History • Et. Seq: The Harvard Law School Library Blog

Scanning Nuremberg: jokes and consequences, illness and honor, and more

Post by Matt Seccombe, November 30, 2017

The Scanning Nuremberg series 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 November, I worked through the papers of five defendants, amounting to 157 documents and 724 pages. For those tracking the numbers, the document and page numbers are lower than in previous months, for two reasons: several work days “lost” to holidays, and diseconomies of scale. Some of the defendants offered few documents but spent several days testifying on the stand, so that I had to spend a lot of time skimming through the transcript for information, particularly to find where documents were entered and where previously-entered documents (notably prosecution exhibits) were discussed by the defendants in direct examination and cross-examination by the prosecutors. Those second and third appearances of documents are noted in the database entries for those documents, sometimes with more information for the analysis. As the defendants follow one another, their arguments became highly repetitive, but additional light sometimes appears, as well as curious moments.

Joke and consequences: Hans Steinwede’s affidavit recounted that in 1943 he had travelled to get spare parts but left his ration card behind, so he was unable to get food. Hungry and frustrated, he exclaimed, “There goes the house-painter from Austria, starts a war and we have got no chow; while Goering is getting fatter and fatter.” Making fun of Hitler was not a smart move, and he was reported. He was sentenced to 21 days in jail on bread and water, and considered himself lucky since one of the defendants had protected him from a harsher penalty.

Illness or honor?: Defendant Biberstein described a military officer he had dealt with, commenting, “He wanted to earn his sore throat.” The tribunal obviously did not understand the phrase, so the attorney explained that for the officer, a sore throat meant the Iron Cross medal, which was worn around the neck.

Metaphors: The defense attorneys used various images to emphasize the role of the defendants and the situation they faced. Braune’s attorney characterized him, accurately if not imaginatively, as “no more than a small cog in a large machine.” In contrast, Ott’s attorney painted the big picture of the German-Soviet war in a remarkable sentence: “All conceptions of the occident concerning man and state, space and time, technology and war and might and right were exploded in this unfathomable land of released demons.” (This argument was backed up by more prosaic evidence: the Hitler/Keitel “terror order” of July 1941 stating that the security forces, e.g., the einsatzgruppen, in the occupied territories were not to operate by “legal sentences”; security could be achieved only if “the occupying power spreads a terror which alone is capable of depriving the population of every wish to resist.”)

The relevance rule: After the prosecution objected to much of Nosske’s defense case on the grounds that it was not relevant to the charges, his attorney appealed to the tribunal, and the presiding judge assured him that “We will allow you to discuss anything and everything with the exception of the social life of the penguins in the Antarctic zone.” The judges were tired of excessive detail and long explanations, however, so the attorney was asked to “rein in” his client so “that he does not gallop off into fields of unnecessary detail.” (The defense attorneys were not alone in their weakness for metaphors.)

More about the Nuremberg Trials Project:

Matt Seccombe’s work on the NMT 9 of the Nuremberg Trials Project has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

National Endowment for the Humanities logo

 

 

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: tactics and five of the NMT 9 defendants

Post by Matt Seccombe, November 3, 2017

The Scanning Nuremberg series 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 October I analyzed 197 documents (1045 pages) spanning five of the NMT Case 9 defendants (it helped that one defendant offered only one document before his case was severed due to illness).

Documentary infallibility? When the prosecutor cross-examined Sandberger about a promotion recorded in his SS personnel file, Sandberger claimed that the record was inaccurate in several respects. The prosecutor responded: “The memory of man might fail. Records, if they are not destroyed, stand.” Grand rhetoric, but those of us who do documentary history know that those records are often riddled with errors ranging from flawed information to omissions to simple typos, so they stand on shaky foundations.

The equivalency tactic: The defendants were charged with exterminating Communists and Jews, and in response two of them submitted wartime reports on Soviet “extermination units” and the capture of an “extermination battalion” composed of fanatic Communists and “very many Jews” whose task was to commit sabotage and kill German troops behind the lines. The implied argument was that the German-Soviet war was one of extermination and the einsatz operation was a sort of self-defense.

A vocabulary tactic: In an elaboration of the basic “superior orders” defense, Blume’s attorney attempted to dress up with argument with the doctrine of “unexpectability” (an echo of Cardozo’s term “foreseeability” to establish when liability applies in negligence cases). The claim was that the court could not hold someone responsible for committing a crime when it was “unexpectable” that he had a free choice of whether to do the deed or not, and it was “unexpectable” that a German could freely choose to disobey an order issued by Hitler. The point did not change the issue, and the polysyllables may have been counterproductive as a rhetorical flourish before notably skeptical judges.

