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Military justice: The U.S. Army crimes trials in Germany, 1944-1947.

Yavnai, Elisabeth M (2007) Military justice: The U.S. Army crimes trials in Germany, 1944-1947. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom).

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In the aftermath of World War II the United States embarked on the largest-scale war crimes punishment program in its history. In addition to the well-publicized trials of the Nazi leadership at Nuremberg the U.S. Army prosecuted 1,676 lesser war criminals in the American zone of occupation in Germany. The Dachau trials, as they later became known, were the culmination of the Army's concentrated effort to investigate, apprehend, and interrogate suspected war criminals in the last months of the war. The trials revived the American tradition of war crimes prosecution in military courts. Their purpose was to punish the perpetrators, educate the public about the crimes of the Nazi regime, and help democratize the Germans. The defendants included Nazi military and state officials, concentration camp personnel, as well as German civilians accused of killing and mistreating allied nationals in violation of the laws of war. The trials provided the earliest glimpse into the identity of individual perpetrators, life in the Nazi concentration camps, and the attitudes of the German population toward captured American prisoners of war. This study examines the role of the U.S. Army in bringing war criminals to justice in Germany. It explores the historical, political, legal, and military origins, implementation, and significance of the Dachau trials. It argues that through a systematic judicial response to Nazi crimes, the Army helped punish the perpetrators, protect its troops, and advance American occupation goals in Germany. Yet legal limitations prevented the Army from addressing certain Nazi-perpetrated crimes or presenting a coherent historical narrative that could have assisted in reshaping German collective memory. Nevertheless, through the Dachau trials the Army provided some degree of retribution; created a symbolic separation of Germany's past from its future; and promoted an early discussion on individual guilt and acceptance of history.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: History, European, History, Military, Political Science, International Law and Relations
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
Departments > International History

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