Scrapbookpages Blog

November 16, 2011

Why was the gas chamber at Dachau not mentioned in the trial of the Commandant and 39 others?

This post is in response to a comment on my blog regarding the Dachau gas chamber; the comment included a link to the web site of Carlos Whitlock Porter here.  The question of why the staff members of the Dachau concentration camp were not charged with the crime of gassing prisoners is frequently asked.  The trial of Martin Gottfried Weiss and 39 others, by the American Military Tribunal, started on November 15, 1945 shortly before the start of the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal.  At the Nuremberg IMT, the charges against the German war criminals included the charge of gassing prisoners at Dachau and other death camps.  So why wasn’t the Commandant of Dachau (Martin Gottfried Weiss) charged with this crime by the American Military Tribunal?

The charges against all of the accused in all of the American Military Tribunal proceedings were that they had participated in a “common plan” to violate the Laws and Usages of War under the Geneva Convention of 1929 and the Hague Convention of 1907. However, in all of the proceedings of the American Military Tribunal at Dachau, only crimes committed against the Allies during World War II were included.

Since the names and nationality of the prisoners who were gassed at Dachau were unknown, there was no testimony during the proceedings against Martin Weiss, et al, about any citizen of an Allied country, or an Allied soldier, who had been killed in the gas chamber at Dachau.

Unlike the Nuremberg IMT, the American Military Tribunal at Dachau did not include charges of Crimes against Humanity.

The definition of a Crime Against Humanity, according to the Nuremberg IMT, is as follows:

Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated.

If the charges by the American Military Tribunal at Dachau had included Crimes against Humanity, then the Dachau gas chamber could have been put into evidence at the Dachau proceedings because Crimes Against Humanity were crimes against ANY CIVILIAN POPULATION, not necessarily against civilians in countries at war with the German Reich.

After the proceedings of the American Military Tribunal against Martin Gottfried Weiss, and 39 others on the Dachau staff, ended in the conviction of all of the accused, 61 members of the staff at the Mauthausen concentration camp were charged with war crimes by the American Military Tribunal at Dachau on March 7, 1946 and proceedings against them began on March 29, 1946.

In the proceedings against the 61 members of the staff of the Mauthausen concentration camp, there was testimony that Soviet POWs had been killed in the gas chamber there and American Navy Lt. Jack Taylor testified that American soldiers had been gassed at Mauthausen.    (more…)