Series: Scanning Nuremberg •

Scanning Nuremberg: editing an exhibit and arguments over reprisals

Post by Matt Seccombe, June 2, 2016

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 May I worked through the nine document books of Field Marshal List and the entire defense set of General Rendulic, for a total of 226 documents and 1260 pages of material. General Rendulic takes the case out of the Balkans for charges related to the scorched-earth withdrawal from northern Norway, but the issues and events are like those already presented by other defendants. Since List was the highest-ranking defendant, the stakes were higher, the issues more wide-ranging, and his defense material richer and more detailed.

Editing an exhibit: Many of the prosecution documents were extracts from captured German military records, including the notorious “Terror Order” in which Hitler and Keitel ordered that the vast newly conquered territory in the east must be ruled by terrorizing the population into submission. List argued that the prosecution’s extract implied that the order was sent to and applied by his command in the Balkans, and he presented the full text that showed it was directed specifically to the army in the Soviet Union. When this was presented in the trial, the presiding judge noted the discrepancy between the two exhibits drawn from the same document and commented that the misleading prosecution version “does not reflect to the credit” of the (unnamed) prosecution staff member who had prepared it.

Et tu: A major defense argument was that the generals should not be charged for holding hostages and sometimes executing them in reprisal for partisan attacks and sabotage, because the Allied forces had done the same thing. The point was not that two wrongs made a right, but rather that the Allies had recognized the legitimacy of the practice under the laws of war. When an army has defeated an opponent and occupied its territory, the occupier takes responsibility for the survival of the population, the population is obliged to accept the occupation peacefully, and the population is collectively responsible for any violations.  In fact, one French general issued a reprisal order against German residents in Strasbourg in late 1944, stating that he would shoot five Germans for any French soldier killed. General Eisenhower’s staff quickly had the order withdrawn. Eisenhower himself provided an affidavit for the defense stating that the order had been issued and then withdrawn, but he carefully refrained from stating whether he would have approved or cancelled any reprisal order. One newspaper article stated that in December 1944 Eisenhower prohibited the execution of any German POWs in reprisal for guerrilla attacks, since POWs were protected by the laws of war, but that reprisals against German civilians would be permissible. It is not evident what policy Eisenhower actually had on that point.

The field marshal away from the front: The most interesting document about any of the defendants was introduced for a mundane reason: to prove that List was not on duty on the days a particular (alleged) crime occurred in 1941. This document was List’s personal diary, recording where he was and what he was doing: In June, at home in Vienna, he enjoyed a bottle of champagne brought from Paris by another officer. Two days later he was in Berlin: “Breakfast with the Fuehrer and a small group” for a two-hour meeting. In July, Vienna again: “everybody well at home! What a blessing, what happiness!” In August, Greece: “Bath [i.e., swimming] in the gulf of Marathon . . . wonderful evening.” After surgery, home again and in a reflective mood: “Wonderful Christmas Eve and friendly gathering. How well off we are; millions at the front in storm and cold and in the middle of battle!!!”

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: House Divided and Werewolves

Post by Matt Seccombe, April 7, 2016

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 completed the final papers for one defendant (Geitner), all of the papers for a second (Kuntze), and roughly half for a third (Lanz). This amounted to 249 documents and 899 pages of material. The Lanz case gets us to the fifth box in the Case 7 set, passing the two-thirds mark. The defense evidence shed some light on the German strategy in Yugoslavia, the complexities of the Nazi system, and the hazards of being an occupying power.

Gentle persuasion: In 1943, General Bader summed up the German strategy in Serbia and the limits of that strategy: “The assurances given so far, that the Serbian nation, if it keeps quiet, will not be annihilated, is no longer sufficient for mobilizing positive forces in our favour.”

The house divided: In the Justice Case, the German judges and prosecutors had described a system distorted by pressure exerted by more powerful institutions, the SS and Interior Ministry under Himmler and the Party Chancellery under Bormann. In the Hostage Case, the generals in Yugoslavia described a similar situation, in which they were under pressure from the politicized OKW, the Military High Command (“the Byzantine forest,” according to defendant Foertsch), the economic agencies that reported to Goering, and the police and security forces that were controlled by Himmler. The result was a “tug of war” in which the generals in the field had the least power.

