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Casual Slaughters and Accidental Judgments

Casual Slaughters and Accidental Judgments: Canadian War Crimes Prosecutions 1944-1948

Series: Heritage
Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 292
  • Book Info
    Casual Slaughters and Accidental Judgments
    Book Description:

    Patrick Brode has produced a fascinating study of government hesistancy surrounding war crime prosecutions inCasual Slaughters and Accidental Judgements, a history of Canada's prosecution of war crimes committed during the Second World War.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-3250-9
    Subjects: History, Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    R. Roy McMurtry and Peter N. Oliver

    The purpose of The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History is to encourage research and writing in the history of Canadian law. The Society, which was incorporated in 1979 and is registered as a charity, was founded at the initiative of the Honourable R. Roy McMurtry, a former attorney general for Ontario, now chief justice of Ontario, and officials of the Law Society of Upper Canada. Its efforts to stimulate the study of legal history in Canada include a research-support program, a graduate student research-assistance program, and work in the fields of oral history and legal archives. The Society publishes...

  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xx)

    The intent of the Canadian war crimes trials was to show that, notwithstanding Clausewitz, there are restraints on warfare. These trials restated the principle that military excesses are morally unjustified and should be punished. Such notions of justice are by no means unique to Canada; rather, they may be viewed as part of a modern trend to compel soldiers to bear responsibility for their actions, to demonstrate that force is controlled not only by treaties but also by actions.

    Recognized rules of warfare have existed since ancient Greece and Rome, but they rarely seem to have extended beyond the occasional...

  7. [Illustrations]
    (pp. xxi-2)
  8. 1 Rumours of Murder
    (pp. 3-16)

    The first official notice of German atrocities against Canadians came from Prime Minister Mackenzie King’s announcement in Parliament that six RCAF officers had been shot after an attempted escape from Stalag Luft III. During the ‘Great Escape’ of 24–5 March 1944, seventy-seven men had broken out of the Luftwaffe prison camp. Some of the escapees were recaptured and held at the Gestapo prison at Gôrlitz. There, the guards told them that they could be executed at any time: ‘You are wearing civilian clothes they said,’ and we can do what we like with you. You can disappear.’¹ Some officers...

  9. 2 Murder Division
    (pp. 17-29)

    Self-sacrifice, comradeship, and an intense devotion to Nazi ideology were the foundations of the Hitler Youth movement. Its main purpose was to ‘mobilize and to discipline an entire generation of German youth in the spirit of National Socialism; to loosen their ties to the Church, the family and to the past; to inculcate the ideal that the State was everything and the individual nothing’¹ In the pre-war years, the movement offered a popular athletic, patriotic, and social forum for young people, but during the war it became increasingly militaristic as youths trained for combat and acted as auxiliaries for the...

  10. 3 Indifference to the ‘War Crimes Business’
    (pp. 30-53)

    Bureaucracies, even in time of conflict, proceed at a stately pace, and the arrangements for war crimes prosecutions were no exception to this rule. After the United States and Britain had created the United Nations War Crimes Commission in November 1942, Canada was asked to participate. It declined. The diplomatic view, expressed by External Affairs officer Marcel Cadieux in April 1943, was that because Canada was far removed from the conflict it should content itself with looking after its nationals and prisoners of war.¹ War crimes investigations could be useful, he suggested, as a ‘weapon of political warfare’ to rally...

  11. 4 Questions of Partiality
    (pp. 54-66)

    Back in England the prosecution team was being assembled and Macdonald selected Clarence Campbell as his assistant. Dalton Dean, an expert in military law from the Judge Advocate General’s Department, was also assigned to the prosecution. The rest of the unit’s staff would help the prosecutors gather witnesses and evidence. The translation load promised to be enormous, and Major JJ. Stonborough would act as chief interpreter with other officers as alternates. While the unit had collected the evidence and would prosecute, JAG would continue to perform a separate function. As the armed forces’ legal professionals, JAG staff would ensure that...

  12. 5 Brigadeführer on Trial
    (pp. 67-101)

    On Saturday, 8 December, camera crews took over the courtroom to test their equipment. With a Canadian soldier substituting for Kurt Meyer, they conducted a rehearsal of the opening formalities. The following Monday, with the camera recording the scene, the judicial theatre was officially convened. Wearing a plain German army uniform with gold general’s epaulettes, Meyer, flanked by his officer guards, was marched into the courtroom. Passing through a gauntlet of journalists and photographers, he walked confidently to the front of the courtroom and bowed to the generals. He was determined to demonstrate ‘the firm will to prove myself in...

