe. Other carters had recently committed crimes in Edinburgh; perhaps local magistrates wanted to make an example of Johnston. Citizens interceded on his behalf, to no avail.

On the day of the execution, a noose was slipped around Johnston’s neck, and he mounted a table, which was supposed to drop suddenly at Johnston’s signal. Unfortunately, the table did not drop completely, leaving him half standing and half suspended, struggling. As the crowd realized he was still alive, they urged the attending magistrate to halt the execution. Soon the crowd threw stones at the magistrate, overpowered the police, cut Johnston down, partially revived him and carried him off. The police eventually recaptured him, dragged him to the station, and continued their attempts to revive him before returning him to the gallows. During all this time Johnston appeared conscious but did not speak.

When the execution resumed and the table dropped once again, Johnston continued to struggle for about 20 minutes before finally expiring. The whole gruesome business lasted almost two hours.

Witnesses agreed on the sequence of events, and all were shocked at the inhumane and error-ridden execution. However, they vehemently disagreed about whether the magistrates exercised their duty to ensure a working scaffold and secure a competent executioner. Some blamed the magistrates; others blamed the crowd (which they called a mob) for cutting Johnston down and thereby prolonging his suffering.

Robert Johnston trial account

Authentic account of the trial … of Robert Johnston, 1819, HOLLIS 4390803

Letter to the citizens of Edinburgh

Letter to the citizens of Edinburgh; in which the cruel and malicious aspersions of an “eye-witness” are answered, 1819, HOLLIS 4388450

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For historians of crime and punishment, it is useful to consult materials like the pamphlets here, which offer multiple perspectives, reminding us that there is often more than one “truth.” These pamphlets also shine a light on issues that concerned the populace and the police nearly two hundred years ago. They show that controversy over the death penalty was, and remains, a recurrent theme in other legal systems as well as our own.

Scanning Nuremberg: Blue grapes solved, Himmler’s shadow, and ordinary life

Post by Matt Seccombe, originally written March 3, 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

The task for the month was to begin the analysis of the defendants’ trial documents, beginning with Altstoetter. I worked through 3.5 defense cases, including 3 small ones and half of one of the biggest (Cuhorst), covering 20 files, 242 documents, and 1076 pages.

Transcript work: Finding where each defendant presented his case is difficult, as they did not go in any apparent order. Flipping through the volumes is time-consuming, but most of the defendants have now been accounted for. Two surprises: I found one batch of pages bound far out of place (by 1500 pages), which is not good news. Also, I found a trial-within-the-trial, of a defense lawyer accused of misconduct (trying to get access to secret information).

Puzzle somewhat answered: Last month the puzzle was the meaning of the Blaue Traube, Judge Rothaug’s regular get-togethers with his cronies (who tended to be political and police leaders). The transcript covers this as part of Rothaug’s case. It was the name of the restaurant where they met. It’s still a question whether these meetings were purely social or more sinister.

General defense: One attorney presented the general defense theory, which was that German judges and prosecutors had no constitutional authority to overrule or ignore laws enacted by the government; there was no judicial review in German law, so they all essentially had to follow orders. Beyond that, the defendants generally argued in terms of compartmentalization and secrecy, that they went about their own (harmless) jobs and knew nothing about crimes in other ministries and departments. Hitler himself bolstered this argument, with an early sweeping order requiring secrecy in all government operations, and a major speech in 1942 attacking the judicial establishment for being bound to European traditions and not getting with the Nazi program (the defendants were nearly all part of that old guard).

Himmler’s shadow: A running theme is the growing power of the Interior Ministry (the police) and the SS under Himmler; no one could say no. Altstoetter was particularly vulnerable since he grew up where Himmler attended school, and Himmler, always the empire builder, was eager to recruit him as part of the SS elite. Altstoetter’s solution was to accept only an honorary membership, thus evading active participation.

Ordinary life in extraordinary times: The defendants (notably Cuhorst, with his reputation as a blutrichter (blood judge)) had a vested interest in showing they engaged in ordinary judicial tasks, but the argument also reflects an historical truth: Even in tyrannical regimes at war, most people did spend most of their time going about their ordinary business, and case records are a trove of evidence of that social life. Cuhorst’s cases have some curious examples. 1. The extremely unhappy marriage that ended with a bitter argument and a fatal stabbing. The husband was convicted of manslaughter (not murder, for a crime of passion), and in addition to a prison term, the verdict required him to turn over the knife he used. 2. One woman compiled a long record of seductions and scams across Germany, but pushed her luck too long, since fraud during wartime was a capital offense against the war economy. 3. More darkly, a rural Catholic parish evolved into a cult involving secret rituals, mysticism, religious visions, and incest.

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.