The price of disobedience: One fact that worked against the defendants who used the superior orders argument, including the threat of execution for disobeying an order during the war (a threat that Himmler made explicit to his officers), was that none of them had been executed or even prosecuted for their attempts to avoid conducting mass executions. Defendant Rasch explained that the threat operated by a back channel. He had learned from the experience of other SS officers that if he had openly defied Hitler’s order, he would have been sent to a concentration camp “and then to one of the so-called ‘lost battalions’ (Verlorener Haufen) whose members were assigned to especially dangerous tasks and thus systematically annihilated.” There was good logic in the point, as no organization, certainly not the SS, wants to publicize the disloyalty of a senior official (as a trial and execution would have done); it is much better to quietly dispose of the problem. One of the defendants deemed “too soft” by the SS had indeed been stripped of his rank and was slated for reassignment on the Russian front.

More about the Nuremberg Trials Project:

Matt Seccombe’s work on the NMT 9 of the Nuremberg Trials Project has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

National Endowment for the Humanities logo

 

 

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: halfway through NMT 9

Post by Matt Seccombe, October 9, 2017

The Scanning Nuremberg series 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 September I analyzed 171 defense documents in the Einsatzgruppen Case (NMT 9), amounting to 1299 pages of material, finishing the papers of one defendant I had started in August, completing three other defendants, and starting the documents of another. The numbers are adding up: with more than 600 documents done, I am now half-way through the NMT 9 trial documents. On a larger scale, given our estimated total of 40,000 trial documents in the collection, more than 25 percent of them have now been analyzed, for six trials (out of thirteen).

The unhelpful witness: One major claim by many defendants was that they were not present when einsatzgruppen units conducted mass executions. Franz Six, whose Vorkommando Moscow unit had been assigned to secure Soviet records when the German army occupied Moscow, claimed that he returned to Germany once the advance stalled—before the commando received orders to conduct executions in occupied territory. Six’s attorney called Veronika Vetter, an ethnic German who had been in Russia at the time, to verify the date of his departure. On the stand, however, she stated that he was still in Russia on the key date. Six’s attorney forced Vetter through prolonged questioning and submitted multiple documents in a highly unpersuasive attempt to prove that his own witness was wrong.

Transcript-document loop: Erwin Schulz presented his testimony in mid-October 1947 without having his documentary evidence ready. While his fourth document book was found in the transcript at the point where the final evidence was being submitted, three books remained unaccounted for. After flipping through 1500 pages, I found that in mid-November, in a short interval between other (unrelated) proceedings, his attorney quickly introduced his first two document books (63 items). I had already analyzed these documents, but now could go back in the database and add the exhibit numbers, clarify some anomalies, and note a few errors in how the documents were identified in the transcript. The two sources—the documents and the transcript—enrich each other and also correct each other. (The third document book is still lurking somewhere in the transcript for discovery later.)

Dropping the wrong name: One of the rationales for the executions in Russia was that they were reprisal executions in punishment for attacks and sabotage by partisans—which was the primary charge in the Hostage Case (NMT 7)—with the defendants arguing that this was permitted under international law. In NMT 7 the defense pointed out that Allied officials in occupied Germany had authorized reprisal executions of German civilians in case of attacks by Nazi partisans. Picking up on NMT 7 testimony, Paul Blobel asserted on the stand that reprisal executions had been authorized by a French commander, by Soviet officials in Berlin, and—at a ratio of 200 German deaths for one American—by General Eisenhower. The judge would have none of it. He asked if Blobel had proof of Eisenhower’s order; Blobel said he had heard the story; the judge asked if any defendant or attorney had evidence; no one did. Under the judge’s glare, Blobel first withdrew the claim and then apologized for it. Had he limited himself to the French and Soviet reprisal orders he would have had strong evidence for his argument, but in the US courtroom at Nuremberg, Eisenhower was beyond reproach.

