Buchenwald Trial

The Buchenwald Trial or United States of America vs. Josias Prince of Waldeck et al. (also referred as Case 000-50-9) was a war crime trial conducted by the United States Army as a court-martial in Dachau, then part of the American occupation zone. It took place from April 11 to August 14, 1947 in the internment camp of Dachau, where the former Dachau concentration camp had been located until late April 1945. In this trial, 31 people were indicted for war crimes related to the Buchenwald concentration camp and its satellite camps, all of whom were convicted. The Buchenwald Trial was part of the Dachau trials, which were held between 1945 and 1948.

The pigs in the SS stables received better feed, compared to the food of the prisoners

When American troops reached the concentration camps of the German Reich in the final stages of World War II, they were unprepared, partly because they were in the middle of combat, to face and trail the atrocities in the concentration camps. The care of mostly emaciated and very sick "Muselmänner" and the burial on the death marches of thousands of prisoners who perished from starvation or shooting presented a difficult task for the United States Army. Before the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp on 11 April 1945, the American soldiers had taken photographs after the capture of the Ohrdruf concentration camp, a subcamp of Buchenwald, that illustrate the horrific circumstances of the camp evacuation. As early as 12 April 1945 the Supreme Commander of the Allied forces, Dwight D. Eisenhower, visited the Ohrdruf concentration camp and, because of the terrible camp conditions, he asked for U.S. and British politicians, representatives of the United Nations and the U.S. press to view the camp. On 16 April 1945, 1000 people from Weimar under American command were mandated to visit Buchenwald concentration camp where they could witness the remaining traces of the mass extinction. Elsewhere nearby residents had to bury the victims from the evacuation marches.

In this context, as part of the U.S. War Crimes Trial Program, a U.S. program for the instauration of legal standards and a judicial system to prosecute German war crimes, American investigators began promptly with inquiries to identify those responsible for these crimes. The perpetrators were soon caught and detained, including the last commandant of Buchenwald concentration camp Hermann Pister, who was arrested in June 1945 by American soldiers in Munich. The Command staff was interned in a prisoner-of-war camp at Bad Aibling and was interrogated shortly after the war ended in 1945 by the Counterintelligence Corps. At least 450 former Buchenwald inmates were called as witnesses, including Hermann Brill, and two truckloads of documentary material from the camp commander was used as evidence. Because of the London EAC Protocols, on 1 July 1945 the American military in Thuringia handed it over to the Soviet Military Administration in Germany (SMAD). After preliminary investigations against more than 6000 people until the fall of 1945, about 250 suspects were detained. However, witnesses were often no longer available to identify or incriminating photographs were not properly assigned; and some suspects managed to flee.

Since the Soviet Union had the most victims (about 15,000) in Buchenwald compared to the other nations involved, presumably other suspects were staying in the Soviet occupation zone or were there in custody, the American military government in Germany (OMGUS) considered to leave the Soviet Union in charge of the judicial process. On 9 November 1945, the deputy military governor Lucius D. Clay submitted a proposal to the leader of the Soviet Military Administration in Germany, Vasily Sokolovsky, to transfer the Buchenwald Trial to the Soviet government. After lengthy negotiations and hesitant inspection of the investigation files, the Soviet side expressed interest in the proceeding only with respect to the mass killing in Gardelegen, where 1000 prisoners were burned alive. After the handover of the investigation of the 22 accused to the Soviet military authorities, it was agreed to perform the same procedure for the defendants in the Buchenwald concentration camp and Mittelbau-Dora, a former Buchenwald central warehouse and from October 1944 an independent concentration camp. 3 September 1946 was stipulated as the date for the transfer of the detainees and the extensive evidence concerning Buchenwald and Mittelbau; however, no representatives of the Soviet military administration appeared at the meeting point at the border zone. After 14 hours of waiting, the prisoners and the evidence were taken back to the detention center at Dachau. The Soviets may not have accepted the offer because they used the concentration camp after the takeover as "Special Camp 2" and may have feared future accusations of war crimes themselves.

Private negotiations regarding the competence of the Buchenwald proceedings arose because of the significant delayed international criticism. In particular, the United Nations War Crimes Commission, a Commission of Allied states to prosecute war crimes committed by the Axis powers, demanded already at the beginning of 1946 the implementation of the Buchenwald Trial before an international court. After the Soviet military authorities showed no interest, French and Belgian judicial authorities announced their desire to carry out the trial. This option was rejected by the American side having regard to the immense work of translation that should have been done. The lead investigator in the U.S. Army forced then the beginning of the process. By the end of December 1946 the preparation for the process was completed.

This page was last edited on 30 May 2017, at 23:36.
Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buchenwald_Trial under CC BY-SA license.

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