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

Scanning Nuremberg: Blue grapes again and smoking gun #2

Post by Matt Seccombe, originally written June 1, 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 agenda for May was analyzing the defense material for Mettgenberg, Nebelung, and Oeschey; this covered 23 files, 259 documents, and approximately 1200 pages. Compared to recent months, the document count went down but the page count went up, as a number of long documents from Oeschey’s court cases gave us economies of scale. Mettgenberg and Nebelung made the now-familiar bureaucratic argument that they simply did office work; Oeschey was a Special Court judge, with more to answer for, and he made a voluminous and more interesting case.

The prosecutor’s use of a defendant’s evidence: By a lucky coincidence, one of Oeschey’s document books had been the in-trial copy read and used by one of the prosecutors (named Wooleyhan), and it has Wooleyhan’s marks and notes about points on which he cross-examined Oeschey and information concerning other defendants. This is the closest we’ve come to being able to see the documents at work in the trial.

The Blue Grapes on the table again: As noted previously, some evidence touches on Judge Rothaug’s reserved table at the Blaue Traube restaurant, where he gathered his circle of friends (or co-conspirators, depending on one’s viewpoint). Oeschey takes pains to say that he kept his distance from that table. (I expect Rothaug will go to great lengths to show that these meals were purely social and nutritional, not political and criminal.)

Smoking gun number 2, or, the other shoe drops: Smoking gun #1 was the document from 1939 in which Hitler announced that he had the authority to reverse any judicial decision that he didn’t like. Gun #2 comes in the summer of 1942 as Minister of Justice Thierack started to implement Hitler’s demand for a systematically Nazi judicial system. In August Oeschey wrote to his brother: “it is an absurdity to tell the judge in an individual case which is subject to his decision how he has to decide. Such a system would make the judge superfluous; such things have now come to pass. Naturally it was not done in an open manner; but even the most camouflaged form could not hide the fact that a directive was to be given. Thereby the office of judge is naturally abolished and the proceedings in a trial become a farce.”

Unfortunately for us, Oeschey continues, “I will not discuss who bears the guilt of such a development.” One suspect was Thierack’s use of “Judges’ Letters” to instruct all senior judges about the “reform” of the system that he was pursuing. Another was the practice of prosecutors conferring with the judge before a major case to discuss the issues and the predicted punishment. Not surprisingly, Oeschey’s letter got a lot of attention from prosecutor Wooleyhan.

Peculiar word of the month: “represculation.” That invites some imaginative speculation, but the rest of the document suggests it was the result of some verbal confusion compounded by a typo.

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: A smoking gun and the electrical wolf solved

Post by Matt Seccombe, originally written May 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 for April was to analyze the defense documents of Ernst Lautz, who had a lot to answer for as the chief prosecutor of the notorious People’s Court. He answered at great length. In April I worked through 17 files, 287 documents, and approximately 900 pages. The document count set a monthly record but the page count was below average as Lautz’s attorney submitted many 1 or 2 page exhibits and the economies of scale went into reverse.

Routine under the shadows: Lautz’s primary argument was that he did ordinary business in a legitimate court. The People’s Court was not a Nazi invention; it was established in the 1920s to deal with a wave of political violence, and it followed ordinary though speeded-up procedures. High-profile political cases were managed by the Minister of Justice (the also-notorious and deceased Thierack) and decided by the judges, leaving Lautz (he argues) as the mere functionary in the middle. Much of his evidence seems calculated to show how boring his work was.

Even the boring documents carry a message when patterns emerge, and one was in the routine lead-in language for minor changes in law and procedure: All the changes were noted as the product of negotiations between Justice, the Reich Chancellery, and the Party Chancellery—which meant that everything went through Martin Bormann, Hitler’s deputy, who also had a veto over every appointment and promotion. The whole ministry operated under Party supervision.

A smoking gun: Amidst all the bland routine in Lautz’s material, one striking legal change sticks out, years before Hitler’s 1942 announcement of a future complete Nazification of German law. In 1939 Hitler announced that he had the legal authority to make an “extraordinary objection” to any judicial decision he disagreed with, thus overturning it. In case anyone missed the point, Judge Freisler published a memo explaining that German law no longer depended on traditional sources; it now depended on Nazi policy and Hitler’s wishes. In short, the rule of law was over.