More about the Nuremberg Trials Project:

Matt Seccombe’s work on the NMT 9 of the Nuremberg Trials Project has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

National Endowment for the Humanities logo

 

 

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: beginning analysis of the defendants’ documents

Post by Matt Seccombe, September 7, 2017

The Scanning Nuremberg series 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 August I completed the analysis of the tribunal judgment and began work on the defendants’ documents, amounting to 165 documents and 1063 pages of material. I have now completed the documents of three of the defendants, in the order they presented their cases in the trial. One challenge in the process is that, so far, none of the defendants had their evidence ready to offer as exhibits when they testified (as was usual in other NMT cases), so I often don’t know whether a given document was actually offered and accepted (or rejected). Finding this information depends on scanning the whole transcript beginning to end, which makes it prudent to work on the defendants’ cases in the order they testified (rather than alphabetical order), so that I can pick up that document-entry information as it appears and add it to the database either while I do the primary document analysis or afterward, going back and completing the record.

Ohlendorf and the Order: Otto Ohlendorf, the lead defendant, resembled Minister Schlegelberger in the Justice Case in that he was often regarded as a “tragic figure,” a highly civilized man who found himself in a senior position in a terrible regime, forced to do its bidding. His elaborate defense emphasized this, presenting Ohlendorf as an honorable police official with humanist convictions, including an interest in anthroposophy. He believed in “volkdom” as a matter of ethnic or racial identity, in which each nationality deserved autonomy, not as a doctrine of supremacy of one race over others. He opposed Hitler’s wartime order to execute enemy populations, he said, but he enforced it because it was his superior’s command. The prosecution tested this claim in an unsettling cross-examination: If Hitler had ordered him to execute his own family, would he have done it? After evading the issue for some time, he answered: yes.

The decent chap: Like Ohlendorf, most defendants argued that they had followed superior orders, which they disapproved of but could not evade. In fact, they themselves were good men, they claimed, completing the argument that they were not personally responsible for the einsatz operation. Apart from the legal argument, the plea of superior orders, this subject leads to the recurring question, in all of the trials, of what sort of men these were, and how they could do what they did. Erwin Schulz’s case consisted almost entirely of this “good character” defense, including an affidavit reporting that “people always said he was a decent chap.” Most of this evidence was tedious, but some offered statements by Schulz that do suggest his character and his reaction to his situation. After his einsatz service, he headed a security police training program, where he once described what had been done in Russia. The killing of Jews had been done “in accordance with orders,” but still it was “a frightful business.” If any of the officers who had participated in it “boasted of these deeds,” he said, he would expel them “as unsuited from the point of character.” He once described the role of a security police officer more generally: “We want to remain decent and upright people. Let us look into the mirror every day and find out whether we can still look in our eyes.”

More about the Nuremberg Trials Project:

Matt Seccombe’s work on the NMT 9 of the Nuremberg Trials Project has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

National Endowment for the Humanities logo

 

 

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: analyzing the prosecution documents in the Einsatzgruppen trial (NMT 9)

Post by Matt Seccombe, August 14, 2017

The Scanning Nuremberg series 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 July I completed the analysis of the prosecution documents in the Einsatzgruppen trial (NMT 9), amounting to 155 documents and 1070 pages of material, including document books, briefs against individual defendants, and the closing argument. Some time was spent enriching the analysis of the previous documents (analyzed in June) with information about two trial issues that were not identified in the indictment but that emerged from the evidence: the execution of the mentally ill, and the taking and killing of hostages.

The Ghost Order: Both prosecution and defense refer incessantly to the “Fuehrer Order,” which was Hitler’s order in mid-1941 to exterminate the Jews of eastern Europe as part of the war against the USSR. The prosecution emphasized this because it established what the Einsatzgruppen did: mass murder. The defendants emphasized it because it supported their argument that they had acted on a direct order from their commander in a war (the “superior orders” defense). However, no one entered a copy of this order in evidence, and it seems that no official record of it exists. Hitler apparently gave it in person to his senior military and SS commanders, who passed it along to the generals and the einsatz commanders. Meanwhile in July 1941 Goering ordered Heydrich to prepare “a complete solution of the Jewish question.”

The Order and disorder: As the campaign proceeded, the application of the order was chaotic, as the einsatz commanders executed an order that German administrators in the area did not comprehend. One administrator reported: SS security police arrived and announced “the liquidation of all Jews here in the town of Sluzk, within two days.” Jews and some non-Jews were seized, beaten, and shot. The population was frightened, and the security police looted the place. “In the future, keep this police battalion away from me by all means.”

Dissent and obedience: One einsatz commander, Strauch, faced criticism from a German officer that the extermination program “was unworthy of a German man and of the Germany of Kant and Goethe.” Strauch replied that “I did nothing but fulfill my duty” and complained about “having to perform this nasty job.” (The executioners often expressed this sort of self-pity.)

