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.
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.