For­got­ten Tri­als of the Holocaust

Michael J. Bazyler and Frank M. Tuerkheimer
  • Review
By – July 23, 2015

Michael J. Bazyler, a law pro­fes­sor, and Frank M. Tuerkheimer, a tri­al lawyer, have writ­ten an indis­pens­able account of ten for­got­ten tri­als” of the Holo­caust. The vol­ume includes the Kharkov Tri­al of 1943, which was the first tri­al of Nazi war crim­i­nals, as well as the tri­al of Pierre Laval, the prime min­is­ter of Vichy France who presided over the depor­ta­tion of 25,000 for­eign Jews who lived in France. (His defense was that he imple­ment­ed Nazi demands in order to save native-born French Jews.) In dis­cussing the Dachau tri­als, the authors point out that until the after­math of Kristall­nacht in 1938, the con­cen­tra­tion camp incar­cer­at­ed so-called ene­mies of the Nazi regime, a cat­e­go­ry that includ­ed Jews — but not because of their racial” her­itage: rather, the Nazis focused on arrest­ing com­mu­nists, lib­er­als, and crit­ics of the Nazis in gen­er­al. Only after the 1938 pogrom did the Nazis incar­cer­ate Jews as Jews. Oth­er tri­als men­tioned include that of Amon Goeth, remem­bered as the bru­tal com­man­dant of Poland’s Płasków ghet­to depict­ed in the film Schindler’s List. Addi­tion­al chap­ters include the Ham­burg Ravens­brück tri­als in British-occu­pied Ger­many, where­in the authors address the ques­tion as to whether women con­cen­tra­tion camp guards were per­pe­tra­tors or vic­tims of the Nazi system.

The issue of fol­low­ing orders was the essence of the defense in the Ein­satz­grup­pen tri­al at Nurem­berg. Along with the help of native eth­nic groups, the Ein­satz­grup­pen killed one-and-a-half mil­lion Jews in East­ern Europe. Much has been writ­ten as to whether any of these killers had to fol­low orders to kill. The tri­al is extra­or­di­nary in how mem­bers of the Ein­satz­grup­pen tried to defend their mur­der­ous actions as obey­ing orders. The Jew­ish Kapo tri­als raise the ques­tion as to how Jews appoint­ed as Kapos over their brethren can be judged under the most extreme con­di­tions in both the con­cen­tra­tion and death camps. These tri­als and oth­ers dis­cussed in Bazyler and Tuerkheimer’s book pro­vide a pic­ture of how a small num­ber of the per­pe­tra­tors of the Holo­caust were even­tu­al­ly brought to justice.

Relat­ed Content:

Jack Fis­chel is pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of his­to­ry at Millersville Uni­ver­si­ty, Millersville, PA and author of The Holo­caust (Green­wood Press) and His­tor­i­cal Dic­tio­nary of the Holo­caust (Row­man and Littlefield).

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