Post by Matt Seccombe
During September I analyzed the remaining documents of the prosecution case against Streicher and all of the case against Hjalmar Schacht, the regime’s banker; this amounted to 175 documents and 751 pages of material.
Extermination declared: In December 1942, the “United Nations” (the Allied nations) issued a declaration on reports that Germans “are now carrying into effect Hitler’s oft repeated intention to exterminate the Jewish people in Europe.” Adults were being worked to death, others starved to death, and many had vanished: “None of those taken away are ever heard of again.” (The extermination camps were not mentioned, perhaps due to lack of precise information at that point.) The declaration also stated that the Allies would respond, in a way that led to the Nuremberg courtrooms: “those responsible for the crimes shall not escape retribution.”
H. H. G. Schacht: In contrast to Streicher’s repellent brutality, Schacht was polished, cosmopolitan, and genteel. This began with his middle name, Horace Greeley, reflecting his father’s years as a journalist in the United States. He had been an accomplished banker before the Nazi era, including a major role in establishing a stable currency after the hyperinflation crisis. He saw himself as a political influencer, able to guide leaders away from dangerous decisions. The prosecutors were ambivalent about him; the interrogator who insisted on his criminal responsibility also asked him to draft a plan for Germany’s post-war finances. The tribunal gave him one of its very few not-guilty verdicts, primarily because he left the government before the war though he had done his full share, as Keitel stated in 1937, to construct “the complicated modern war instrument.” Some passages in the transcript suggest that the judges were reluctant to find a government official guilty unless he actively participated in war crimes, perhaps reflecting their own status as government officials themselves. Schacht went on to a third career in international finance.
Rivals: Like other leaders, Schacht was deeply engaged in competition with other officials under Hitler. In 1935 he regarded himself and the military as the conservative (prudent) wing of the government, with Streicher and Goebbels as the dangerous radicals. Goering was a constant threat, not ideologically but due to Goering’s appetite for power. Commenting on Goering’s control over foreign exchange and other economic programs, Schacht noted, “He collected everything he could get.”
The instrumentalist: In September 1935 Schacht claimed that Hitler was becoming more conservative, even as he made radical speeches on Nazi racial policy. Hitler was simply feeding rhetoric to the masses: “He knows well how to play that piano.” (Schacht did not realize that Hitler was also playing him.)
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].