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PREFACE Every work of scholarship is to some extent autobiography. In all my work, including the book you are holding in your hands, my discomfiture with the problem of evil shadows every page. The question of how our world could produce an event like the Holocaust bestrides this book, as it does most of my writing on Nazi crimes and the law. The Holocaust, however, is only half of the problem. The other half is how a society that produced the Holocaust deals with evil on such a scale. In Germany, expiation for Nazi genocide took the form of criminal trials of the perpetrators. While doing research for my first book, Confronting the “Good Death,” I fell under the influence of the German historical writer Jörg Friedrich. His analysis of West German postwar trials persuaded me that they were largely a farce, in which compromised German judges engineered acquittals or lenient sentences for notorious murderers. Friedrich’s indictment seemed convincing, especially since my own research into the West German trials of Nazi euthanasia personnel appeared to confirm it. Two subsequent incidents became the stimulus to reevaluate this theory of miscarried justice and sham trials. The first was a comment by my friend and colleague Dick de Mildt, to the effect that West German judges in his readings of the trials gave careful and often painstaking consideration to the testimony of death camp survivors. I filed Dick’s statement away in some remote corner of my memory, where for several years it lay, untended but not forgotten. The second incident was a presentation made at an academic conference by a law professor who asserted that the West German proceedings against death camp perpetrators were ludicrous spectacles of exoneration and leniency. Dick’s observation some years earlier contrasted starkly with this view. I decided to investigate the question of whether justice was done in these trials. The present book is the result of my investigations. The documentary heart of this study consists of the records of investigation , trial, and post-trial appeals concerning three major death camp proceedings in West Germany: Belzec, Treblinka, and Sobibor. Most of the records are housed in the archives of the Central Office of the State Judicial Administrations for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes in Ludwigsburg, Germany. After poring through a mountain of police and judicial documents, I found that Dick de Mildt’s assessment of the trials was correct; the judges were, Preface xii for the most part, receptive to the testimonial evidence offered by survivorwitnesses against the accused. The fate of a defendant literally depended on the availability of eyewitness testimony to connect him with a crime recognized under the German Penal Code. (All the death camp prosecutions in West Germany were based on German law.) I was mildly surprised by the outcome of my research, not least because it contradicted my a priori assumptions about the objectivity and rigor of the death camp trials. However, I was unwilling to absolve the German judiciary from chicanery in its efforts to grapple with Germany’s crimes under the Nazis—crimes in which the judiciary was heavily involved. For more on the legal profession’s checkered engagement with Nazi genocide after the war, the reader will have to explore the pages of this book. I am responsible for all of the translations from German into English; hence any errors in translation should be laid solely to my own account. Where possible, I have sought to convert German legal terms into Anglo-American legal concepts, rather than translate them word-for-word from the German. (An example: Hinreichender Verdacht, literally “sufficient suspicion,” is translated in the book as “probable cause.”) Where such rendition was impossible without distorting the original meaning of the German term, I have so indicated in the text. Michael S. Bryant Barrington, Rhode Island Summer 2013 ...

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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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