The werewolves: The primary charge against the generals was that they had killed thousands of civilians in retaliation for partisan attacks and sabotage, combining punishment and deterrence. A key defense argument was that under the international law of war an occupying army has the right to hold a population responsible for violent resistance, using collective punishments. If the Allies occupying Germany since 1945 did it, that was ideal cover for the defendants. According to an affidavit by Hans Hammling, in the spring of 1945 the American commander in the area of Grenzen announced that 200 Germans would be shot if any US soldier was killed by “the Wehrwolf organization or the German population.” (The American commander was called to testify and swore that he issued no such order.) The reference to werewolves prompted a bit of research. The werewolf operation was Himmler’s last-ditch effort to organize special SS units in 1944-45 to attack the Allies from behind the lines when they entered Germany, and to kill Germans who collaborated with the Allies. Himmler’s werewolves did not amount to much militarily but they did kill a number of anti-Nazi Germans, and the possibility of armed resistance made the Allies more cautious and severe as occupying powers.

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 role of staff officers

Post by Matt Seccombe, March 2, 2016

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 February, I completed the documents for one defendant in the Hostages Case, Foertsch, and most of the documents for another, von Geitner. These amounted to 193 documents and 895 pages of material. Both defendants were staff officers rather than commanding officers, which was a major point for them and a key distinction for the tribunal, but staff officers still had an overview of events and also a major responsibility that was relevant in the trial: preparing reports to be sent to the military high command.

How to wage a dirty war: The defendants uniformly claimed that they wished to establish an orderly occupation of Yugoslavia by honorable and legal means, but the papers have more candid moments. The general perception was that the religious and ethnic history of the region made it, as one affidavit noted, “this witches’ kettel and chaos.” Hence the Hitler/Keitel order for massive reprisal killings in cases of resistance. General Loehr, when briefed about food supplies, commented, “a starving population loses its appetite for rebellion.”

Who’s who: The single hardest part of Nuremberg document analysis is identifying authors with incomplete, ambiguous, and contradictory information, of which there is an abundance. We have the case of Christoph von Auer, clearly identified in an affidavit, and “W. Auer (?),” a queried name in a wartime document. They held the same position, at the same place, at the same time, and I am 90% sure they were the same person. Ninety percent is not 100%, however, so in the relevant documents I kept the two names distinct as separate authors, and added a Note indicating the likely connection between the two. In contrast is the good German name Wolfgang Cartellieri—spelled three different ways. There was enough information to establish that there was only one person (and multiple typos), so only one name is listed. Speaking of names, one key source of evidence had a name so long that it broke the database, exceeding the space allotted for names: Friedrich-Ferdinand, Prinz du Schleswig-Holstein-Gluecksberg.

Creative writing: Chief staff officers were required to prepare the frequent reports that their commanding generals sent to army and military headquarters. Headquarters expected to receive reports on reprisal actions following guerrilla attacks and sabotage, according to the Hitler/Keitel order, and of course the Nuremberg prosecutors submitted these reports as evidence. Some of the defendants argue (fairly persuasively) that some of those reports were crafted to satisfy headquarters that reprisal killings had been conducted when in fact they hadn’t, or had been much less than the 100 to 1 ratio ordered for attacks on Germans. In one document these were mentioned as “Fictitious shootings.” The officers in the field did not object to reprisals morally, since the tactic was standard doctrine for an occupying army in hostile territory, but they often noted that killing civilians outraged the local population rather than pacified it, and sometimes there were not enough civilian hostages on hand to meet the quota. One tactic was to count partisans killed in battle as reprisal killings in order to meet the target without killing civilians; another was to report a German killed in a guerrilla attack (which would call for 100 reprisal killings) as a battle casualty instead; a third was simply not to report many sabotage episodes, forestalling the issue. We might call these “fictitious reports.”

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: transcript mapping, a brother’s tale, and more

Post by Matt Seccombe, February 10, 2016

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 plan for December was to complete the Hostage Case prosecution documents, but I finished those in November, so we had a project’s dream come true: free time. I split the time, spending 10 days working through the defense portion of the trial transcript and the final proceedings, and then started the defendants’ papers. By the end of January I had finished the documents of two defendants (Dehner and Felmy) and half of the next (Foertsch). This amounted to 264 documents and 1077 pages of material.

