Series: Scanning Nuremberg • Et. Seq: The Harvard Law School Library Blog

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

Post by Matt Seccombe, November 3, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

The HLS Library holds approximately one million pages of documents relating to the trial of military and political leaders of Nazi Germany before the International Military Tribunal (IMT) and to the twelve trials of other accused war criminals before the United States Nuremberg Military Tribunals (NMT). We have posted five trials so far (NMT 1 through NMT 4 and NMT 7) and have completed digitization of all the documents and transcripts. 

We are now engaged in the process of analyzing, describing and making machine readable the remaining trials’ materials in preparation for posting them to the Web. We hope to complete this work as soon as possible based upon available funding.  For more information about this project, please contact Jocelyn Kennedy.

Scanning Nuremberg: Ring of Silence

Post by Matt Seccombe, October 2, 2018

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

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

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

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

The HLS Library holds approximately one million pages of documents relating to the trial of military and political leaders of Nazi Germany before the International Military Tribunal (IMT) and to the twelve trials of other accused war criminals before the United States Nuremberg Military Tribunals (NMT). We have posted five trials so far (NMT 1 through NMT 4 and NMT 7) and have completed digitization of all the documents and transcripts. 

We are now engaged in the process of analyzing, describing and making machine readable the remaining trials’ materials in preparation for posting them to the Web. We hope to complete this work as soon as possible based upon available funding.  For more information about this project, please contact Jocelyn Kennedy.

Scanning Nuremberg: “When Barbarossa commences, the world will hold its breath and make no comment.”

Post by Matt Seccombe, September 7, 2018

During August I continued with the IMT prosecution documents for Crimes against Peace (Count 2), following the expansion of the war after the attack on Poland and the beginning of the war with Britain and France. This covered, in succession, the Nazi attacks on Norway and Denmark; Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg; Yugoslavia and Greece; and the Soviet Union. (The files on the war with the United States will complete the set.) This covered 116 documents and 472 pages of material. (A water leak in the building required the removal of the documents for safekeeping for two days, reducing production somewhat.) Count 2 covers the outbreak of the war; the crimes committed during the war will be covered by Counts 3 and 4, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Inconvenient timing: In January 1940, while Germany was proclaiming its respect for neutral countries, a German plane had to make a forced landing in Belgium, and one document found in the plane was a set of orders stating details of the planned occupation of the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and northern France. Hitler had been more candid in a conference in August 1939: “Generally speaking, the best thing to happen would be for the neutrals to be liquidated one after the other.”

Guarding the flanks: One common element in the German attacks in the north, west, and south was a need to block British attacks from the North Sea, the Channel, and the Mediterranean. In the planning conferences, Britain was the opponent that Hitler took most seriously. (He considered the USSR to be vast but weak and the US too distant to be a serious threat.) By similar logic, Hitler wanted to threaten his enemies on their flanks, including calls for Japan to attack the USSR and the British Empire in Asia. One consequence of these multiple occupations was that the German military ended up being spread thin over several fronts.

Barbarossa: Hitler explained the rationale for the invasion of the USSR concisely in June 1941, citing Germany’s need for oil and other resources: “What one does not have, but needs, one must conquer.” His prediction for the world’s reaction, made in February 1941: “When Barbarossa commences, the world will hold its breath and make no comment.” His planners made another prediction for the results of the German occupation: “many millions of people [in Russia] will be starved to death.”

The tale of page 62: One of the most important prosecution documents was a speech General Jodl made in 1943 on the background and progress of the war. The full text was entered, and various extracts were also presented to note particular issues. In the primary text, however, page 62 is missing; 307 documents further along, a one-page extract carried a hanger-on: page 62. This raised the question of what to do with the page. From an historian’s point of view I was inclined to move the page to where it should have been, thus providing a complete text of the speech. From an archival point of view, however, the page had been placed with the extract in a separate file in 1945 and had arrived at HLS in that file. The accidental misplacement had become a “fact.” Outcome: page 62 remains where it was, in the second document with the extract, with cross-references between the two documents in the database.