  13. 6 But for the Grace of God
    (pp. 102-115)

    On New Year’s Day, 1946, Wady Lehmann visited Kurt Meyer for the last time. He carried with him confirmation that Meyer was to be shot by firing squad on 7 January. As Lehmann was leaving, he inadvertently wished the condemned man a happy New Year. He quickly apologized, but Meyer waved off his thoughtless comment. Death did not upset him for he had seen many fine men die and was not about to make an exception for himself.¹

    In the days following the conviction, both Lehmann and Plourde urged Meyer to frame an appeal. At first he refused to even...

  14. 7 Shot like Wild Animals
    (pp. 116-135)

    Maria Hirsch was at her hairdresser in March 1945 when an air-raid alarm sounded and she ran for shelter. What happened next was typical of the surreal existence of wartime Germany. The raid’s target was elsewhere, but before Hirsch left the shelter a soldier came in and called out, ‘Are some strong men here? We have a Canadian soldier out there. We may not lay hands on him.’ The soldier’s intent was plain. He was recruiting a civilian murder squad. Some suggested that the police do it, but the soldier explained that the police could not be involved. Maria Hirsch...

  15. 8 Opladen: The Forgotten Case
    (pp. 136-156)

    After the attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler in July 1944, the Nazi regime, already ready to crush the slightest opposition, became fanatical in its suppression of any internal threat. Selected officers of absolute loyalty to Hitler became a special liaison between the Nazis and the army. Thesestandsgerichtsoffizier,whatever their rank, had unlimited powers to order the execution of any suspects, including senior officers. One of these special officers was an Oberleutnant, Robert Schaefer. Near the end of March 1945, Schaefer was in charge of three Canadian airmen in the small town of Opladen north of Cologne. With the roar...

  16. 9 Hong Kong: The Law of the Imperial Japanese Army
    (pp. 157-177)

    By September 1945 Canadian prisoners were returning from Asia and their emaciated bodies were a testament to the four years of suffering they had endured. Only 4 percent of Allied prisoners died in German captivity; in contrast 25 per cent of Western prisoners perished in Japanese hands. Similarly, whereas only 4 per cent of the Canadians held by Germany had died, 20 per cent (290 men in total) of those captured by the Japanese did not return.¹ The survivors had endured in camps where they were almost worked to death, subjected to brutal punishment for minor infractions, and deprived of...

  17. 10 The Japanese Trials: Camp Guards and the Architects of War
    (pp. 178-199)

    Although it was never expressly stated, one of the objectives of the war crimes trials seems to have been the systematic description of just what happened to Canadian prisoners. Much as the Meyer trial had uncovered and detailed the crimes in Normandy, the Asian courts martial would give life to the horror of the prison camps. In all, 1,183 Canadians were sent from Hong Kong to Japan as forced labour and harnessed to the imperial war machine. From the accounts of those who survived, the conditions there were worse than those in Hong Kong. As one sergeant recalled, sick men...

  18. 11 ‘Siegergericht’
    (pp. 200-216)

    By 1948 the war crimes staff had returned to a prosperous country and stepped back into or began successful careers. George Puddicombe rejoined his Montreal law firm and in 1960 became a judge of Quebec’s Queen’s Bench. Judge McDougall returned to Canada in mid-1948 (two years later than he had planned) with an appreciation for Oriental art and an impressive collection of Japanese woodcuts. Of the European staff, Victor Collins, John Blain, and Maurice Andrew became outstanding lawyers in their communities. One of the translators, the urbane Raymond Robichaud, became the chief translator for-the House of Commons. While the war...

  19. 12 Canadian War Crimes and the Consequences
    (pp. 217-230)

    the courtroom is the appropriate laboratory to test the consequences of international law, one of the tragedies of the Second World War was the Allies’ unwillingness to subject the conduct of their soldiers and generals to investigation. In this lapse lay a cautionary tale about one-sided justice that did not bode well for the future. Despite this lapse, however, Canadian soldiers were regularly subject to the rigours of military discipline.

    The spoils of war were sweet indeed for the Canadian army in 1945. In the view of the Netherlands commander, Lieutenant General Guy Simonds, they were a bit too sweet...

  20. Appendix Charge Sheet of Kurt Meyer
    (pp. 231-232)
  21. Notes
    (pp. 233-274)
  22. Photo Credits
    (pp. 275-276)
  23. Index
    (pp. 277-290)
  24. Back Matter
    (pp. 291-292)