Hostages: This operation was not highlighted in the indictment but was familiar from the Hostage Case (NMT 7), set mainly in the Balkans, where the orders were a slightly modified version of those in the Soviet campaign, so the same pattern emerged. Einsatzgruppe D reported: “Hostages are taken in each new place, and they are executed on the slightest pretext.”

A Soviet interpretation: Since nearly all of the einsatz crimes were committed in places the USSR had occupied, the Soviets had evidence to offer from their own investigations, and two reports appeared in Case 9. They were extensive and detailed but had some particular qualities. The phrasing was lurid: “German fascist monsters [or “usurpers”],” and “Hitlerite hordes.” All the victims were identified as simply “peaceful Soviet citizens,” rather than Jews or Gypsies. And there was a particular charge about the Germans’ “butchery of Polish officers in the Katyn forest” and their “heinous fabrications of experienced falsifiers” trying to pin the blame on the Soviets.  (Of course, the massacre and the fabrication were both committed by the Soviets.)

More about the Nuremberg Trials Project:

Matt Seccombe’s work on the NMT 9 of the Nuremberg Trials Project has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

National Endowment for the Humanities logo

 

 

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: Beginning analysis of the Einsatzgruppen Case (NMT 9)

Post by Matt Seccombe, July 8, 2017

Editor’s note: we have some new posts to share in our Scanning Nuremberg series, and we’ll be playing a bit of catchup over the next few weeks. 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

In June the trial document analysis work resumed, with NMT 9, the Einsatzgruppen Case, on the agenda. I chose this trial because it presents a subject the other cases have not so far covered: genocide. The Einstazgruppen (groups A, B, C, and D) were created by the SS in the summer of 1941 to proceed into eastern Europe along with the army on the Russian front in order to assist the military, secure territory behind the front, and eliminate “enemy populations” including Jews, Communists, Gypsies (or Romanis), and other groups. In two years, working along a line from the Baltic territories, western Russia, the Ukraine, and on to Crimea, the groups killed approximately one million people, precisely reporting their work in regular reports to Security Police headquarters.

After spending some time organizing and exploring the document files and the trial transcript and gathering background information, I started document analysis in mid-June and worked through 115 documents amounting to over 600 pages of material, including the indictment(s), arraignment, prosecution opening statement, and six document books of prosecution evidence.

1939 and 1941 agendas: When the war began in 1939 Heydrich sent an initial Einsatz operation eastward with instructions on “the Jewish question in the occupied territory.” Somewhat surprisingly, the most urgent factor was safeguarding Germany’s “economic interest,” including the maintenance of Jewish businesses that were necessary for the local economy and the military. “The total measures planned (i.e. the final aim),” he noted obscurely, “are to be kept strictly secret.” Those “measures” were apparently discussed, but not recorded. In 1941, the agenda changed, or at least became much clearer. Ohlendorf, one of the group commanders, was told by Himmler in June 1941 that “an important part of our task consisted of the extermination of Jews—women, men, and children—and of Communist functionaries.” (Among other things, this means that the notorious Wannsee conference (January 1942) did not initiate the Holocaust but rather confirmed it and extended it from the eastern front to the whole German domain.)

Humane executions: None of the group leaders disputed the order to conduct mass executions (though one apparently obtained a transfer to avoid them), and they reported that they followed the order with “unabated severity.” In one area 23,600 Jews were shot in three days. But some who regarded this as part of the war effort insisted that they conducted the executions “in a military and humane way.” Like soldiers, they killed their enemies but did not torture them. One clarified that this was done to avoid a “moral strain” on the executioners (not the victims).

Connections with other trials: While the Case 9 indictment focused on genocide, the documents gradually reveal subjects that we record as “trial issues,” including those that overlap with other trials. Thus we can enrich the analysis of one trial with what we find in another. For example, the mass murder of Gypsies in Case 9 feeds back into Case 7 (which focused on the German army in the Balkans), and the arrest and execution of hostages, the primary charge in Case 7, also emerges as an issue in Case 9. The mass execution of the mentally ill in the USSR, though not mentioned in the indictment, emerged as an issue in the documents, one that is comparable to but not the same as the euthanasia program covered in the Medical Case.

More about the Nuremberg Trials Project:

Matt Seccombe’s work on the NMT 9 of the Nuremberg Trials Project has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

National Endowment for the Humanities logo

 

 

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.

