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October 11, 2013

Unrepentant Nazi war criminal “remained an arrogant Nazi monster until his dieing (sic) day,” according to UK newspaper

An article in the International Business Times, which you can read in full here, starts off with this headline:

Nazi War Criminal Erich Priebke’s Political Will: ‘Jews were to Blame for the Holocaust’

This quote is from the article:

In the interview, [Eric] Priebke proved he remained an arrogant Nazi monster until his dieing day. He claimed Jews are partially to blame for the Holocaust, which extent he however denied. He reveals himself as an unreconstructed anti-Semite who continued to peddle the lies that stoked the genocide of six million Jews, among them 1.5 million children, as well as millions of Russians, Poles, gypsies and gays.

“Responsibility lies with both parties,” [Priebke] said. “Due to their religious beliefs most Jews considered themselves better and above all other human beings,” Priebke says, adding that nevertheless he doesn’t hate them. “There are also good people among them.”
“In Germany Jews’ behaviour was openly criticised since the early years 1900s. They had amassed a huge economic and political power, despite being a scanty part of the world population. This was perceived as unjust.

“It is a fact that even today if you take the 1,000 most powerful and rich individuals in the world, most are Jews,” Priebke said..

Priebke claimed that Jewish migrants from Eastern Europe caused “a real catastrophe” in Germany after the First World War. [Following World War I, German territory was given to the new country of Poland. The Poles denied citizenship to the Jews, and forced them to go to Germany where they became stateless persons.]

“They stockpiled huge capital while most of Germans were living in poverty. Moneylenders got richer and annoyance towards Jews grew higher,” Priebke says.

Priebke said Hitler tried to persuade Jews to leave Germany peacefully but “had to lock them up in lagers as war enemies” after the Kristallnacht or the Night of Broken Glass. [Jewish men were locked up for several weeks until their families could arrange for them to leave Germany.]

So, what was the heinous war crime committed by Priebke?  Why was he hunted down in Argentina and brought back to Germany for trial?

Erich Priebke as a young SS soldier

Erich Priebke as a young SS soldier

This quote from the article in the International Business Times explains Priebke’s crime:

During WWII [Priebke] served under the command of Herbert Kappler in Rome.

On 23 March 1944 Keppler ordered the execution of 335 Italians, in retaliation for an attack by partisan troops that had killed 33 German soldiers.

The execution by firing squad was carried out under captain Priebke’s supervision in the ancient Ardeatine Caves in central Rome.

At his trial Priebke claimed he had only ticked off the names of those killed from a list that included 12 underage boys, about 80 Jews and a catholic priest.

After World War II ended, the Allies made a new law called “common plan,” or “common design,” under which any German was guilty of a crime if he or she were anywhere near where the crime was committed. So when Priebke “ticked off the names” of the people to be killed in a reprisal action, he was guilty of a  crime under the new law of  “common plan.”

Note that the article in the International Business Times does not mention the word “reprisal.”

During World War II, reprisals were legal.  A reprisal was an action carried out against the enemy in an effort to stop the enemy from engaging in partisan activity.  Note that the people killed in the reprisal in Italy were described as “partisans.”

Under the rules of the Geneva Convention of 1929, POWs, who had been captured while fighting on the battlefield, were protected from reprisals.  However, it was not until the Geneva Convention of 1949 that civilians were also protected against reprisals. The Geneva Convention of 1949 states that the principle of the prohibition of reprisals against persons has now become part of international law in respect to all persons, whether they are members of the armed forces or civilians.

According to international law during World War II, under the Geneva Convention of 1929, it was legal to violate the laws of war by responding with a reprisal against civilians in order to stop partisan actions that were against international law.

The fact that “underage boys” as well as Jews and a Catholic priest were killed in the reprisal where Priebke “ticked off the names,” indicates that this was a legal action taken against civilians as revenge against the civilians for killing German soldiers.

Priebke was guilty of being a “war criminal” only because the Allies changed the laws AFTER World War II.

Would it have killed the reporter for the International Business Times to have explained all this?

In today’s news, only one side of the story is told.

August 29, 2011

The “common design” theory of guilt, used by the Allies after WWII

When World War II came to an end in May 1945, the Allies were faced with the legal problem of how to punish the German war criminals.  At that time, there was no German law, nor any International law, that covered such crimes as the genocide of the Jews, nor the atrocities committed by the Germans in the concentration camps. New laws had to be made after the fact.

Col. Robert Jackson, the chief prosecutor of the Nuremberg IMT, said in his opening address: “Hence I am not disturbed by the lack of precedent for the inquiry we propose to conduct.”  He meant that he was not concerned about the creation of new laws, called ex post facto laws, which were used in the proceedings of the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal. Ex post facto laws were also used by the American Military Tribunal at Dachau, which prosecuted people who had been associated with the concentration camps that had been liberated by American soldiers.

The new law that was created, based on the concept of co-responsibility for the crimes that had been committed by others, was called “common design” or “common plan” by the Allies.