Scanning Nuremberg: Nightmare elements and mysterious blue grapes

Post by Matt Seccombe, originally written February 12, 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

Like the mail, project news is subject to storm delays. My task for January was to finish analysis of the Case 3 prosecution material, and I did that, working through 11 files, 144 documents, and 1112 pages. The material covered a wide range of subjects.

The Night and Fog program had the most material. In this operation, western European Resistance members were “disappeared” into Germany, prosecuted there, and imprisoned, with no word given to the person’s family. Ironically, in the rare case of an acquittal, the person was seized by the SS and shot or sent to a camp, so it was better to be convicted. The point was to leave potential Resistance members and their communities paralyzed with uncertainty, and one German general described it as “his most effective punishment, exceeding the death sentences in deterrent effect.”

The euthanasia program made a third appearance in our trials (so far). Euthanasia of sick and disabled Germans provoked fierce public opposition, and in a rare instance Hitler decided to drop it. In the aftermath one judicial official emphasized to a chancellery colleague that it hadn’t really been a judicial program, which was as close to gloating as was safe to venture.

Every case has a nightmare element in it somewhere, and in Case 3 it is forced sterilization. The prosecution made a request for evidence from survivors, and one document combines the letters and documents sent in by some 25 victims. While 25 deaths would be over and done with, 25 sterilizations left the victims living with wounded bodies, broken dreams, and broken hearts expressed in painful detail. The one benefit was that they were able to express their anger and push their demand for justice (or simple revenge).

Names: one example illustrates a recurring problem. One document includes a message from an officer who was to award medals for military service. It was signed “Rommel,” without further identification. (At least it wasn’t “Schmidt.”) I entered the author as Erwin Rommel, field marshal, but in the document analysis I noted that we only have the surname and the full identification is not guaranteed.

The judges and prosecutors often found themselves working with and then under the Interior Ministry (the police) and the SS, both run by Himmler, with varying degrees of enthusiasm or dread. High officials were routinely “invited” to join the SS, either actively or nominally, and this connection was a major issue in the case. One recurring peculiarity is that the SS records for the defendants kept track of whether, inter alia, the official had a set of SS candles and candlesticks for Christmas. This is ironic in that the SS was anti-Christian as a matter of ideology, but it illustrates how good they were at coopting traditional culture.

Puzzle: One judge’s daughter described her father’s circle of political/security officer cronies as the “Blaue Traube,” meaning literally the blue bunch of grapes, or figuratively the blue group. I haven’t found evidence of whether this was an offhand description or a real group in the secretive world of the Nazis.

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.

852 RARE: Art’s History

When we talk about the art and visual materials collection at the Harvard Law School considerable credit goes to Dean Roscoe Pound (dean 1916-1936) and librarians John Himes Arnold (librarian 1872-1913) and Eldon Revare James (librarian 1923-1943) for their work building the collection. However, the story of the collection dates back long before their time. In addition to the objects themselves, we are lucky enough to have supporting documents that provide important historical details about their acquisitions and early use.

A recent discovery that provides wonderful insight into early collecting efforts is a letter from Simon Greenleaf and Joseph Story to Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw (1781-1861) dated June 2, 1840. They write:

We are desirous of embellishing the Law Department of this Institution with likenesses of the distinguished Jurists of our country, of which we have commenced a collection: & having seen a striking likeness of yourself by Clevinger, we respectfully request you to place a copy of it at our disposal for that purpose.

For some context, the Law School, founded in 1817, had been housed in Dane Hall since the building was erected in 1832. In 1840 Greenleaf and Story, the Royall and Dane professors of law, were the school’s only instructors.

A similarly worded letter dated May 29, 1840, to an unknown recipient, can be found in the Greenleaf Papers. On the back of the page is written “Circular for busts”–perhaps this was a draft in preparation for letters like the one sent to Shaw.

Dane Hall Classroom_HLSL_olvwork364037

Classroom in Dane Hall, Harvard Law School, c.1880 Record ID olvwork364037

Not all documentation comes in manuscript form. For example, we can verify where portraits were hung thanks to the above photograph of a classroom in Dane Hall, c.1880, showing one of the Law School’s  John Marshall portraits, as well as portraits of Daniel Webster and Nathan Dane.

The full-length portrait of John Marshall (1755-1835) visible in the above mentioned picture (to the right of the desk) was painted by Chester Harding (1792-1866). Given to the school in 1847 by a group of faculty and students, the portrait is a replica of Harding’s full-length portrait commissioned by the Trustees of the Boston Athenaeum in 1830. Along with the portrait we also have a subscription list dated September 2, 1846, that includes the donors’ names and their pledged amounts. Our records indicate this subscription list was drawn up and circulated by Professor Greenleaf.

Detail of Subscription list of contributors to the purchase of
Chester Harding’s full length portrait of John Marshall, September 2, 1846
HOLLIS 9680277

This is just a small sampling of some of the supporting documents we are aware of. We look forward to future discoveries that will help tell the story of this wonderful collection.