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

Scanning Nuremberg: tactics and five of the NMT 9 defendants

Post by Matt Seccombe, November 3, 2017

The Scanning Nuremberg series shares the observations and insights of Matt Seccombe, Nuremberg Trials Project Metadata Manager/Document Analyst, as he analyzes documents for digitization as part of the HLS Library’s Nuremberg Trials Project website

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

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

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

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

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

More about the Nuremberg Trials Project:

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

National Endowment for the Humanities logo

 

 

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

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

Scanning Nuremberg: halfway through NMT 9

Post by Matt Seccombe, October 9, 2017

The Scanning Nuremberg series shares the observations and insights of Matt Seccombe, Nuremberg Trials Project Metadata Manager/Document Analyst, as he analyzes documents for digitization as part of the HLS Library’s Nuremberg Trials Project website

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

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

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

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

More about the Nuremberg Trials Project:

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

National Endowment for the Humanities logo

 

 

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

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

Scanning Nuremberg: beginning analysis of the defendants’ documents

Post by Matt Seccombe, September 7, 2017

The Scanning Nuremberg series shares the observations and insights of Matt Seccombe, Nuremberg Trials Project Metadata Manager/Document Analyst, as he analyzes documents for digitization as part of the HLS Library’s Nuremberg Trials Project website

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

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

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

More about the Nuremberg Trials Project:

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

National Endowment for the Humanities logo

 

 

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

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

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

Post by Matt Seccombe, August 14, 2017

The Scanning Nuremberg series shares the observations and insights of Matt Seccombe, Nuremberg Trials Project Metadata Manager/Document Analyst, as he analyzes documents for digitization as part of the HLS Library’s Nuremberg Trials Project website

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

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

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

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

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

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

More about the Nuremberg Trials Project:

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

National Endowment for the Humanities logo

 

 

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

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

Scanning Nuremberg: Beginning analysis of the Einsatzgruppen Case (NMT 9)

Post by Matt Seccombe, July 8, 2017

Editor’s note: we have some new posts to share in our Scanning Nuremberg series, and we’ll be playing a bit of catchup over the next few weeks. Scanning Nuremberg shares the observations and insights of Matt Seccombe, Nuremberg Trials Project Metadata Manager/Document Analyst, as he analyzes documents for digitization as part of the HLS Library’s Nuremberg Trials Project website

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

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

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

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

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

More about the Nuremberg Trials Project:

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

National Endowment for the Humanities logo

 

 

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

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

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.

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