Post by Matt Seccombe
During January I worked through the IMT prosecution’s rebuttal to Ribbentrop’s defense, Keitel’s defense documents, and Kaltenbrunner’s defense documents. Kaltenbrunner’s document book supplement included a bonus of sorts: a set of 15 prosecution documents concerning the killing of captured Allied airmen in mid-1944 (either by the “lynch law” of civilians or by the security police). This is the first time that a group of prosecution documents has turned up in a defense file and not a prosecution file.
The “moderate”: Ribbentrop claimed he had been a moderate on “the Jewish question.” But the prosecution found the transcript of a meeting of Ribbentrop and Hitler with Miklos Horthy, the ruler of Hungary, in April 1943. When Horthy asked what he should do about Hungary’s Jews, Ribbentrop answered, “the Jews must either be exterminated or taken to concentration camps.”
The G.D.R. puzzle: The Keitel files include a draft of a prosecution final speech replying to Keitel’s defense. The text is not signed, but the cover has the initials “G.D.R.” added by hand.
R., G. D. is not a useful author identification for us, but the American prosecutor who kept the file, Ralph Albrecht, saved a scrap of paper that noted “Ralph G Albrecht Esq. Here is a little light reading for you G. D. Roberts.” Roberts was one of the lead British prosecutors. (Senior IMT prosecutors were generally well-known figures with full records now available online, but Roberts has left few traces, so I’m not sure what the full name was.)
A proper death: Keitel and his attorney admitted that he had committed war crimes as Hitler’s military executive by issuing orders that violated international law. These included orders for the execution of captured Allied commandos, the collaboration with the SS extermination groups in the East, and the Night and Fog operation (which was the crime Keitel regretted most). His attorney explained that “the defendant has already made it clear in his argumentation, that he is not fighting for his head but for his face,” that is, his reputation. Keitel had missed “the warning voice of the universal conscience” because he had acted as “an absolute soldier.” In fact, before the trial Keitel had offered to plead guilty and provide information to the prosecution, in exchange for a promise of a military execution by firing squad, rather than hanging; the prosecution could not make that promise because punishments were to be decided by the judges.
A proper death (2): The prosecution response drafted by G. D. Roberts (but apparently not delivered in court) responded directly to Keitel’s appeal. Rather than being an excessively dutiful soldier, Roberts declared, Keitel was “dishonoured degraded reeking with the blood of his victims,” and deserved “not the honourable death of the Soldier but the shameful death of the convicted criminal and murderer.” (This was an exceptionally emotional and personal statement in the IMT. And Keitel was sentenced to hang.)
One plain fact: One of Kaltenbrunner’s colleagues offered a bureaucratic defense for him: He had not sought the job as chief of security police but had done the job assigned to him: “he was a peace-loving man. He was no rowdy, no radical.” He was another moderate on the Jewish question, but still: “For the rest, he was anti-Semit[ic], else he would not have been a Nazi.”
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]