Scanning Nuremberg: Notes from January 2020

Post by Matt Seccombe

During January I analyzed the IMT prosecution documents concerning Artur Seyss-Inquart and the first half of the case against Wilhelm Frick. This amounted to 157 documents and 796 pages of material. (I also added a new task, connecting the code numbers for the scanned images of the documents to the corresponding database entries, so that the images will go up on the website connected to the corresponding analysis.) Seyss-Inquart was an Austrian Nazi who helped lead the movement in the mid-1930s (when the party was banned), engineered the Austrian submission to Hitler in 1938, served briefly in the occupation government in Poland, and then was the German commissioner in the occupied Netherlands. Frick was the Interior minister until 1943, who turned the Nazi program into legal form and then administered it.

Political profits: The German takeover of Austria was followed by actions against political opponents and targeted groups, “enemies of the people and the nation.” Among other things, their property was sequestered, followed by a confiscation process. A report on the largest estates seized lists the properties of wealthy Jews (unsurprisingly), but also seven estates of the Habsburgs, the ancient royal family.

Hadamar: While most of the evidence against Frick was legal and bureaucratic, showing his work as an architect of the Nazi government (repeating evidence already presented about the regime as a whole), the prosecution presented evidence about one program that he both helped initiate and then administered: the killing of disabled persons. In August 1941 the Bishop of Limburg protested against the euthanasia operation at the Hadamar asylum, noting the effects on local residents. The children referred to the bus that brought in the victims as “the murder-box,” and taunted others with the threat that “you’ll be sent to the baking oven.” The elderly worried that they would be next in line, as “useless eaters.” The bishop noted the irony that the killings went unpunished while the Gestapo threatened anyone who talked about them.

Increments of oppression: As commissioner in the Netherlands, Seyss-Inquart had complete governmental authority, in cooperation with the military and the SS. From August 1940 to May 1942 he issued a series of orders concerning the Jews in the Netherlands: an order requiring the registration of their businesses; a prohibition against Germans working in their households; an order requiring them to register personally; an order restricting their enrollment as students; an order for the registration, management, and possible confiscation of their property; restrictions on the sale of their property; restrictions on their professional and business activities; a prohibition of their membership in cultural guilds; and an order for the registration of their legal entitlements and property, and the handing-over of valuables. (The deportation and extermination program was regarded as an SS operation not under his control.) One puzzle was an order requiring that butchers must stun an animal before killing it; this was presented as a “humane” rule, but the effect was to prohibit kosher slaughtering.

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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