Searching for what isn’t there: Given the necessity of finding where trial documents appeared in the trial, I continued to try to “map” the 11,000 page transcript, first for the cases of all the defendants (when they took the witness stand and made their case) and then for all their document books. Only the transcript can tell us whether a document was offered as an exhibit, whether it was accepted or not, what the exhibit number is (if accepted), and what errors might have been corrected when the document was introduced and discussed. Two defendants (Nebelung and Petersen) proved to be quite elusive. Finally I stumbled on a single sentence where the judges said they understood that the two were not going to testify at all—so I could stop looking. Fortunately I’ve found where their attorneys submitted their documents as evidence. However, most of defendant Mettgenberg’s document books haven’t been located in the transcript yet. After searching through the expected locations, it’s a matter of flipping through several subsequent transcript volumes, looking for the unaccounted-for evidence.

The wolf tracked down? Having noticed the puzzling phrase “electrical wolf” previously, I mentioned it recently to a German colleague, who said “That’s what we call a paper shredder.” It’s a plausible explanation for the phrase, which appears at the end of a secret legal draft.

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: The Blood-judge, false false rumors, and documentary dilemmas

Post by Matt Seccombe, originally written April 3, 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

During March I finished the Cuhorst files and covered 2 more defendants, Joel and Klemm, so 6 of the 14 have been completed. The work covered 33 files, 286 documents and ca. 1160 pages. For those calculating the numbers, in the defense files the number of documents has gone up while the number of pages has not, as many of them are very short, often 1 or 2 pages.

The bureaucratic defense: After Cuhorst’s colorful (and successful) defense of himself as a blood-judge who convicted often and enthusiastically but without discrimination or persecution, Joel and Klemm reverted to the familiar argument that they simply tended to their own offices and avoided the darker activities they didn’t want to learn about.

Night, fog, and shadows: The judges and prosecutors present a lot of evidence about looming forces beyond their control that kept them isolated. The Gestapo and the Interior Ministry under Himmler dominated the coercive forces, including the power to simply take anyone who couldn’t legally be charged or who was charged and acquitted. Joel and Klemm also show that the Justice Ministry under Minister Thierack (a Nazi true believer who committed suicide before he could be tried) answered to the Party Chancellery under Martin Bormann, who acted as Hitler’s agent on policy and appointments. In contrast to Roland Freisler, a People’s Court judge known in the ministry as “Raving Roland” (who was killed by a well-aimed Allied bomb), the defendants apparently kept a very low profile (according to them, of course) and avoided asking questions.

Going to the right source: One affidavit explains that in 1942-43 Klemm and a colleague handled the case of a man charged with spreading defamatory false rumors, namely that Jews were being sent to the east and gassed to death. As part of standard procedure they tried to establish that the rumor was indeed false, so they asked the Gestapo, which assured them it was completely false. If they still wondered, they probably knew it not safe to ask more questions.

The prosecution helps the defense: The evidence provided at the IMT and NMT trials was undeniable proof of crimes committed, but it could be ambiguous or confusing about who was responsible. Joel presented an IMT prosecution document (presented by the US) showing that his own office had written a letter criticizing the SA and SS for the abuse of concentration camp prisoners. Klemm presented other IMT prosecution documents showing that the Gestapo had kept government ministries in the dark, and that Himmler was the one who authorized the lynching of captured Allied airmen.

Documentary difficulties: One cardinal rule in a trial is that an attorney can submit documents but only the judges can enter them as exhibits (or reject them). Klemm’s attorney was unclear on the concept, and he labelled every single evidence document as an exhibit, posing a problem for the judges (who sorted it out) and for me, since 80 or so documents are incorrectly identified. The “Notes” field got a good workout to explain the situation. And a cardinal rule for our project is that physical documents and analyzed documents match 1-to-1, but one of Joel’s documents was added at the end of the preceding one, not separately (1 physical for 2 analytical). We could resolve this by making a duplicate image for the page with the second document.

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: Blue grapes solved, Himmler’s shadow, and ordinary life

Post by Matt Seccombe, originally written March 3, 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 the month was to begin the analysis of the defendants’ trial documents, beginning with Altstoetter. I worked through 3.5 defense cases, including 3 small ones and half of one of the biggest (Cuhorst), covering 20 files, 242 documents, and 1076 pages.

