Post by Matt Seccombe, March 2, 2018
After I finished the analysis of the trial documents in the Einsatzgruppen case, NMT 9, in early January, I split my time between two tasks. The first was to scan the last 1500 pages of the trial transcript for any document-related information I had not previously found. My earlier work proved to be sufficient, as no new documents turned up. The transcript did offer some interesting dialogue, however, including an exchange between a judge and a defense attorney giving his final argument. The judge, who had a mimeo copy of the argument, interrupted to advise the attorney that if he used a certain sentence in the final paragraph, it would do him no good and the judge would have to comment on the sentence—which would not be pleasant for either party. The attorney stated that if there was anything wrong in the text it must be due to a translation error since he did not intend to say anything that would give offense. He omitted the specified sentence. Neither one, of course, stated what was in that unuttered sentence.
The second task was to look ahead at the IMT, the International Military Tribunal of 1945-46, the trial of the “major war criminals” (Goering et al.). The first question was “what do we have?” The answer was thirty-two boxes of trial documents, not counting two copies of the trial transcript and several boxes of Soviet documents in Russian. These broke down into 19 boxes of US and British trial documents, 6 boxes from the IMT commission on criminal organizations, and 7 boxes with a smaller set of trial documents (mostly duplicating the first set). I looked at each folder in each box to create a folder-level map of the collection. The trial documents sort out in three stages: 1. pre-trial material and the prosecution documents on the general charges (conspiracy, aggressive warfare, war crimes, crimes against humanity); 2. prosecution and defense documents concerning each defendant; 3. documents on the organizations.
We decided to begin work on the first stage, beginning with the pre-trial documents and other heterogeneous IMT-related documents that were stored (in no particular order) in two boxes, before moving on to the core trial documents (arguments, briefs, and evidence in document books). During February I analyzed 77 documents and 1471 pages of material in the two boxes.
Heterogeneous does not mean trivial; in fact, these boxes hold the most important IMT documents: the London Agreement and charter that established the IMT in August 1945; the indictment in several drafts, from the first in August to marked-up page proofs in October; and a copy of the Tribunal judgment, spelling out the findings, verdicts, and sentences. Among the lesser documents was an analysis of Goering’s bank accounts (he was not poor), Robert Ley’s last will to his family (before he hanged himself), and a report by the US “Monuments Men” unit on Hitler’s project to assemble Europe’s cultural treasures for a museum and library in Austria.
Much of this material was collected by Ralph Albrecht, one of the US prosecutors (and HLS graduate). One was a memo outlining prosecution strategy for cross-examining defendants and their witnesses, emphasizing the need to avoid prolonging the trial. The memo was signed simply “A.,” but the folder was signed with the full name with an identical capital, “Albrecht.” Among his reasons for the strategy were a need to keep the attention of the press, support in public opinion, the complications of the peace negotiations, and the need to protect “the solid reputation of the Justice [Robert Jackson] for statesmanship and advocacy.”
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.
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.