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: Teamwork and more updates from June and July analysis

Post by Matt Seccombe, August 9, 2018

During June and July I worked on the prosecution case under count 2 of the indictment, crimes against peace (or, wars of aggression), amounting to 196 documents and 1584 pages of material. The case includes the British prosecutor’s opening address on aggression, a review of the treaties Germany had signed and then violated, the planning (conspiracy) and execution (aggression) of the conquests of Czechoslovakia and Austria, and a detailed record of Germany’s conflict with Poland, ending with the war against Poland, England, and France in September 1939. The rest of the count 2 files will cover the later fronts in the war.

Teamwork: The IMT prosecution was a four-nation effort, which caused some complications. The US had a head start and led the research and analysis, but needed to share the presentation of the case with Britain, France, and USSR. While the US presented the case on count 1 (conspiracy or common plan), the British managed count 2, with the other nations contributing particular portions of the evidence. The transition was complicated, and one long-winded American prosecutor took some of the drama out of the British prosecutor’s opening address by failing to complete his own presentation first; the Briton’s speech became an interlude between the opening and closing parts of the American’s argument. Staff memos indicate that some US prosecutors were upset when they had to turn over their work to another team to present their arguments and evidence in court; they were told to swallow their pride. One British prosecutor eased the situation by carefully recognizing his American colleague’s “collaboration.”

Munich Two?: The sixth folder of evidence regarding Poland covers the flurry of diplomatic activity in August 1939 by Britain, Poland, and Germany on the question of a negotiated settlement of the German-Polish conflict over Danzig and other “Germanic” portions of Poland. On paper, at least, Germany was willing to negotiate, with the incentive that a negotiated settlement would avoid a war with Britain (Britain and France had both pledged to side with Poland if it were attacked). If Hitler secured Danzig and pledged that the issue was settled, as he had in Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain could repeat “Peace in our time.” In the event, the diplomatic gestures simply allowed Germany to claim it had tried to negotiate, pointing to the voluminous paper trail, and present its invasion of Poland as a defensive measure.

Savoring victory: After orchestrating the German occupation of Austria in March 1938, including dictating the message that the Austrian Nazis were to send to Berlin seeking rescue and the cover story that everything was done by the Austrians’ initiative, Goering filled in Ribbentrop in a long phone exchange that was recorded and transcribed. At the end of the conversation he lapsed into a reverie, spell-bound by his own triumph: “Blue sky. I am sitting here on my balcony, all covered in blankets, in the fresh air, drinking my coffee. . . . and the birds are twittering, and here and there I can hear over the radio the enthusiasm [in Austria], which must [be] wonderful over there.”

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: IMT prosecution documents and the “common plan” of Nazi leaders

Post by Matt Seccombe, June 5, 2018

During May I analyzed the contents of seven IMT prosecution document books, covering 205 documents and 758 pages of material. The documents completed the evidence for count 1 of the indictment, the Nazi leaders’ “common plan” or conspiracy to seize power, consolidate control, militarize the society, and prepare for a war of aggression, with the latter subject overlapping with count 2 (crimes against peace). This material was presented in the first ten days of the trial, and the prosecution was not well organized in submitting evidence. Many of the documents were presented twice, raising the puzzle of which copy was entered as evidence and which was available and perhaps cited but not made an exhibit; the transcript was not always clear but usually enabled me to sort this out.

Control: After five years in power, Hitler made the point with characteristic bluntness in a speech in February 1938: “There is no institution in this state which is not National Socialist.”

The Jewish question, 1938: After Kristallnacht Hitler asked Goering to determine how “the Jewish question” would be “coordinated and solved one way or another,” after dozens of discriminatory laws and actions since 1933. At the meeting in November 1938, Goering announced policies that included punitive fines, the exclusion of Jews from the economy, social segregation, and emigration. (He also favored the concentration of Jews in ghettoes, but Heydrich opposed this.) At the end, Goering summed it up: “I would not like to be a Jew in Germany.”

Polish workers: As the war forced a reliance on foreign laborers, in 1941 the government issued instructions to German farmers on how to handle their Polish workers. A prohibition on attending church was the relevant point in the trial, but there were a dozen other points, including prohibitions against Poles travelling or attending public events. The Poles were not to be housed in the farmhouse with the German family, but instead should be “quartered in stables.” “No remorse whatever should restrict such action,” the farmers were instructed, and any German farmer who failed to maintain “the necessary distance” from Poles would be punished.