Transcript work: Finding where each defendant presented his case is difficult, as they did not go in any apparent order. Flipping through the volumes is time-consuming, but most of the defendants have now been accounted for. Two surprises: I found one batch of pages bound far out of place (by 1500 pages), which is not good news. Also, I found a trial-within-the-trial, of a defense lawyer accused of misconduct (trying to get access to secret information).

Puzzle somewhat answered: Last month the puzzle was the meaning of the Blaue Traube, Judge Rothaug’s regular get-togethers with his cronies (who tended to be political and police leaders). The transcript covers this as part of Rothaug’s case. It was the name of the restaurant where they met. It’s still a question whether these meetings were purely social or more sinister.

General defense: One attorney presented the general defense theory, which was that German judges and prosecutors had no constitutional authority to overrule or ignore laws enacted by the government; there was no judicial review in German law, so they all essentially had to follow orders. Beyond that, the defendants generally argued in terms of compartmentalization and secrecy, that they went about their own (harmless) jobs and knew nothing about crimes in other ministries and departments. Hitler himself bolstered this argument, with an early sweeping order requiring secrecy in all government operations, and a major speech in 1942 attacking the judicial establishment for being bound to European traditions and not getting with the Nazi program (the defendants were nearly all part of that old guard).

Himmler’s shadow: A running theme is the growing power of the Interior Ministry (the police) and the SS under Himmler; no one could say no. Altstoetter was particularly vulnerable since he grew up where Himmler attended school, and Himmler, always the empire builder, was eager to recruit him as part of the SS elite. Altstoetter’s solution was to accept only an honorary membership, thus evading active participation.

Ordinary life in extraordinary times: The defendants (notably Cuhorst, with his reputation as a blutrichter (blood judge)) had a vested interest in showing they engaged in ordinary judicial tasks, but the argument also reflects an historical truth: Even in tyrannical regimes at war, most people did spend most of their time going about their ordinary business, and case records are a trove of evidence of that social life. Cuhorst’s cases have some curious examples. 1. The extremely unhappy marriage that ended with a bitter argument and a fatal stabbing. The husband was convicted of manslaughter (not murder, for a crime of passion), and in addition to a prison term, the verdict required him to turn over the knife he used. 2. One woman compiled a long record of seductions and scams across Germany, but pushed her luck too long, since fraud during wartime was a capital offense against the war economy. 3. More darkly, a rural Catholic parish evolved into a cult involving secret rituals, mysticism, religious visions, and incest.

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: Nightmare elements and mysterious blue grapes

Post by Matt Seccombe, originally written February 12, 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

Like the mail, project news is subject to storm delays. My task for January was to finish analysis of the Case 3 prosecution material, and I did that, working through 11 files, 144 documents, and 1112 pages. The material covered a wide range of subjects.

The Night and Fog program had the most material. In this operation, western European Resistance members were “disappeared” into Germany, prosecuted there, and imprisoned, with no word given to the person’s family. Ironically, in the rare case of an acquittal, the person was seized by the SS and shot or sent to a camp, so it was better to be convicted. The point was to leave potential Resistance members and their communities paralyzed with uncertainty, and one German general described it as “his most effective punishment, exceeding the death sentences in deterrent effect.”

The euthanasia program made a third appearance in our trials (so far). Euthanasia of sick and disabled Germans provoked fierce public opposition, and in a rare instance Hitler decided to drop it. In the aftermath one judicial official emphasized to a chancellery colleague that it hadn’t really been a judicial program, which was as close to gloating as was safe to venture.

Every case has a nightmare element in it somewhere, and in Case 3 it is forced sterilization. The prosecution made a request for evidence from survivors, and one document combines the letters and documents sent in by some 25 victims. While 25 deaths would be over and done with, 25 sterilizations left the victims living with wounded bodies, broken dreams, and broken hearts expressed in painful detail. The one benefit was that they were able to express their anger and push their demand for justice (or simple revenge).

Names: one example illustrates a recurring problem. One document includes a message from an officer who was to award medals for military service. It was signed “Rommel,” without further identification. (At least it wasn’t “Schmidt.”) I entered the author as Erwin Rommel, field marshal, but in the document analysis I noted that we only have the surname and the full identification is not guaranteed.

