Post by Matt Seccombe
During February I analyzed the documents of the second half of the prosecution case against Frick, the French presentation on forced labor, and the case against Hans Fritzsche, a senior official in the propaganda ministry. This amounted to 110 documents and 544 pages of material.
The political bureaucrat: The first half of the prosecution case on Frick presented his work as an architect of the Nazi legal and institutional regime, as he was a master of governmental systems. The second half showed his other side. In 1930, as a Nazi leader in a minority party, Frick declared that the party’s role in the Reichstag was “an undermining of the parliamentarian system.” The goal was “a racial dictatorship,” and the means to that end were the opposite of legalistic: “in a battle blood must be shed and iron broken.”
Miracles of paperwork: One obstacle for Hitler’s political career was that he was an Austrian and not a German citizen. As a minister in Thuringia in 1930 Frick tried to fix that by appointing Hitler to a minor position in the civil service, which would provide him with citizenship and make him eligible for public office. Once the effort was made public, it was blocked. The maneuver was repeated, successfully, in Brunswick in 1932, allowing Hitler to run for office as a German. Another problem was the fact that the personal records for Erhard Milch, Goering’s subordinate (and defendant in NMT 2), showed that his father was Jewish. This would not do, so Frick’s ministry reviewed Milch’s case and discovered that his “real” father was a pure-bred German, and the paperwork was “corrected” accordingly.
The excursion to Paris: Years ago my first review of the entire IMT/NMT collection (some 490 boxes) turned up four boxes from the French prosecution case in the IMT, and the quick box-level viewing indicated that it was all in French. Since we are only working on English-language trial documents, this material was “not in scope.” When I got to the first appearance of the French case in the IMT, in late January 1946, covering economic crimes (forced labor and “pillage”), I realized that the material ought to be checked more closely. That review showed that three of the boxes have some material in other languages, and most of the evidence on forced labor (but not pillage) came in pairs of French and English versions. The search and sorting out of the documents slowed down the process considerably, but the material is worth the effort.
The forced labor effort was enormous, with millions of workers conscripted, and it had other effects as well. Goebbels argued for its use toward the goal of “the destruction of asocial life,” beginning with Jews and Gypsies: “The idea of exterminating them by labor is the best.” In the Netherlands, the German regime ordered the closing of all non-essential businesses in order to free up workers for the war economy. The proscription of a long list of industries, activities, and organizations amounted to the elimination of the country’s cultural life.
A brief hesitation: In November 1938, after the anti-Jewish rampage, Fritzsche asked himself, “Can one still go on with this sort of thing as a decent human being?” Then he proceeded to go on with that sort of thing in the propaganda ministry.
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].