According to Robert E. Conot in his book Justice at Nuremberg, the idea of a “common design” was the brainchild of Lt. Col. Murray C. Bernays, a Lithuanian Jew who had emigrated with his family to America in 1900 at the age of six. Henry Morgenthau, Jr., a Jew who was the Secretary of the Treasury and one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s top advisers, had proposed that the German war criminals should be charged and then executed without a trial. But Bernays said, “Not to try these beasts would be to miss the educational and therapeutic opportunity of our generation. They must be tried not alone for their specific aims, but for the bestiality from which these crimes sprang.”

Under the “common plan” concept, organizations as well as individuals could be charged with war crimes and membership in an organization was enough to convict an individual of a war crime, whether or not that person committed any criminal acts himself.

For the American Military Tribunal proceedings at Dachau, the “common design” or “common plan” theory meant that individuals were guilty of crimes committed by others on the staff of a concentration camp even if they didn’t serve at the same time. It didn’t matter whether or not the crimes allegedly committed by others in a particular concentration camp had ever been proved in a court of law or by a military tribunal; staff members of that camp were presumed to be guilty of these crimes, and there was no defense against the new law of “common design.”

This new concept of collective guilt was formulated by the Allies in order to see that justice was done. The legal basis for the proceedings of the American Military Tribunal at Dachau was that the German war criminals had participated in a “common design” to commit war crimes. The prosecution had only to prove that the accused had participated in a common plan by virtue of his position on the staff of a concentration camp, whether or not he had personally committed any atrocities.

The accused in the “Dachau trials” were not charged with committing any specific crime, but rather with aiding and abetting the commission of crimes in the concentration camp system which was designated by the Allies to be a criminal enterprise.

The basis for the “common design” theory of guilt was Article II, paragraph 2 of Law Order No. 10, passed by the Allies, which stated as follows:

2. Any person without regard to nationality or the capacity in which he acted, is deemed to have committed a crime as defined in paragraph 1 of this Article, if he was (a) a principal or (b) was an accessory to the commission of any such crime or ordered or abetted the same or (c) took a consenting part therein or (d) was connected with plans or enterprises involving its commission or (e) was a member of any organization or group connected with the commission of any such crime or (f) with reference to paragraph 1 (a), if he held a high political, civil or military (including General Staff) position in Germany or in one of its Allies, co-belligerents or satellites or held high position in the financial, industrial or economic life of any such country.

Crimes against Humanity was another new concept which did not exist before the proceedings of the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal began. This new law, which was one of the four categories of crimes described by Allied Control Council Law No. 10, was enacted after the end of World War II. It covered brutalities, cruelties, tortures, atrocities and other inhumane acts, including the murder of six million Jews in the Nazi camps.

Some of the top-level war criminals at the Nuremberg IMT were charged with Crimes against Humanity, but this charge was not used in the proceedings against the staff members of the Dachau concentration camp who were tried by the American Military Tribunal at Dachau. Crimes against Humanity included crimes against anyone of any nationality.  The American Military Tribunal prosecuted only crimes against citizens of the Allied countries and the names of the prisoners who were killed in the Dachau gas chamber were unknown.

These quotes are from the Nuremberg Principles, which you can read in full here.

Principle I. Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefore and liable to punishment.  […]
Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).

The charges at the American Military Tribunal at Dachau were “Participating in a common design to Violate the Laws and Usages of War, according to the Geneva Convention of 1929 and the Hague Convention of 1907.”

The Soviet Union had not signed the Third Geneva Convention of 1929, which was the rules of warfare pertaining to Prisoners of War. The Soviet Union did not treat German POWs according to the rules of the convention, neither during nor after the war. Germany had signed the Geneva Convention and charges were brought against the German war criminals at Dachau for violations of this convention with respect to Soviet POWs who were Communist Commissars.

The Geneva Convention specifically stated that after a country had formally surrendered, it was a breach of the convention to once again take up arms. The Allied powers encouraged resistance movements in all the German-occupied countries. Captured resistance fighters were sent to concentration camps, rather than to a POW camp.

During the Dachau proceedings, concentration camp personnel were charged with crimes against the Laws and Usages of War, according to the Geneva Convention of 1929, for ill treatment of captured resistance fighters, even though the resistance fighters did not have the protection of the Geneva Convention and they had been incarcerated for a violation of the Geneva Convention themselves.

In March 1945, on the written order of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, captured German POWs were designated as Disarmed Enemy Forces so that they would not have to be treated according to the Geneva convention. There were 1.7 million German soldiers who surrendered to Eisenhower’s Army; their families claimed that they never returned home. They are presumed to have died in “Eisenhower’s death camps.”

It was not until 1948 that the newly-created United Nations announced a law against genocide. With no existing laws in place, the Allies had created new international laws.  Let’s hope that America will never lose a war and have to answer for crimes committed under laws that do not yet exist.