Scanning Nuremberg: Notes from February 2019

Post by Matt Seccombe

During February, I completed the prosecution evidence on the Gestapo and SD and began the documents on Ernst Kaltenbrunner, whose case overlapped because he was chief of the security police; this amounted to 170 documents and 597 pages of material. The final two files on the Gestapo and SD were used to rebut defense arguments at the end of the trial, and the rush to finish is reflected in the documents. While US document files typically contain only US evidence in English, these contain evidence entered by all four prosecuting parties (US, UK, USSR, and France), in three different languages (English, French, and German), and in one case the document lacked the necessary evidence code. These complications slowed down the analysis process, but everything got in (the missing evidence code was found via a list in the published IMT record).

Punishable acts: Among the orders for protective custody and placement in a concentration camp, Kaltenbrunner cited the following reasons: “defeatist statements,” “intimate association” with a Pole, “drifting around,” and “shirking and insubordination.” Toward the end of the war such orders increased, as the SS needed more workers in its camps. 

Eichmann explains: One affidavit describes a meeting in spring 1942 where Eichmann described the program to exterminate European Jews and explained the context: “Victory is ours. The end of the war is near. We must hurry as this is the last chance to free Europe of the Jews. After the war it will not be possible to utilize such methods.”

The High Command and the SS: While German officers often claimed they honored military traditions and simply served as soldiers during the war, evading orders to commit atrocities (and I have seen some evidence of that among officers in the field), the OKW (Military High Command) cooperated with the SS in several of the criminal actions: the Night and Fog program, in which Resistance members were secretly sent to Germany and then to the concentration camps; the commando order, under which captured Allied commandos were turned over to the security police and shot; and the killing of captured Allied airmen, explained in an order of June 1944 that “value is no longer placed on imprisoned [i.e., captured] enemy aviators.”

One of the SS-military operations was the screening of Soviet POWs in the military’s POW camps, so that communists and Jews could be turned over to the SS and killed. One SS officer reported in January 1942 that an army major stated that military officers were reluctant to turn over prisoners knowing they would be killed, and the SS officer replied that the difficulty was not felt only by the army: “the hearts of some of the SS men who were charged with executing prisoners were all but breaking.”

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 [email protected].

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