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Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 304
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    The Nuremberg trials are regarded as models of postwar justice, but the Mauthausen trial was the norm and reveals the troubling face of American military proceedings. This rough justice, with its lax rules of evidence and questionable interrogations, compromised legal standards in order to guarantee that guilty people did not walk free.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06312-9
    Subjects: History, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    Shortly after 9:00 a.m. on May 27, 1947, the first of forty-nine men condemned to death for war crimes at Mauthausen concentration camp mounted the gallows in the courtyard of Landsberg Prison near Munich. The mass execution that followed resulted from an American military trial conducted at Dachau in the spring of 1946—a trial that had lasted only thirty-six days and yet produced more death sentences than any other in American history. To be sure, the crimes of the condemned men had been monstrous, laying bare the murderous nature of Hitler’s twelve-year Reich. Yet despite meting out punishment to...

  4. CHAPTER 1 War Crimes Trials and the U.S. Army
    (pp. 10-50)

    At the end of October 1943, the foreign ministers of Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States came together to discuss the issue of German atrocities and possible measures to be taken against the perpetrators. The resulting Moscow Declaration, released to the press on November 1, 1943, established two separate paths along which Nazi war criminals would be brought to justice once hostilities had ended. The first path, which led ultimately to both the International Military Tribunal and the U.S. Military Tribunals at Nuremberg, was reserved for the arch-criminals of the Third Reich. The second path, which culminated...

  5. CHAPTER 2 American Investigators at Mauthausen
    (pp. 51-86)

    When the first war crimes investigators entered Mauthausen on May 6, 1945, concentration camps Auschwitz, Majdanek, Bergen-Belsen, and Buchenwald had already fallen into Allied hands. Yet despite the horrific scenes that their Russian, British, and American counterparts had reported from these camps, investigators were scarcely prepared for what they discovered. Aside from the masses of dead that littered the camp, the gas chamber and crematoria provided evidence of mass murder on a near-industrial scale. In the weeks that followed, investigators set to work piecing together the crimes committed within the camp’s walls, deeply affected by their visceral confrontation with atrocity....

  6. CHAPTER 3 The Prosecution Crafts Its Case
    (pp. 87-114)

    Toward the end of 1945, the Judge Advocate’s Office referred the Mauthausen case to trial, following an assessment of masses of evidentiary materials submitted by Major Eugene S. Cohen and other war crimes investigators who had worked at Mauthausen and its subcamps. Although officials in the Judge Advocate’s Office had reviewed thousands of cases concerning atrocities committed in the American zone of occupation, against American personnel or in concentration camps overrun by American forces, the Mauthausen case was one of a much smaller number ultimately chosen for trial at Dachau.¹ Lieutenant Colonel William Denson, assigned by the Judge Advocate to...

  7. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  8. CHAPTER 4 The Defendants in the Dock
    (pp. 115-167)

    As Chief Prosecutor William Denson put the final touches on the statement he would present to the court on the first morning of the Mauthausen trial, he had every reason to feel confident. Less than four months earlier, he had achieved a 100 percent rate of conviction in the first Dachau concentration camp trial, before a similar military government court. Denson’s use of the innovative charge of “participating in a common design to commit war crimes” had therefore already proved to be highly effective in prosecuting the large groups of defendants chosen for the mass-atrocity parent cases. Further, American military...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Judgment at Dachau
    (pp. 168-200)

    The final two days of the Mauthausen trial were its most eventful. Not only did the prosecution and defense present their final arguments to the court, but the Dachau judges announced their verdicts, sentences, and a series of special findings designed to facilitate the more rapid prosecution of other Mauthausen personnel in subsequent proceedings. The brevity of this final trial phase typified the military trial process, while raising questions about its ultimate fairness. To summarize a case brought against sixty-one defendants, the prosecution spoke for a mere half hour, and the defense for even less. To arrive at sixty-one verdicts,...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 201-216)

    In the months following the close of the Mauthausen trial, proceedings at Dachau continued at full steam. Almost immediately, the Deputy Judge Advocate for War Crimes assigned Chief Prosecutor William Denson his next major task: preparing the Flossenbürg concentration camp parent case following the death of the original prosecutor.¹ Building on his experiences with both the Mauthausen and Dachau cases, Denson had a preexisting, efficient trial strategy with which to approach the Flossenbürg case—a strategy that would again provide a 100 percent rate of conviction.

    Despite his impeccable prosecutorial record, however, the immense workload placed upon the shoulders of...

  11. APPENDIX: The Mauthausen Trial Charge Sheet
    (pp. 219-222)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 223-258)
  13. Bibliography of Primary Sources
    (pp. 259-262)
  14. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 263-264)
  15. Index
    (pp. 265-276)