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Beyond Justice

Beyond Justice: The Auschwitz Trial

Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Beyond Justice
    Book Description:

    In 1963, West Germany was gripped by a dramatic trial of former guards who had worked at the Nazi death camp Auschwitz. It was the largest and most public trial to take place in the country and attracted international attention. Using the pretrial files and extensive trial audiotapes, Rebecca Wittmann offers a fascinating reinterpretation of Germany’s first major attempt to confront its past.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-04529-3
    Subjects: History, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    Are war crimes beyond justice? Whatisjustice in cases of mass devastation and annihilation? The word “justice,” according to theOxford English Dictionary, means “equity,” “the quality of being morally just,” “rectitude,” “the vindication of right through the court of law,” and “the infliction of punishment.” Modern justice is generally sought through the administration of law in judicial proceedings. Is there a way to successfully try the perpetrators of genocide, to mete out just sentences, and to atone for mass atrocity?¹ Are the courts, the victims, and society searching for legal justice, or for justice to history and memory?...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Pretrial History
    (pp. 15-53)

    Between 1950 and 1962 the West Germans investigated 30,000 former Nazis, indicted 12,846, tried 5,426, and acquitted 4,027. Statistics vary somewhat from source to source, but all show a relatively high figure for acquittals and a low number of heavy sentences. Of those sentenced, only 155 were convicted of murder.¹ The West German justice system opened investigations only after historians, sociologists, and psychologists began to examine the legacy of the Allied prosecutions at Nuremberg. Domestic scholars were not dealing with the subject at all in the 1950s, and it was only grudgingly taken up again in West Germany after foreign...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Pretrial Investigations
    (pp. 54-94)

    Even once the investigations into the Auschwitz perpetrators were initiated at the end of the 1950s, it took five long years for the trial to begin. Why? To begin proceedings against suspected criminals, the courts had not only to investigate the accused themselves but to determine the reliability of the sources bringing complaints. We can begin to understand the intricacies of such a drawn-out trial and the length of time it took before the trial began by studying the twists and turns of the pretrial phase and examining the role of a few key players. Although the 1950s have commonly...

  7. CHAPTER 3 The Indictment
    (pp. 95-142)

    The frankfurt auschwitz trial opened on December 17, 1963, at the Römer courthouse in the medieval center of the city. It began with the motion to open a preliminary judicial inquiry (Antrag auf Eröffnung der gerichtlichen Voruntersuchung) on July 12, 1961, and culminated in the motion to open the main proceeding: the indictment (Antrag auf Eröffnung des Hauptverfahrens: Anklageschrift) on April 24, 1963. The 1961 motion was the court’s first involvement in the investigation process. That investigation process, which had begun four years before with the complaint of a prison inmate, was officially comprehensive enough for the prosecutors to turn...

  8. CHAPTER 4 The Trial
    (pp. 143-190)

    The trial began on December 20, 1963, with the interrogations of defendants Mulka, Höcker, Boger, Stark, Dylewski, and Broad.¹ In the courtroom, the Holocaust faded almost entirely into the background, as excessive, unauthorized brutality was emphasized by the judges and the prosecution (in an attempt to convict the defendants of murder within the confines of the West German penal code), the defense (in order to exonerate their clients) the witnesses (because cross-examination limited them to specific descriptions of individual crimes), and the press (to sell newspapers).² The testimony of survivors and former SS judges and press coverage are useful focal...

  9. CHAPTER 5 The Summations and the Judgment
    (pp. 191-245)

    The closing arguments at the Auschwitz Trial began on May 7, 1965. Although technically these summations were part of the trial, they clarified the positions of both the prosecution and the defense at the end of the trial, and they preceded the deliberations and judgment of the court. No doubt the closing arguments also had a great deal of influence on the final decision-making process, which was in the hands of the three judges and six jurors. The closing arguments by the prosecutors show that they were not willing to abandon their goal of putting the entire Auschwitz complex on...

  10. CHAPTER 6 The Response to the Verdict
    (pp. 246-274)

    In the history of Germany’s troubled self-examinations, this trial occasioned one of the most important and most public confrontations of the 1960s. Reporters, scholars, and cultural critics all commented on the judgment quickly after its announcement. In the wide variety of responses to the trial, most newspaper reporters shared a sense of disbelief and horror at the crimes that were recounted in the judgment. Whether the response to the verdict was positive and the reporter felt that justice had been properly served, or negative and the reporter showed disappointment at the lenient sentences, this incomprehension remained. Although it is difficult...

  11. Abbreviations
    (pp. 277-278)
  12. Pretrial Chronicle, March 1958–October 1963
    (pp. 279-281)
  13. SS and Concentration Camp Ranks
    (pp. 282-283)
  14. Judges, Jury, Prosecutors, Defense Lawyers, and Defendants
    (pp. 284-284)
  15. The Verdict
    (pp. 285-286)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 287-320)
  17. Primary Sources
    (pp. 321-322)
  18. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 323-326)
  19. Index
    (pp. 327-336)