Prosecuting the Holocaust: British investigations into Nazi war crimes, 1944-1949

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Testimony of and interviews with victims and alleged perpetrators

Testimony of and interviews with victims and alleged perpetrators

Burning 2000 people took about 24 hours in the five stoves. Usually we could manage to cremate only about 1700 to 1800. We were thus always behind in our cremating because as you can see it was much easier to exterminate by gas than to cremate, which took so much more time and labour.
Rudolf HössCommandant of Auschwitz

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Bringing Nazis to justice and giving victims a voice

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Drawn from the UK National Archives, this collection contains a wealth of information regarding the British government's efforts to investigate and prosecute Nazi crimes during the period 1944-1949. The evidence gathered sheds light on almost every aspect of the Holocaust, from the concentration camp system to the mass murder of the “incurably sick” in psychiatric hospitals. More importantly, it gives a voice to the victims of these atrocities, many of whom testified about their experiences immediately after the war.

The files include materials from the WO 309 (War Office: Judge Advocate General's Office; British Army of the Rhine War Crimes Group), WO 311 (War Office: Judge Advocate General's Office; Military Deputy's Department), and WO 235 (War Office: Judge Advocate General's Office; War Crimes Case Files) series.

Contents

Prosecuting the Holocaust: British investigations into Nazi war crimes, 1944-1949...

Containing 180,875 pages belonging to 144 documents housed in 8 volumes...

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Highlights

Records relating to Auschwitz-Birkenau, 1945-1947

Auschwitz-Birkenau was a series of concentration and extermination camps that operated in German-occupied Poland from 1940 to 1945. It is estimated that over 1 million people perished in Auschwitz—the vast majority of whom were Jews. These items lay bare the scale of the crimes committed in the camps.

International Scientific Commission for Investigation of Medical War Crimes, 1946-1948

During the Second World War, the Nazi state implemented a programme of involuntary sterilisation and euthanasia for those it deemed “incurably sick.” It also carried out unethical and inhumane experiments on inmates at concentration and extermination camps. This report formed the basis of the Nuremberg Code—a set of ethical principles for human experimentation.

Ill-treatment of civilians and forced labourers, 1944-1949

The German Army occupied the Channel Islands from June 1940 to May 1945. These materials shed light on the deportation of British subjects, the experience of the civilian population, and the ill-treatment of Soviet forced labourers.

Hanover Gestapo case No 1. Proceedings, 1947

Hanover Gestapo case No 1. covered the execution of Allied prisoner of war by the German military. These files include testimony from both survivors and defendants, as well as petitions for clemency.

Insights

  • Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States worked together to prosecute high profile war criminals under the Nuremberg Charter. Each country provided two judges and one prosecutor for the Nuremberg Trials. The four Allied powers tried lower-level officials and functionaries in their own zones of occupation.
  • The bulk of the documents in the collection come from the Office of the Judge Advocate General (JAG) at the British War Office, which dealt with military law and war crimes.
  • Suspects were detained, photographed, and interviewed by JAG officers. The resulting detention reports form a significant part of the collection.
  • The files also show the importance of survivor testimony in building a case and securing a prosecution.
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