The judges and prosecutors often found themselves working with and then under the Interior Ministry (the police) and the SS, both run by Himmler, with varying degrees of enthusiasm or dread. High officials were routinely “invited” to join the SS, either actively or nominally, and this connection was a major issue in the case. One recurring peculiarity is that the SS records for the defendants kept track of whether, inter alia, the official had a set of SS candles and candlesticks for Christmas. This is ironic in that the SS was anti-Christian as a matter of ideology, but it illustrates how good they were at coopting traditional culture.

Puzzle: One judge’s daughter described her father’s circle of political/security officer cronies as the “Blaue Traube,” meaning literally the blue bunch of grapes, or figuratively the blue group. I haven’t found evidence of whether this was an offhand description or a real group in the secretive world of the Nazis.

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: Correlating transcripts, the Nazi judicial system and the SS, and more

Post by Matt Seccombe, originally written January 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 December operation was to work through 12 prosecution document books, containing 140 documents and approximately 990 pages of material.

The transcript required more attention (and much more time) as the prosecution case began to wind down, with documents being entered almost randomly. I needed to work far ahead in the transcript to find where the evidence came in—and whether it was accepted as exhibits. Beyond that key fact, the transcript-document correlation provides other important benefits. Often the transcript supplies information not in a document, such as filling in a missing date, or correcting an error in authorship. In the other direction, in one case a document was entered in the transcript without the key identifying information (the evidence code number), but having the document books at hand allowed me to figure out which document it was (PS 2309) and make the match. There’s a fairly high error rate in the way the transcript identifies documents, so the match needs to be made carefully, and errors can be sorted out in the “Notes” field of the database.

While the material covers a wide range of topics, one recurring theme is the tension between the judicial system and Himmler’s SS. The Ministry of Justice gradually control, with the issue raised indirectly rather than explicitly (complaining about the SS was not a smart thing to do). In a domestic analogue to the Night-and-Fog operation used against foreign Resistance members, Germans who were arrested but not convicted, or who completed a prison sentence, often found themselves “disappeared” into the custody of the SS (either to be executed or put into a labor camp). Judicial officers ventured to suggest that this made the public wonder who was really in charge, a question that they already knew the answer to but couldn’t say out loud.

In one memo on discussions about the legal status of Jews, a Justice official noted that “There should be no scruples against the suggestions of the Minister of the Interior,” the minister being Himmler. These discussions tended to be one-way conversations, as Himmler kept his secrets. In the revision of the regulations against Jews, Poles, and Gypsies, Himmler noted in 1944 that the “evacuation and isolation” of the Jews and Gypsies meant that only the Poles were still an issue.

Nazi political economy: One unusual case was an elaborate prosecution of the leaders of a Catholic convent for failing to follow rationing regulations. The judge was apologetic to the Mother Superior, since the violations were inconsequential. One sentence buried in the file clarified the concept: the convent property was worth $2.5 million, and the investigation allowed the government to confiscate the entire estate.

The Dirty Dozen venture: At one point the prison authorities were asked to look through their inmates for good hunters who would be asked to serve in army and SS units behind enemy lines.

Phrase of the month: A defense attorney who knew many elite non-Nazi Germans believed that they would have been more active except that they were paralyzed by “the really masterly mysteriousness” of the Gestapo.

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: Ferocious courts and the electrical wolf

Post by Matt Seccombe, originally written December 2, 2014

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 12 files of prosecution evidence (document books 2 – 3L), holding 164 items and approximately 1410 pages.

The theme of the material is the increasing ferocity of the courts as the war progressed, with expanding jurisdiction of the People’s Courts and Special Courts and growing demands for death sentences to terrorize opponents of the regime. At the end of the war even this was considered inadequate, as political cases were turned over to courts martial for trial and execution, and at the very end it was just execution and no trial.

After the material on the general system in the earlier files, these files get into the details, where some permutations emerge from particular cases, which were well documented. Every system of power offers some points of leverage that can be manipulated. While expressions of doubt about the war were prosecuted as “defeatism” and an attack on military morale, one woman who was charged and convicted had friends who intervened in the appeals process. She was from an elite family, with powerful connections. While most appeals were from prosecutors seeking to change a prison sentence to a death sentence, hers was one of the very few successful defense appeals. Another “morale” crime was listening to Allied radio broadcasts, a capital offense. In one case, according to the official version, a patriotic housewife subordinated her family loyalties to her duty and told the police that her husband had been listening to London Radio. Trial and execution followed, as this was a charge he could not disprove. The rest of the file offers more details and a different scenario. This was an extremely unhappy couple, and a divorce would be difficult and slow; an accusation of a capital offense made for a simple and quick fix.

