In this Book

summary
One of the deadliest phases of the Holocaust, the Nazi regime’s “Operation Reinhard”
produced three major death camps—Belzec, Treblinka, and Sobibor—which claimed the
lives of 1.8 million Jews. In the 1960s, a small measure of justice came for those victims
when a score of defendants who had been officers and guards at the camps were convicted
of war crimes in West German courts. The conviction rates varied, however. While all but
one of fourteen Treblinka defendants were convicted, half of the twelve Sobibor defendants
escaped punishment, and only one of eight Belzec defendants was convicted. Also,
despite the enormity of the crimes, the sentences were light in many cases, amounting to
only a few years in prison.

In this meticulous history of the Operation Reinhard trials, Michael S. Bryant examines
a disturbing question: Did compromised jurists engineer acquittals or lenient punishments
for proven killers? Drawing on rarely studied archival sources, Bryant concludes
that the trial judges acted in good faith within the bounds of West German law. The key
to successful prosecutions was eyewitness testimony. At Belzec, the near-total efficiency
of the Nazi death machine meant that only one survivor could be found to testify. At Treblinka
and Sobibor, however, prisoner revolts had resulted in a number of survivors who
could give firsthand accounts of specific atrocities and identify participants. The courts,
Bryant finds, treated these witnesses with respect and even made allowances for conflicting
testimony. And when handing down sentences, the judges acted in accordance with
strict legal definitions of perpetration, complicity, and action under duress.

Yet, despite these findings, Bryant also shows that West German legal culture was
hardly blameless during the postwar era. Though ready to convict the mostly workingclass
personnel of the death camps, the Federal Republic followed policies that insulated
the judicial elite from accountability for its own role in the Final Solution. While trial
records show that the “bias” of West German jurists was neither direct nor personal, the
structure of the system ensured that lawyers and judges themselves avoided judgment.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
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  1. Title Page, About the Series, Copyright, Dedication, Epigraph
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  1. Contents
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  1. List of Illustrations
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  1. Foreword - G. Kurt Piehler, Series Editor
  2. G. Kurt Piehler
  3. pp. ix-x
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  1. Preface
  2. Michael S. Bryant
  3. pp. xi-xii
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  1. Acknowledgments
  2. p. xiii
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  1. Map
  2. p. xiv
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  1. Introduction
  2. pp. 1-22
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  1. 1. A Subject for Jurisprudence: From the Ulm Einsatzgruppen Trial to the Creation of the Ludwigsburg Central Office, 1956–1960
  2. pp. 23-34
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  1. 2. The Queen of the Dead: The Investigation and Trial of the Belzec Death Camp
  2. pp. 35-70
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  1. 3. Who Killed the Jews? The Treblinka Investigation and Trial
  2. pp. 71-124
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  1. 4. Murdering Star: The Sobibor Investigation and Trial
  2. pp. 125-190
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  1. 5. Handy-Dandy Justice: Nazi Crimes and the Self-Absolution of the West German Judiciary
  2. pp. 191-222
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  1. Conclusion
  2. pp. 223-228
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  1. Appendices
  2. pp. 229-244
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  1. Chronology
  2. pp. 245-248
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  1. Notes
  2. pp. 249-290
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  1. Glossary
  2. pp. 291-292
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  1. Bibliography
  2. pp. 293-302
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 303-313
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  1. Production Notes
  2. p. 314
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Additional Information

ISBN
9781621900702
Related ISBN
9781621900498
MARC Record
OCLC
883663767
Pages
328
Launched on MUSE
2014-08-06
Language
English
Open Access
No
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