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Former SS-Sturmbannfuehrer Friedrich Weitzel, officer in charge of food and clothing distribution in Dachau, testifies during the trials.

The Dachau trials were held for all war criminals caught in the United States zones in occupied Germany and Austria, as well as for those individuals accused of committing war crimes against American citizens and its military personnel. The trials, which were held within the walls of the former Dachau concentration camp, were conducted entirely by American military personnel whose legal authority had been conferred by the Judge Advocate General's Department within the U.S. Third Army.

The Dachau Military Tribunal's chief prosecutor was 32 year-old William Denson, a U.S. Army lawyer.[1] The chief defence counsel was Lieutenant Colonel Douglas T. Bates Jr., an artillery officer and lawyer from Centerville, Tennessee.[1]


Unlike the International Military Trials in Nuremberg that prosecuted the major Nazi war criminals under the jurisdiction of the four Allied Occupying Powers, the Dachau tribunals were held exclusively by the United States military between November 1945 and August 1948. The proceedings were similar to the 12 post-1946 Nuremberg trials that were also conducted solely by the United States.

All the hearings were held within Dachau because it was, at the time, the best known of the Nazi concentration camps and it would act as a backdrop for the trials by underlining the moral corruption of the Nazi regime.

During almost three years, the American military tribunals tried 1,672 German alleged war criminals in 489 separate proceedings. In total 1,416 former members of the Nazi regime were convicted, of these, 297 received death sentences and 279 were sentenced to life in prison. All convicted prisoners were sent to War Criminals Prison #1 at Landsberg am Lech to serve their sentences or to be hanged.

Two of the most highly publicised trials concerned the activities of German forces during the Battle of the Bulge in late 1944. In the Malmedy massacre trial, 73 members of the Waffen-SS were found guilty of summarily executing 84 American prisoners of war during the attack. In another trial, former German commando Otto Skorzeny and nine officers from the Panzer Brigade 150, were found not guilty of breaching the rules of war contrary to the Hague Convention of 1907 for wearing American military uniforms in a false flag operation, Operation Greif.[2][3]

Camp trials

  • The Dachau Camp Trials: 40 officials were tried; 36 of the defendants were sentenced to death on 13 December 1945. Of these, 23 were hanged on the 28 May and 29 May 1946, including the former commandant Martin Gottfried Weiss and the camp doctor Claus Schilling. Smaller groups of Dachau camp officials and guards were included in several subsequent trials by the U.S. court. On 21 November 1946 it was announced that, up to that date, 116 defendants of this category had been convicted and sentenced to terms of imprisonment.
  • The Mauthausen Camp Trials: 61 officials of this camp were tried by a U.S. military court at Dachau in March/April, 1946; 58 defendants were sentenced to death on 11 May 1946. Those executed included the commandant of the SS-Totenkopfverbände.
  • The Flossenbürg Camp Trial: 52 officials and guards of this camp were tried between 12 June 1946 and 19 January 1947. Of the defendants, 15 sentenced to death and 25 to terms of imprisonment.
  • The Buchenwald Camp Trial: Between April and August, 1947, 31 defendants were found guilty. Of these 22 were sentenced to death; 9 to imprisonment.
  • The Mühldorf Camp Trial, five officials were sentenced to death by a U.S. war crimes court at Dachau on 13 May 1947 and seven to imprisonment.
  • The Dora-Nordhausen Trial: On 7 August 1947 it convicted 15 former SS guards and Kapos (one was executed). The trial also addressed the question of liability of Mittelwerk V-2 rocket scientists.[4][5][6]

Notable death sentences

Jürgen Stroop (center, in field cap) with his men in the burning Warsaw Ghetto, 1943

  • Jürgen Stroop: Ex SS-Gruppenführer. Sentenced to death on 21 March 1947 for ordering the summary execution of captured Allied airmen. Later extradited to Poland to stand trial for his role in the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto. Condemned to death by Polish authorities on 23 July 1951 and executed in Mokotów Prison in Warsaw on 6 March 1952.
  • Erich Wasicky: Ex SS-Hauptsturmführer and medical officer in the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp system (1941-1945). Oversaw the establishment and operation of the gas chambers in the Mauthausen main camp and the satellite camp of Hartheim. Sentenced to death on 13 May 1946 and executed on 28 May 1947.
  • Martin Gottfried Weiss: Ex SS-Obersturmbannführer in the Dachau concentration camp system. Served twice as commandant of the Dachau main camp (1942-1943 and April 1945). Also commanded the satellite-camp of Mühldorf (1944-1945). Sentenced to death on 13 December 1945 for atrocities committed during his first command at Dachau, which included the initial construction and use of the camp's gas chamber and human experimentation conducted using camp inmates. Executed in Landsberg prison on 29 May 1946.

Notable acquittals

See also

Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 Greene, Joshua (2003). Justice At Dachau: The Trials Of An American Prosecutor. New York: Broadway. p. 400 pp. ISBN 0-7679-0879-1. 
  2. The trial of Otto Skorzeny and others Archived October 2, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. in the General Military Government Court of the U.S. Zone of Germany.
  3. Some Noteworthy War Criminals Archived 2005-12-13 at the Wayback Machine. Source: History of the United Nations War Crimes Commission and the Development of the Laws of War. United Nations War Crimes Commission. London: HMSO, 1948
  4. "A Booklet with a Brief History of the "Dora" - Nordhausen Labor-Concentration Camps and Information on the NORDHAUSEN War Crimes Case of The United States of America versus Arthur Kurt Andrae et al.". 
  5. "United States of America v. Kurt Andrae et al. (and Related Cases)" (pdf). United States Army Investigation and Trial Records of War Criminals. National Archives and Records Service. April 27, 1945 – June 11, 1958. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  6. Franklin, Thomas (1987). American in Exile, An: The Story of Arthur Rudolph. Huntsville: Christopher Kaylor Company. p. 150. 

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