The issue of I and J: At one point in the trial transcript the prosecutor said (more or less), “I will now present evidence from document book 3-I.” Judge: “Don’t you mean 3-J?” The judge must have been looking at a copy of the document book, which definitely seems to say 3-J, with the letter written in by hand. Prosecutor: “No, this is 3-I; there is no 3-J.” I had followed the 3-J theory like the judge, but once the court accepted it as 3-I, that was it for the database too. This matters because we record the document book number/letter as part of the identification. Whatever the letter looks like (J), it means I. I added a note on this to the relevant entry. This set a record for the most time spent analyzing a single letter of the alphabet.

The case of the missing pages (and movie). One brief court session is missing from the transcript, with blank pages inserted. Fortunately there was some before-and-after discussion to identify what’s missing: the showing of a movie on the trial of the officers who tried to kill Hitler in 1944. An affidavit was introduced to identify the movie, which was coded as evidence NG 1019. The movie isn’t in the Case 3 document book, and it will be interesting to see what the NG set has for it, possibly a transcript of the movie’s text (NG1019a).

Mysterious phrase of the month: “annihilated by the electrical wolf on 5 November 1943” (NG 174). I haven’t found any explanation of what an electrical wolf was.

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: A unique meaning for “judicial reform”

Post by Matt Seccombe, originally written November 2014

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

NMT 3, The Justice Case [a.k.a. the Judges’ Trial]

When I began the trial analysis work at the beginning of October, all of the key materials were already in place—the Case 3 trial documents boxes, the trial transcript, and the “Green Set” of NMT trial reports—so I was able to start quickly, re-ordering some of the material, assembling basic information about Case 3 (the defendants, prosecutors, judges, main issues, etc.). I was able to begin document analysis after only one week of preparation—about one week faster than I had expected.

At the end of the month I had completed analysis of all the documents in the first box (15), including the indictment, prosecution briefs, opening and closing arguments, the tribunal’s decision and sentences (the most important document in the trial), and seven prosecution document books. These added up to 164 individual documents, so we now have more than 6000 documents in the database. The page count for the box is roughly 1700, giving an educated guess of about 12,750 pages for Case 3 as a whole.

Some patterns in the case are apparent. The evidence documents show that the defendants had not been shy about talking candidly about what they were up to during the war, such as various ways of killing captured Allied airmen (lynching by the local population, shooting by the army, or handing them over to the SS for execution), rather than sending them to POW camps as required by international law.

What is hard to absorb is that the judges and prosecutors consistently considered these actions to be a superior form of law and justice, so some of the most incriminating documents bear the title “judicial reform.” There is much discussion about Hitler’s policy (emphasized in a speech in 1942 as part of the war effort) of replacing traditional law and judicial decision-making with “authentically German” and Nazi principles and practices, and purging officials who were reluctant to go along or who had conflicting commitments. (This mind-set resembles that of the scientists and doctors in Case 1 who believed that by killing hostile or unwanted groups they were “healing” the body of the nation.)

The strangest item: One document says only “Missing 15-25,” and handling it was quite a challenge. This is a replacement page for an evidence document that had been included in a document book and then went missing, either by accident or by a decision to remove it (there’s no indication which was the case). The table of contents for the document book indicates what document had been there, so I have included the “Missing” page in the database, with a Note stating what evidence document had gone missing. Perhaps it will turn up elsewhere, or there may be some explanation of what had been done about it. This is the first document that has no substantive content, but it still has some form as a “ghost” of the missing text.

Next up: the second of three boxes of prosecution evidence.

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.

New series: Scanning Nuremberg

We’re pleased to announce a new series to our blog: Scanning Nuremberg.

Scanning Nuremberg will share 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. Matt shares not only the statistical progress of the project and behind-the-scenes of digitization, but insights into patterns of the cases, topics of testimony, ghosts of missing text, and mysterious phrases. We hope you’ll find his monthly observations as fascinating as we do.

Look for the first official post early next week; we’ll update every two weeks until we get caught up with Matt!

More about the Nuremberg Trials Project:

Court in session at the Nuremberg Trials, olvgroup12379

Court in session at the Nuremberg Trials, Record Identifier: olvgroup12379

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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