Transcript mapping: Knowing where defense cases, and particularly their documents, appear in the transcript, compared to not having this information in advance, is like having a complete map instead of a blank sheet to fill in each day. The defendants’ cases and final proceedings fill about 7000 pages, so flipping through them is little fun, but it’s a great advantage to know where a defendant’s documents books and pleas were entered. In previous trials there was no open period for this work, so it had to be done in the course of analyzing the documents, with a success of rate of about 95 percent; the remaining 5 percent untraced documents are like peas under a mattress. Besides connecting documents to their place in the proceedings, the transcript provides key information: whether a document became an exhibit or not, whether a name or date or evidence number was mistyped and needs to be corrected, and in one case, what “Ro.” in a letter refers to (General Rommel).

The defense argument in brief: The transcript also makes the general argument apparent. For the generals three points were key. 1. The general Nuremberg issue of “following orders” was literal, as the basic actions were directly ordered by Hitler. 2. Guerrilla warfare was conducted outside the customs and laws of warfare, so Germans were not legally bound to follow rules that the partisans ignored. 3. In occupied territories, the occupier has a right to punish sabotage by “reprisal measures” against the population. (This was a surprise to me.) Reportedly, Allied commanders, including Eisenhower, authorized the execution of civilian hostages when they occupied Germany.

Records and actions: The German military documented many reprisal measures in Yugoslavia and Greece, including the execution of thousands of civilians, just as Hitler ordered. However, General Dehner reported that commanders often ignored the orders and filed “doctored reports” documenting executions that never occurred, in order to satisfy headquarters. For documentary historians, this is a reminder that not everything that happened was documented, and not everything that was documented happened.

Entertainment in the field: According to Gerhard Merren, mess-nights at his army offices “often culminated in impersonations of Hitler, Goebbels and others which would have induced a National socialist to take the severest measures.” Fortunately, Berlin was far away.

A brother’s tale: On July 21, 1944, the day after Claus von Stauffenberg tried to kill Hitler, Lt. Alexander von Stauffenberg was in an awkward situation in Greece. He knew nothing about his brother’s plans but was obviously under suspicion and offered to leave headquarters. General Felmy, he said, responded that he had “committed no dishonorable deed” and should remain. When an arrest warrant arrived, Felmy placed Stauffenberg under military protection and delivered him safely to Berlin, and he survived.

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: Finishing the Hostage Case, what’s missing, and the war in Norway and Greece

Post by Matt Seccombe, December 15, 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 November was to finish the second box of trial documents, amounting to 150 documents and 973 pages. This completed work on the Hostage Case prosecution documents, a month sooner than planned.

The question of what’s not there: The collection of prosecution documents includes virtually all of the primary case that was prepared at the beginning of the trial, except, unfortunately, the movies that were shown, and some evidence provided by outside authorities in Greece and Yugoslavia. What the collection doesn’t have is the evidence the prosecution submitted while cross-examining defendants and in the rebuttal phase at the end. Also missing, save for one single page, are the lists the prosecution made of all its exhibits and the names of the defendants that each document implicated. Since the last point is frequently hard to determine from a document’s text, those lists would be analytical gold—if they were present.

These files included some late-arriving documents regarding the Balkans, which filled in details but opened no new points of real interest. The others covered the German occupation of Greece after the collapse of the Italian forces there (when Italy changed sides in the war), and the scorched-earth withdrawal of the German army from northern Norway (conducted by a general who had gained his scorched-earth expertise in Croatia).

Norway: The German withdrawal in the winter of 1944-45 (Operation Nordlicht) involved the removal of roughly 2/3 of the northern population and the destruction of 2/3 of all economic assets, in order to deprive the advancing Soviet army of resources. “This area is to be devastated,” the general ordered. As in Yugoslavia, the destruction was massive, but there was a notable difference: The operation was conducted without savagery toward the civilians, and none of the scorn expressed about Serbs and gypsies and the hatred of the Jews.