852 RARE: Speak, Memory* – Law Student Study Aids, circa 1674

In our occasional series of posts about games in the HLS Library’s Historical & Special Collections, we’ve covered playing cards describing notorious trials and educational flash cards for students of civil law. With exams around the corner, it’s a good time to shine a light on mnemonic devices – centuries-old techniques that aid in learning and retaining information in memory.

We have a beautiful first edition of Johannes Buno’s (1617-1697) work, Memoriale Codicis Iustinianei (1674). It features elaborate fold-out engravings, each corresponding to one of the books in Justinian’s Codex. The Codex is part of the Corpus Juris Civilis, the codification of Roman law ordered early in the 6th century AD by Emperor Justinian I.

Johann Buno, Memoriale Codicis Justinianei (1674), p. 58. HOLLIS no. 4299003.

Johann Buno, Memoriale Codicis Justinianei (1674), p. 58. HOLLIS no. 4299003.

Buno, an educator and theologian, distilled this massive trove of Roman law into a brief 83-page study aid. Taken together, the summaries and the engravings helped students master the contents of the Codex by combining fables, images, and letters. Buno called this the “Emblematische Lehrmethode,” or “Emblematic Teaching Method.” Let’s give it a try.

Here is the engraving that helped students master Book 9 of the Codes, which covers criminal law and procedure.

Johann Buno, Memoriale Codicis Justinianei (1674), Engraving for Book 9, after p. 36. HOLLIS no. 4299003.

Johann Buno, Memoriale Codicis Justinianei (1674), Engraving for Book 9, after p. 36. HOLLIS no. 4299003.

A detail from Buno’s distillation of the text, Title 9.1, “Those who may not accuse,” (Qui accusare non possunt”) is shown here.

Johann Buno, Memoriale Codicis Justinianei (1674), Beginning text for Book 9.1, p.37. HOLLIS no. 4299003.

Johann Buno, Memoriale Codicis Justinianei (1674), Beginning text for Book 9.1, p.37. HOLLIS no. 4299003.

Presumably, a glance at the corresponding image in the upper left of the engraving, shown in detail here, would jog a student’s memory.

Johann Buno, Memoriale Codicis Justinianei (1674), Engraving for Book 9, detail, after p. 36. HOLLIS no. 4299003.

Johann Buno, Memoriale Codicis Justinianei (1674), Engraving for Book 9, detail, after p. 36. HOLLIS no. 4299003.

Or perhaps not. Things may have gotten lost in translation over time. At any rate, it is worth remembering that study aids for law students go back centuries, and that yesterday’s magnificently engraved book is today’s handwritten law student notebookelectronic casebook, or commercial outline. However you learn the law, good luck with your exams!

 

* with apologies to Vladimir Nabokov

 

 

 

 

 

NEW! HLS Library Bicentennial Exhibit Now On View

Collections | Connections  

Stories from the Harvard Law School Library

HLS Bicentennial Exhibit PosterThe Harvard Law School Library’s new exhibit celebrates HLS’s Bicentennial through the stories of some of the Library’s 2 million items and the people behind them. On view are historic photographs, striking rare books and early manuscripts, books published all over the world, fun glimpses of HLS Library history, and even an Awesome Box!

Collections | Connections documents the evolution of the Harvard Law School and its Library in response to the School’s evolving role in relation to society, legal education, and technology. Yet it is the people who make a place. Groups and individuals highlighted throughout this exhibit have cultivated the life and ethos of the Harvard Law School. Learn how the Library preserves this continuing story of the HLS community: faculty, students, alumni, and staff who are moved to question, prepared to reason, and called to act.

The exhibit is arranged around six themes: Keepers of Memory, Global Citizens, Promoting Justice, Supreme Court Clerks and their Justices, Library as Lab, and Preserving Legal Heritage. Curated by many members of the HLS Library, it is on view daily 9 to 5 in the Caspersen Room, fourth floor of Langdell Hall, through June 2018.

852 RARE: Open for Research: The Papers of Stanley S. Surrey

…I doubt that any person alive today has had as close and as varied a relationship with the Internal Revenue Code as I have had. – Surrey, Unpublished Memoir

Historical & Special Collections is pleased to announce the Stanley S. Surrey Papers are now open to researchers. The material dates from 1913 to 1981, and documents Surrey’s exceptional contributions to tax law both as a public servant and as a professor of law. Considered “a dean of the academic tax bar,”[1] Surrey contributed to the field of tax law in many ways. He served as the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Tax Policy during the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, was an active member of many professional organizations including the American Law Institute, and was a Professor of Law at Harvard for thirty years.