An announcement and a reaction: On August 22, 1939, Hitler told his military commanders about the imminent attack on Poland and his broader strategy for the war (first Poland, then the Soviet Union). According to one record, after hearing the decision, “Goering jumped on the table. Bloodthirsty thanks and bloody promises. He danced around like a savage. The few doubtful ones remained silent.” (The prosecution presented that document but relied on another, more subdued report of the event as evidence; that report stated simply that Goering expressed his approval.)

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: “Your child belongs to us already.”

Post by Matt Seccombe, May 7, 2018

During April I analyzed the documents in seven IMT prosecution document books, covering 245 documents and 770 pages of material. The subjects covered diverse elements of the “Common plan or conspiracy” charge (count 1), including totalitarian control, education and youth, propaganda, purges and terrorization, labor, and suppression of Christian churches. The material reflects the prosecution’s central argument, that the war crimes and crimes against humanity (counts 3 and 4) were derivative of the primary crime—the war of aggression (count 2)—and that the entire Nazi regime was a common plan to take control of Germany and mobilize it for that war.

Tactics: While the main story of the rise to power is familiar, partly due to the trial’s function in presenting the record to the world, some of the details are surprising. Beyond thuggery in the streets, some of the early measures were more subtle. One affidavit described a tactic used by Goebbels in Berlin: “Once, in order to disrupt the premiere of the film ‘All Quiet on the Western Front,’ he had white mice smuggled into the theater and then set them free; this caused an indescribable panic among the female moviegoers.”

Militarization: The evidence confirms the theme that the regime was dedicated to war from the outset and that it worked systematically to militarize every element of German society. The take-over of the trade unions in May 1933 was not simply a matter of controlling the organizations. It extended to the reorientation of work, as reflected in the rhetoric: Nazi activists in workplaces were the “Factory Troops,” and workers became “Soldiers of Labor.”

The message was pervasive in the Hitler Youth organizations: “He who wants to live should also fight!” “Fight is the highest aim of youth.” “For Hitler we live, For Hitler we die.” (By the way, Hitler Youth organizations operated in many countries outside Germany, including the United States.)

The indoctrination extended to young children, including one very young boy who was visited by a monitor at home. She told him, “You must grow up and be a big boy so you can fight for the Fuehrer.” He replied, “I don’t like to fight.” The lesson was repeated.

Hitler himself made the point most emphatically. In a speech in November 1933 he addressed those who had opposed him and would never support him. That no longer mattered, he told them: “Your child belongs to us already”

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.

Voting With Your Feet? Better Check Protocol First…

Today we’re sharing an addendum to our Scanning Nuremberg series written by document analyst Judith Haran.

Post by Judith Haran, May 3, 2018

I’ve been analyzing documents for the HLS Nuremberg Project for a year now, and I’ve seen a lot of odd and often disturbing tales: stories of slave labor on a scale difficult to imagine, starvation, beatings, even kidnapping of children from lands to the east of the Third Reich. My task for the past three months has been to read through and index transcripts of the “Industrialist Trials”—the trials of the directors of Krupp (armament makers), I.G. Farben (a huge chemical conglomerate, whose product line included Zyklon B) and the Flick concern (a coal/steel industrial empire). The transcripts are long, up to 13,000 pages in the case of the Krupp trial, and can get repetitive at times. But the stories they tell are endlessly fascinating.

April was devoted to the Krupp trial. Over two hundred witnesses testified between November 1947 and the following June. In addition to ‘hearing’ what the witnesses had to say (which included accounts of people being locked inside steel cabinets, beaten with shovels, and dying in air raids after being excluded from shelters), I find that some of the juiciest tidbits come from ‘eavesdropping’ on conversations between the judges and the attorneys . . .endless arguments over admissibility of evidence, techniques of cross-examination (apparently not part of the European tradition), and other points of legal strategy. But the atmosphere, as far as this reader can tell, remained cordial and professional . . . most of the time.

Members of the defense counsel watch and listen as evidence is presented against their clients in the Justice Case. Left to right: Dr. Alfred Schilf of Ansbach defending Herbert Klemm; Dr. Erich Wandschneider of Hamburg-Othmarschen defending Curt Rothenberger and Dr. Heinrich Grub of Nurnberg defending Ernst Lautz.