Greece: With references to fighting in Athens, Sparta, and Ithaca, echoes of Homer and the wine-dark sea come to mind. This was a different sort of war, though. The German army could never meet the partisans in open battle, so they relied almost entirely on reprisal measures to terrify the population into obedience. One report noted that the army had failed to encircle the partisans in one area, but “24 villages and 3 monasteries were destroyed, 696 Greeks shot to death.” One officer felt sorry for himself, since the partisans’ “meanest and most vicious” tactics forced the Germans to “employ measures going beyond the usual framework of soldierly combat between two chivalrous adversaries.”

Executioners’ last voyage: In mid-1944 two SS officers went to the island of Rhodes and suggested a final operation to the military. (The generals always claimed that the SS ran its own operations separately, but it was the military that carried this one out.) Twelve hundred Jews were rounded up, taken to a port, and loaded onto a barge. The Germans took the barge out to sea, opened the valves below the water line, and returned to port, leaving all of the “passengers” on the barge as it sank in the Mediterranean.

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 war in southeastern Europe

Post by Matt Seccombe, November 17, 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

In October I worked through the second half of the records of the German war in Yugoslavia, covering the years 1943-44. This amounted to 214 documents analyzed, with 1256 pages of material. The basic story remained the same as for the early war—the capture and killing of hostages as a deterrent and punishment for guerrilla attacks, hence the name The Hostage Case—but some interesting strategic and tactical shifts occurred.

In mid-1943 the focus of the war in southeastern Europe shifted from Serbia to the west coast of Yugoslavia, especially following the collapse of the fascist regime in Italy. The German military expected an Anglo-American invasion of Croatia and an effort to drive from there northward into Austria and Germany. The English had been active enough in the area, sending agents and supplies to help the partisans, to make the scenario plausible. The German response was as severe as it had been in Serbia, aggravated by a growing sense of desperation.

Basic orders: As an SS Division operated in Croatia, its orders included “the immediate arrest of hostages. The slightest resistance is to be broken with ruthless terror.” In February 1944 General Kuebler, citing the Germans’ numerical disadvantage against the partisans, was even more emphatic: “Terror against terror. An eye for an eye, A tooth for a tooth!”

Revised orders: Early in the war partisan fighters were considered criminals rather than soldiers, so captured partisans were shot rather than treated as POWs. In July 1943 Hitler revised the policy and captured partisans were kept alive and shipped to Germany for labor, particularly in the coal mines. Germany was running desperately short of labor at that point, which probably had more to do with the changed policy than respect for the laws of war. By the end of the war in the region, in 1944, the German army did show some respect for their adversaries, ironically because of the assistance the partisans were then receiving from the Allies (Anglo-American and Soviet), which included uniforms as well as weapons. Since the partisans now acted like an army and looked like an army, the German military recognized them as such—including the application of international laws regarding the treatment of POWs.

The ethnic problem(s): With the German army drained to the Russian front, the army in the southeast relied partly on other forces, including groups of anti-Soviet Russians (referred to as Cossacks in some records) and Bulgarians. The Russian units were sometimes investigated by the German commanders for being overly literal about the “ruthless terror” strategy against civilians. The use of Bulgarian troops in Serbia, a German officer noted, raised the problem that most Serbs scorned Bulgarians as inferior, while the Bulgarians had “an unbridgeable hate against everything of Serbian blood.”

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: Initial Impressions from the Hostage Case

Post by Matt Seccombe, October 7, 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 September was to begin the analysis of documents for Case 7, the Hostage Case, which concerns (primarily) the extraordinarily dirty war between the Germans and the partisans in Yugoslavia, with the execution of captured fighters, the arrest and killing of hostages in reprisal measures, and the use of concentration camps and forced labor. Since I began the work in late August after finishing the Justice Case, and the early prosecution files are the best-organized portion of the set, I was able to analyze 251 documents, amounting to 1594 pages.

Superior orders: In this case the issue of “following orders” was literally true. In 1941 Hitler ordered that the war in the East (Russia and the Balkans) was to be conducted by “the spreading of such terror by the occupying forces . . . [so as] to eradicate every inclination to resist amongst the population.” This was put into execution by an order from General Keitel, applying to Serbia and elsewhere: for every soldier killed, 100 civilians were to be killed. Partisans captured in the field were to be shot immediately, not treated as POWs. The laws of war were to be ignored.

