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.