Members of the defense counsel watch and listen as evidence is presented against their clients in the Justice Case, one of the current war crimes trials at Nurnberg directed against the former Nazi judges and public prosecutors. Left to right: Dr. Alfred Schilf of Ansbach defending Herbert Klemm; Dr. Erich Wandschneider of Hamburg-Othmarschen defending Curt Rothenberger and Dr. Heinrich Grub of Nurnberg defending Ernst Lautz. olvwork376096

Three American jurists ran the Krupp trial: Judge Anderson of Tennessee, Judge Daly of Connecticut, and Judge Wilkins of Seattle, Washington. Anderson, the official presiding judge, ran a tight ship. However, a major upheaval in his otherwise peaceful courtroom occurred on trial day 21, a cold, damp day in January, 1948. Perhaps it was the ongoing lack of decent food in the city, or the sub-par accommodations. Perhaps the heat, which wasn’t that great to begin with, wasn’t working that day. In any event, the tensions that had been simmering beneath the surface since the start of the trials in 1945 finally came to a boil. Alfred Schilf, counsel for defendant Friedrich Janssen, lost his composure.

 

After listening to the prosecution present written evidence for all of a Friday morning, Herr Schilf tried to raise a point about an issue from the day before. Judge Daly, who was presiding that day, interrupted him. Things quickly began to get heated. Schilf got angry and attempted yet again to speak. Daly shot him down harshly: “There will be no further discussion on that.”

Schilf, however, wouldn’t give up.

“Your honor, I protest that I am not permitted to go on. . .”
“Did you hear me say, counselor, that there will be no further discussion on this question?”
“Yes, and I protest against this ruling and request that a decision of another court. . .”
“You will please take your seat or I will order you removed from the courtroom.”
“Ich bitte darum,” (I ask you to) replied Schilf, with an acid tone of voice (as it later emerged in testimony).
“All right, you can remove yourself, then,” the judge replied.1

Schilf left the courtroom in a huff, and the prosecution continued presenting written evidence for the next few hours. After 47 additional pieces of evidence had been presented, Judge Daly finally noticed that none of the twenty-odd members of the defense team were present in the courtroom, remarking “They perhaps folded their tents.” He sent the marshal out to round them up. It took thirty minutes to find them.

What happened next came as a shock to the defense team. Daly found that twelve of them had left deliberately and announced that these twelve were to be held in contempt of court. Asked why they had left, a spokesman for the group told the judges, “An injustice had been done to our honor.” Daly ordered the marshal to arrest the leaders of the group and to keep them in prison for the weekend.

One of the accused tried to speak, through the interpreter. Daly was having none of it.

“No, you are not going to say anything. You are in contempt of this Tribunal, and you’re not going to say anything until you’ve purged yourself.” It was late Friday afternoon; Daly adjourned the court until Monday. Over the weekend, newspapers around the world ran the story about the arrest of the German lawyers.

The offenders all trooped back into court on Monday morning. The presiding judge read them the riot act, accusing them of openly challenging not only the Tribunal’s authority, but also the authority of all of the nations currently occupying Germany. After he said his piece, the “trial within a trial” began.

Otto Kranzbuehler, the brilliant (and bilingual) leading defense attorney, who’d been absent on the fateful day, was appointed to represent the accused. His first motion, to have the case heard by a different tribunal, was quickly overruled. He called Schilf to testify. Together they examined Friday’s events in minute, excruciating detail. Schilf had taken umbrage over Daly repeatedly interrupting him, and insisted that in his 25 years of legal practice, neither he nor anyone else he knew had ever been removed from a courtroom.

6 Krupp Lawyers Jailed by Court: New York Times article about the incident, January 17, 1946.

6 Krupp Lawyers Jailed by Court: New York Times article about the incident, January 17, 1946.

Translation difficulties, as it turned out, accounted for some of the misunderstanding. Differences between German and American court protocol and expectations accounted for much of the rest. Grievances were aired; explanations were made on both sides. Apologies were asked for and given, first by Schilf, and then, as Monday dragged on into Tuesday, by most of the others involved. Only one, Guenther Geisseler, held out, refusing to apologize or even admit to any wrongdoing.

At the end of the two days of testimony, Kranzbuehler summarized the events, as well as German legal custom, for the Tribunal.  The American judges must have been surprised to hear that it was perfectly legal in Germany for counsel to walk out of the courtroom in protest, and that lawyers of that country were never found “in contempt” for any reason. Unfortunately for the lawyers in question, that country, the Germany they had grown up in, lay in ruins around them. Another sixteen months would have to pass before its successor state, the Federal Republic of Germany, was officially founded in May 1949.

