The National Archives Collection of World War II War Crimes Records (Record Group (RG) 238) includes records of World War II war crimes trials in Europe and the Far East. In Europe, the United States participated in war crimes trials under three jurisdictions: the International Military Tribunal, the U.S. military tribunals at Nuremberg, and the U.S. Army courts. General authority for the proceedings of all three jurisdictions was derived from the Declaration of German Atrocities (Moscow Declaration), released November 1, 1943, which expressed Allied determination to arrest and bring to justice Axis war criminals.
This blog post provides a background of the International Military Tribunal (IMT) at Nuremberg, Germany and an overview of the most relevant series of records relating to the IMT that are located in Record Group 238.
By executive order in May 1945, President Truman appointed Justice Robert H. Jackson as Representative and Chief of Counsel for the United States in preparing and prosecuting the Allied case against the major Axis war criminals. On August 8, 1945, Justice Jackson signed the London Agreement, along with French, British and Soviet representatives to establish an International Military Tribunal to fulfill this task. The initial indictments were filed with the IMT against 24 German defendants: Hermann Wilhelm Göring, Rudolf Hess, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Robert Ley, Wilhelm Keitel, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Alfred Rosenberg, Hans Frank, Wilhelm Frick, Julius Streicher, Walter Funk, Hjalmar Schacht, Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, Karl Dönitz, Erich Raeder, Baldur von Schirach, Fritz Sauckel, Alfred Jodl, Martin Bormann, Franz von Papen, Artur Seyß-Inquart, Albert Speer, Konstantin Freiherr von Neurath, and Hans Fritzsche. The defendants were tried individually and as members of the following groups or organizations to which they respectively belonged: Die Reichsregierung (Reich Cabinet); das Korps der Politischen Leiter der Nationalsozialistischen Deutschen Arbeiterpartei (Leadership Corps of the Nazi Party); die Schutzstaffel (commonly known as the "SS") and including der Sicherheitsdienst (commonly known as the "SD" ); die Geheime Staatspolizei (Secret State Police, commonly known as the "Gestapo"); die Sturmabteilung (commonly known as the "SA" ); and the General Staff and the High Command of the German Armed Forces. The trial began on November 20, 1945 and concluded on October 1, 1946.
Individually and collectively the defendants faced criminal accusations on four counts: (I) the Common Plan or Conspiracy; (II) Crimes Against Peace; (III) War Crimes; and (IV) Crimes Against Humanity. The United States was responsible for the presentation of Count I, Great Britain for Count II, and the Soviet Union and France for Counts III and IV. The Soviet Union directed the prosecution of Counts III and IV for the crimes committed in the East, and France directed the case for crimes committed in the West.
Justice Jackson led a staff organization, named the Office of the United States Chief of Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality (OCCPAC), to prepare for the prosecution and trial of the case. They were tasked with collecting documentary evidence to support the accusations contained in the indictment. This process had already been started during the war when special investigative teams attached to the American and British Armies collected documentary evidence of the various crimes allegedly committed by Nazi Germany. The OCCPAC grew significantly as it examined and analyzed large quantities of captured documents and interrogations of prisoners and witnesses. At the height of its activities, the main components of the OCCPAC included an Interrogation Division, Documentation Division, Special Projects Unit, four Committees that specialized in compiling evidence relating to specific parts of the indictment, and an Administration Division. The OCCPC ceased to exist in 1946 when the IMT concluded.
The records of the OCCPAC at NARA include original and photostatic copies of documents collected for use as evidence, records of the proceedings, background and reference files prepared in connection with the trial, a record copy and working papers produced in connection with the publication titled Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, as well as sound recordings, motion pictures, and photographs related to the IMT.
The most relevant textual records comprise several series of captured documents collected and evaluated by American and other Allied investigating teams. Together, they comprise the United States Evidence Files, 1945-1946. These documents were collected, assembled, arranged and described as independent documentary series for judicial purposes and used for the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg and later on for the twelve war crimes tribunals conducted there. These files are arranged in numbered series that reflect their subject matter or location of exploitation, regardless of original German provenance. Each document in these series is usually accompanied by a complete or partial English-language translation and a Staff Evidence Analysis (SEA) form that indicates the significance of the documents.
The PS (Paris-Storey)-Documents series of evidentiary documents is the earliest and most sustained collection of war crimes documentation prepared in Paris under Col. Robert Storey. It also represents the most extensive collection of original German records in RG 238. Records in this series document Adolf Hitler's rise to power, the development of the Nazi plan of aggression, and the commission of acts of aggression. The work compiling these records began in Paris in 1944 and later continued in Nuremberg as the war crimes trials started. The PS-series ultimately numbered 4,080 record items, and it is estimated that over 1,000 represent original German documents. Several hundred additional PS-documents were subsequently introduced as USA- , GB- (British), or (French) RF-Exhibits with a photocopy placed in the PS-series. In the PS-series, each numbered ‘document’ may consist of a single page, a complete file, a published pamphlet or book, or a set of albums. In some cases a single original PS-document was divided among more than one exhibit for different countries. Examples of some of the PS-documents include:
- 1749-PS relates to Alfred Rosenberg. It includes a photostatic copy of his diary for the January 2 - May 7, 1940 time period, the original diary for the May 14, 1934-March 18, 1935 time period, and essays, draft speeches, and other material.
- 141-PS is an order by Hermann Göring concerning the seizure of Jewish art treasures in France by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), November 1940.
- 406-PS is a memorandum by Julius Streicher accompanied by several reports by different NSDAP members, concerning the “Kristallnacht” pogrom of 9-10 November 1938 and its aftermath.
