The Mau­thausen Tri­al: Amer­i­can Mil­i­tary Jus­tice in Germany

Tomaz Jardim
  • Review
By – August 27, 2012

Tomaz Jardim’s premise is that jus­tice was not served in a num­ber of the region­al war-crimes tri­als held at many con­cen­tra­tion camps under the aus­pices of the U.S. Army. Jardim shows how piti­ful­ly unpre­pared the Amer­i­cans were for the tri­als in terms of who should be tried and where, and most impor­tant­ly, in terms of the legal issues raised by the tri­als. He also shows that agen­das oth­er than seek­ing jus­tice impact­ed on the entire war crimes effort. Jardim’s basic accu­sa­tion is that the Army used flawed pros­e­cu­to­r­i­al meth­ods. This leads him to a twofold con­clu­sion: First, that some sen­tences were exces­sive­ly harsh – espe­cial­ly for some of those tried in the war’s imme­di­ate after­math – while many major war crim­i­nals received bare­ly a slap on the wrist. Sec­ond, that in many cas­es, for exam­ple at Mau­thausen, the courts were so prej­u­diced that they were, in effect, kan­ga­roo courts. Jardim is sym­pa­thet­ic to all sides, a dif­fi­cult accom­plish­ment under the cir­cum­stances, but he tries too hard to find a con­tem­po­rary res­o­nance to the Mau­thausen trial.

Abra­ham J. Edel­heit is an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of his­to­ry at Kings­bor­ough Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege (CUNY) and the author, co-author, or edi­tor of eleven books on the Holo­caust, Zion­ism, Jew­ish and Euro­pean his­to­ry, and Mil­i­tary affairs. His most recent pub­li­ca­tion appeared in Armor mag­a­zine, the offi­cial jour­nal of the US Army Armor and Cav­al­ry Command.

Discussion Questions