German diplomats at Nuremberg : a study of the Foreign Office defendants of the Ministries Case / by Donald L. Singer.
The role of the German Foreign Office officials in Hitler's plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe raises the following questions: How much did the officials know? Did the officials' actions contribute to Hitler's criminal program? How did the officials justify their continued service in the Nazi regime? Could they have acted differently The Nuremberg trials dealt with these questions. Ostensibly formulated from existing international law, it dealt with a variety of charges. Of all these charges, the attempt to exterminate the European Jews represented the most obvious violation of international conduct. Thus the trial of German diplomats for crimes against the Jews tests the validity of Nuremberg law and provides information on the diplomats themselves. Eight individuals associated with the Foreign Office were defendants at the Nuremberg trial known as the Ministries case: Ernst von Weizsacker, Ernst Woermann, Otto von Erdmannsdorff, Karl Ritter, Ernst Wilhelm and corroborate impressions derived from the Transcripts. The following standards of determining the defendants' legal accountability were suggested during the trial proceedings: a defendant's initial or signature on an incriminating document; reliable testimony of a defendant's involvement with incriminating activities; admission of incriminating activity. The Tribunal did not adhere strictly to these standards, and several times reached a conclusion on the basis of probability. The following paragraphs contain my conclusions. Most of the defendants (possible exceptions being Bohle and Ritter) knew enough about the treatment of the Jews to be held legally accountable for any participation in that treatment. Three (Weizsacker, Woermann, and Veesenmayer) or possibly four CSteengracht) defendants signed documents or took actions which made them participants in the deportation program. There is, however, a discrepancy between legal guilt and moral guilt. Weizsacker and Woermann, for example, were among the less morally culpable defendants. Most of the defendants said that duty compelled them to remain in office, but their concepts of duty differed markedly. It is plausible that the defendants knew more than could be legally proven. However, psychologically they may have refused to comprehend the obvious. The defendants could have offered greater resistance to the deportations, though not without undetermined personal risk. This coercion justified mitigated punishments, but not acquittals. The Tribunal made some questionable decisions. Furthermore, Bohle's and Keppler's convictions for membership in the SS, an organization associated with the deportations, were contrary to international law. The Tribunal, however, conducted the trial fairly. Generally, its verdicts were sound regarding direct involvement of defendants with the deportations. The Ministries trial of German diplomats for crimes against the Jews was a valid exercise of international law.
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