Accidental justice : the trial of Otto Ohlendorf and the Einsatzgruppen leaders in the American zone of occupation, Germany, 1945-1958 / by Hilary Camille Earl.
This dissertation concerns the trial of twenty-four SS- Einsatzgruppen leaders in Nuremberg, Germany in 1947–1948. The dissertation is organized chronologically in nine chapters and analyses the origins, judicial procedure, judgment and aftermath of the Einsatzgruppen trial. It seeks to understand the trial through those who planned and participated in it by analysing the personalities and motivations of some of the major perpetrators of the Nazi Holocaust, and those who brought them to justice. It also offers insight into political and social issues such as American understanding of the Third Reich, and their policy toward Germany after the war. The dissertation is based on the materials and transcript of the trial, extensive archival research in Germany and the United States, and the personal papers of several of the major participants. Following the introduction, Chapters 2 and 3 of the dissertation describe the process by which the Americans came to hold distinct zonal trials subsequent to the International Military Tribunal. The dissertation argues that the American decision to hold zonal trials independent of their allies was the result of their negative experiences during quadripartite prosecution at the IMT, whereas their decision to prosecute leaders of the Einsatzgruppen was accidental. Initially the Americans had planned to prosecute a variety of SS leaders, but because investigators accidentally located and analysed a copy of the Operational Situation Reports of the Einsatzgruppen , and Ohlendorf confessed to the crime of mass-murder, they decided to transform a general trial of the SS leadership into one dealing specifically with Einsatzgruppen personnel. Chapters 4 and 5 provide an analysis of the background, personalities, and behaviour of the Einsatzgruppen leadership, concluding that the defendants constituted a homogenous group, sharing common attributes such as age and education, but that not all were motivated to commit murder for ideological reasons. Chapters 6, 7 and 8 analyse the trial, the role of the judge and the judgment. The dissertation contends that individuals such as Ohlendorf and Michael Musmanno, the presiding judge, significantly influenced the course and outcome of the trial. The dissertation concludes with an overview of the aftermath of the trial, and argues that political considerations had a significant impact on the fate of these defendants.
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