Walter Surrey writing to his son, Stanley, on his appointment as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. Surrey Papers, box 319, folder 5. Historical & Special Collections, Harvard Law School Library.

Early in his career, Surrey worked as an attorney for the National Recovery Administration (1933-35) and the National Labor Relations Board (1935-37). He then moved on to the U.S. Treasury Department where he worked on the Wartime Revenue Act. After a brief time in the U.S. Naval Reserve (1944-46), Surrey began to teach law at Berkley. It was during his time at Berkley that Surrey became the Chief Reported for the Income Tax Project conducted by the American Law Institute, a project that would last more than a decade. The Income Tax Project resulted in a number of publications addressing issues in the American tax code and have had a lasting influence on tax legislation.

There is a large number of correspondence, drafts, and handwritten notes documenting the American Law Institute Income Tax Project, the Income, Estate and Gift Tax Project and the second Income Tax Project, which Surrey advised on in the 1970s, in the collection. This material demonstrates how tax policy is developed and eventually becomes part of the tax code.

Surrey became a member of Harvard’s Faculty in 1950. As a faculty member he founded Harvard’s Program for International Taxation and served as director of the program from 1953 until 1961 when he was appointed as Assistant Secretary. He later came back to Harvard in 1969. A major portion of the Stanley Surrey Papers is devoted to his time as Assistant Secretary to the Treasury. Surrey kept correspondence, type-written notes, reports and memoranda from his time in the Treasury. He also kept meticulous notes of his daily routine at the Treasury in a professional journal. As Assistant Secretary he also coined the term Tax Expenditure, and was influential in defining the term later in a book co-authored with William C. Warren.

Draft page from “Pathways” on the definition of tax expenditures. Surrey Papers, box 416, folder 8. Historical & Special Collections, Harvard Law School Library.

All of Surrey’s various professional associations from his earliest career as an attorney to his time as the President of the National Tax Association (1979-80), and areas of interest are represented in Surrey’s personal reference files preserved in this collection. Surrey’s extensive personal reference files on issues of national and international taxation contain essays, documents, memoranda, newspaper clippings, notes, printed material, reports, testimony, and material sent to him from colleagues for Surrey’s reference in his function as professor, author, and consultant. This file is evidence of Surrey’s lifelong dedication to improving tax policy in every avenue of his career.

The Stanley S. Surrey Papers open to all researchers. Anyone interested in using the collection should contact Historical & Special Collections to schedule an appointment.

Posted on behalf of Rachel Parker by Edwin Moloy.

 

[1] “Stanley S. Surrey, 74; Taxation Law Expert”. New York Times. August 28, 1984.

Evidence in Ink

One of the pleasures of cataloging, especially of older books and manuscripts, is coming across unexpected traces of earlier times and lives. Scraps of an early manuscript liturgy or an almanac used in a binding; a series of former owners’ signatures vying for attention on a title page; enigmatic annotations in the margins; or even an eighteenth century butcher’s invoice used as a bookmark. All these are examples of evidence of the unique history contained in any single book or manuscript.

But a copy of at least one early canon law book in the collection—an exhaustive work on the Decretales of Pope Gregory IX printed in 1487-1488—bears evidence of a moment before it was even printed.  It also documents, perhaps, the momentary inattention of a worker in the busy Basel print shop of Johannes Amerbach.  Appearing at the bottom right corner of a page in part 1 is the unmistakable smudge of a fifteenth century ink ball.

Detail from part 1, leaf 2b3r of Niccolò,de’ Tudeschi’s Lectura super V libris Decretalium (Basel, Johannes Amerbach, 1488), copy 1 (Ad T256l 488 H12315), Harvard Law School Library.

In the era of hand-operated printing presses leather ink balls, stuffed with wool and attached to a handle, were used to evenly ink the plates prior to printing. It was hard, repetitive work.

By Jost Amman – “Eygentliche Beschreibung aller Stände auff Erden, hoher und nidriger, geistlicher und weltlicher, aller Künsten, Handwercken und Händeln …”, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=207246

Of course, having an ink ball come in contact with paper was not standard procedure. Surely it must have been noticed at some point in the printing process. Perhaps the paper was too costly to discard or the pressure to move the job along was too strong. But whatever the reason, we now have a visible reminder of hand press era technology and a moment of distraction almost 530 years ago.

%d bloggers like this: