The United States and the Concentration Camp Trials at Dachau, 1945-1947
Evans, Richard J.
University of Cambridge
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Lawrence, G. (2019). The United States and the Concentration Camp Trials at Dachau, 1945-1947 (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.33348
After much debate during the war years over how best to respond to Nazi criminality, the United States embarked on an ambitious postwar trial program in occupied Germany, which consisted of three distinct trial sets: the International Military Trial at Nuremburg, the Nuremberg Military Tribunals, and military trials held at the former concentration camp at Dachau. Within the Dachau military tribunal programme, were the concentration camp trials in which personnel from the Dachau, Mauthausen, Buchenwald, Flossenbürg, and Dora-Mittelbau concentration camps were arraigned. These concentration camp trials at Dachau represented the principal attempt by the United States to punish Nazi crimes committed at the concentration camps liberated by the Americans. The prosecutors at Dachau tried 1,045 defendants accused of committing violations of the ‘laws of war’ as understood through ‘customary’ international and American military practice. The strain of using traditional military law to prosecute the unprecedented crimes in the Nazi concentration camps was exposed throughout the trials. To meet this challenge, the Dachau concentration camp courts included an inventive legal concept: the use of a ‘criminal-conspiracy’ charge—in effect arraigning defendants for participating the ‘common design’ of the concentration camp, ‘a criminal organization’. American lawmakers had spent a good deal of time focused on the problem of how to begin the trials (What charges? What courts? Which defendants?) and very little time planning for the aftermath of the trials. Thus, by 1947 and 1948, in the face of growing tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, the major problem with the Dachau trials was revealed –the lack of long term plans for the appellate process for those convicted. After two scandals that captured the press and the public’s attention, the United States Congress held two official investigations of the entire Dachau tribunal programme. Although the resulting reviews, while critical of the Army’s clemency process, were largely positive about the trials themselves, the Dachau trials faded from public memory.
Concentraion Camp Trials, Holocaust Trials, World War II, Transitional Justice, Legal History, American HIstory, Military History, Military Trials, International Justice, Genocide, Cold War, United States Military History, Nuremberg Trials, Military Tribunals
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.33348
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