It was Wednesday before the bench announced that it would accept the apologies of the five lawyers (graciously, one hopes), but would disqualify Geisseler, the intransigent one, from continuing in the case. The larger trial got underway again, and the transcript continues on (and on, and on) for another eleven thousand pages. I’m happy to report that after January 16th, with the exception of a few snide remarks (on both sides), everyone behaved themselves just fine.

Judith Haran is a graduate student in Library and Information Sciences who works part time as a document analyst for the Nuremberg Project at HLS. She also writes fiction about WW2, and maintains a blog at judithharan.com. She posts on Twitter as @judithharan.

1 William Manchester, The Arms of Krupp, New York, Little Brown, 1968, 651-652.

In addition to Manchester’s book, the following are useful sources on the trials:

  • Taylor, T. (1992). The anatomy of the Nuremberg trials: A personal memoir­­­­­­­­­­­­. New York, NY: Knopf.
    An insider account written years later by the Chief Counsel of the US prosecution team.
  • von Knieriem, A. (1959). The Nuremberg Trials. Chicago: Henry Regnery Co.
    A legal analysis of the trials, from point of view of a German lawyer. Translated from the German. The author, who was general counsel to IG Farben, was himself tried and acquitted after the war.

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: Wrapping up NMT9 and a preview of the IMT

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.

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: some humble details and curiosity on the bench

Post by Matt Seccombe, January 16, 2018

In December and early January, I worked through the papers of six Case 9 defendants, covering 169 documents and 895 pages of material. The sixth, Strauch, was the last defendant to present his case, so, subject to some double-checking, all the Case 9 trial documents have now been identified and analyzed—1129 documents and ca. 6700 pages. The remaining task is to finish the review of the transcript, 1800 pages to go, to find additional information that needs to be added to the analysis of the documents, such as whether an exhibit offered by one side and objected to by the other was finally accepted or not by the tribunal. We now have six of the Nuremberg trials done, NMT 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, and 9, and a total of 11,400 documents analyzed.

Humble details: The final defendants in the trial, coincidentally or not, included two who were ill and whose capability to stand trial was in doubt (one case was severed, the other remained) and several men who were minor figures in the einsatz program. The most minor of them all was Matthias Graf, who did not fit the indictment’s target of German officers who had command roles in the einsatzgruppen. Graf was not an officer at all; he started the war as a corporal and rose no higher than sergeant during the operation, and his duties were primarily clerical. This was well established by one exhibit: copies of postcards his wife had sent to him during war, with the address spelling out his lowly rank. (Graf was found not guilty of the major charges, and was released due to time served on the lesser charge of membership in a criminal organization.)

Curiosity on the bench: In the late stages of the trial the defendants’ cases became highly repetitive variations on a few themes (“I wasn’t there at the time,” “I was working on other assignments,” “I was a staff member, not a commanding officer,” etc.), which could make the proceedings tedious—though for each defendant it was important to make his argument at full length, given the prospect of a death sentence if found guilty of conducting mass executions.  One response to the repetition was an occasional loss of patience in the court, though the judges, prosecutors, defendants, and defense attorneys were almost always courteous and often considerate of one another, with a few awkward exceptions. Another response was to explore some small point that a judge found interesting. One was curious about the Yuletide candlesticks that the SS gave to officers (part of the SS effort to develop non-Christian rituals), so a defense attorney provided a picture of one as a show-and-tell. In the Graf case, the court tried to find out just how much or little a junior staff member might have learned about the orders to liquidate Jews and other groups on the eastern front. The following (paraphrased) exchange occurred:

Judge: Did you ever attend a conference or meeting where the order was explained?
Graf: No. Only senior officers would have attended such a meeting.
Judge: Did you ever meet Himmler or Heydrich?
Graf: I did see Himmler once.
Judge: How did that happen, and did you speak with him?
Graf: He came to where we were stationed, and had supper with the officers. As the junior person on the staff I was assigned to wait on him at the table.
Judge: Was it a good meal?
Graf: Well, I would rather have that supper than what we are served here in prison.
Judge: If you could do that again today, would you want to serve Himmler his supper?
Graf: No, I would not want to do that again.

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: 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.

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