Word of the month: Francs-tireurs. This started as a puzzle, being the term Germans frequently used in their reports to describe their opponents, and proved quite illuminating. It isn’t a Balkan term, obviously, but a French term dating back to the Franco-Prussian war (and earlier), meaning “free shooters,” describing irregular soldiers who fought alone or in small groups, engaging in sabotage and sniping. The Germans in that war considered these fighters to be criminals rather than soldiers, acting outside the rules of warfare and not entitled to the protection of the laws of war. In addition, the Germans held local villages responsible for supporting the attacks, killing civilians in reprisal. This is exactly what the German army did in 1941-45 in southeastern Europe to “partisan” fighters and local communities, as a matter of military doctrine, and not directly as a matter of Nazi ideology. While the killing of civilian hostages was clearly a war crime, the status (and rights) of partisans was still an unsettled issue in the law of war at the time, and this was a key issue in Case 7.

Military doctrine adjusted for genocide: While the attitude toward partisans was traditional for the German military, the application in World War II quickly took on Nazi overtones. Applied to Serbs, the rationale was that the “Balkan mentality” held little value for life, hence the need to kill 100 Serbs to match one German casualty. The systematic selection of Jews and gypsies for reprisal killings made clear that they were killed because of who they were, not what they did. The military doctrine of reprisals provided a cover for the genocide.

An executioner reflects: In October 1941, Lt. Walther submitted his “Report concerning the shooting to death of Jews and Gypsies.” His squad carried out the killings quickly; he noted that the Jews died calmly while the gypsies panicked. His soldiers were not disturbed the first time. “The second day, however, it had become noticeable that one or the other did not have the nerve to carry out shooting to death for a longer period of time. My personal impression is that one does not develop any psychological inhibitions during the shooting to death. However, these appear if one contemplates it quietly after a few days in the evening.”

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: Franz Schlegelberger

Post by Matt Seccombe, September 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 in August was to complete the documents for Franz Schlegelberger, the most important defendant in the trial and the last one in the set. The Justice Case was thus completed, with some clean-up work to follow later, with 2379 documents and 12,190 pages of material analyzed.

While the movie version of the trial, Judgment of Nuremberg, has its dramatic climax when the leading defendant (Schlegelberger by another name, played by Burt Lancaster) rises in the court and tries to regain some honor by admitting his crimes and trying to explain how and why it happened, Schlegelberger actually did nothing of the kind. His defense alternated between the argument that the acts committed had not been crimes (Germany had governed Europe by right of conquest, just as Britain had governed its empire) and the argument that he had done the best he could in a terrible situation and had prevented worse crimes by staying in office.

Serial compromiser: The running theme in the affidavits for Schlegelberger is that he was a good judicial and administrative politician who knew how to adapt to a changed system after he had become a highly regarded judge and scholar in the pre-Nazi era.  One colleague said that he “operated with the ideas of his opponents . . . and then, if necessary resort[ed] to political considerations of expediency.” Other colleagues wondered just how often he resorted to such expediency, and what the final result was. But another put it more dramatically, that together they had worked “for Justice and truth. Even though we had to make concessions and retreat step by step, we fought a good battle.”

While compromise has a bad reputation and little glory, it had its uses and benefits. Schlegelberger protected some of his colleagues who had Jewish associations (by ancestry, marriage, or business) against increasing persecution. Finally the family of one such colleague was sent to a concentration camp. Schlegelberger was unable to prevent it, but he did manage to see that they were assigned to relatively good quarters—and the family survived.

Documentary puzzle: While some documents are difficult to analyze because the text is complicated, obscure, or vague, some of Schlegelberger’s documents (as presented in his document books) give us a very different problem: some of them have no contents at all, just a heading followed by a blank page or two. There is no indication of how this happened. These are still documents, however, so I “analyzed” them for what they were, identifying them (when possible) by what the document book’s table of contents indicated they were supposed to be.

Name puzzle: Did Kaiser Wilhelm have a last name? The Kaiser signed imperial laws himself, so we have “Wilhelm” as an author. Wilhelm what? He belonged to the House of Hohenzollern, but that’s not a family name, so he is now in the database author list as Wilhelm, kaiser. We will have to make first names searchable in the database and website in order to make him findable as an author.

Next up: Case 7, the Hostage Case, which concerns (mostly) the brutal guerrilla war in the Balkans. This is already under way; a report to follow next month.

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: 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.

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