- 438-PS is Führer Directive (Weisung) No. 2 for the conduct of operations against France and Great Britain, September 1939.
- 439-PS is Führer Directive No. 5 concerning administration of occupied Poland, Sep 1939.
- 1417-PS is a printed copy of “Reichsgesetzblatt,” Teil I, 1935 Nr. 125, publishing a decree that excluded Jews from German citizenship.
Other evidentiary documents series include:
- C1 to C460 (“C” is an abbreviation for “Crimes”), which relate to activities of the German Navy that were collected and screened by a joint British-American team.
- D37 - D976 were collected by the British and deal largely with the use of slave labor in German industry.
- EC1 - EC620 (“EC” is a symbol for “Economic Case” as designated by OCCPAC), which relate mostly to the development of economic policies in Germany and the exploitation of the economy of occupied countries.
- ECR14 - ECR197, which primarily concern the German occupation of France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
- L1 - L361 (“L” stands for London”), which include copies of Nazi war plans, affidavits of former concentration camp prisoners, and reports on the progress of the war that were screened by British and American investigators in London.
- M1 - M229, which are documents consisting largely of excerpts from German newspapers, magazines, and other publications and document anit-Semitism.
Another series of evidentiary documents is titled United States Exhibits, 1945-1946. It is arranged numerically, by U.S. exhibit number (USA-1 through USA-930) and consists of documents introduced in evidence before the IMT by U.S. representatives. Some of the USA exhibits include:
- USA Exhibit 275, a report titled “Es gibt keinen jüdischen Wohnbezirk in Warschau mehr!”. Commonly known as the Stroop Report, it is the official Schutzstaffel (SS) report prepared by SS-Brigadeführer Jürgen Stroop which documents the suppression of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto, and the deportation of the last surviving Jews of Warsaw.
- USA Exhibit 251, Mauthausen Death Books.
- USA-388 consisting of 39 leather-bound photographic albums depicting cultural works that the ERR seized.
- USA-134, Oberkommando der Wehrmacht/Wehrmachtführungsstab (OKW/WFSt) conference including Adolf Hitler and Army leaders planning for the invasion of the USSR (“Fall Barbarossa”) and operations in North Africa (“Sonnenblume”).
- USA-329 containing a Circular letter from Martin Bormann to the Party leaders encouraging “lynch-justice” against downed British and American airmen.
- USA-332, a report by NSDAP/Der Oberste Parteirichter to Hermann Göring regarding punishments and exemptions of Party members for killings of Jews and other actions during the night of 9-10 November 1938 (“Kristallnacht”), including Hermann Göring’s acknowledgment of receipt.
- USA-368 containing Hermann Göring’s instructions concerning distribution and transfer to Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring, German museums, and others of Jewish art treasures seized by the ERR in France, November 1940.
- USA-463 consists of letters of Luftwaffe General Erhard Milch to SS-Obergruppenführer Karl Wolff and Heinrich Himmler concerning high-altitude medical experiments carried out on inmates in Dachau, May-August 1942.
The exhibits introduced by the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union have been microfilmed as National Archives Microfilm Publication T988, titled “Prosecution Exhibits Submitted to the International Military Tribunal.” They may be viewed in the Microfilm Reading Room at the National Archives at College Park, MD.
When researching the IMT records at NARA, one should consider looking into the Staff Evidence Analysis Forms (SEA’s) that consist of the analysis sheets prepared for each document collected for use by the prosecution. Each SEA lists the source of the original document, the persons implicated, a summary of relevant content of the document, and cross references to related records.
Further, there are considerable reference and background materials that can be found in the series titled Main Office Files, 1945-1946 and Personal Files, 1945-1946 maintained by Justice Robert H. Jackson, as well as in the series Reference Documents Received from American and Foreign Sources, 1945-1947.
Justice Jackson maintained the Main Office Files, 1945-1946 in his Nuremberg office. They include background studies, reference materials, interrogations and affidavits, copies and translations of German documents, and other records covering subjects such as concentration and extermination camps, and organizational data on Nazi Party, police, and security organizations. Included are Jackson’s opening and closing addresses, and descriptions of the physical arrangements of the Nuremberg courtrooms. The Personal Files, 1945-1946 also known as “Lindenstrasse Files'' consist of personal working papers maintained by Justice Jackson in his billet at No. 33 Lindenstrasse, Nuremberg. The materials relate to the cross examination of defendants Hermann Göring and Hjalmar Schacht, arguments used in prosecuting organizations, and some of the minutes and reports of the United Nations War Crimes Commission. Reference Documents Received from American and Foreign Sources, 1945-1947 include correspondence, reports, memoranda, booklets, affidavits, handbooks, booklets, photographs, and charts covering economic, military, financial and other subjects. There are also copies of interrogations and statements of German officials in this series.
During 1945-1946 the Interrogation Division of the OCCPAC questioned nearly 200 individuals, including all the defendants before the IMT, others later brought to trial, as well as friendly and unfriendly witnesses. These records are located in Interrogations, Summaries of Interrogations, and Related Records, 1945-1946 which is arranged in three sections (originals, duplicates, and duplicates of interrogation summaries) and thereunder alphabetically by last name of individual interrogated. These records constitute detailed interrogations, most of which are in English. The original interrogations, together with other interrogation reports originated by other agencies and forwarded to OCCPAC for reference information, have been microfilmed as National Archives Microfilm Publication M1270, “Interrogation Records Prepared for War Crimes Proceedings at Nuernberg, 1945-1947.” This microfilm publication has been subsequently digitized and digital images have been placed in the National Archives Catalog.
In addition to the records mentioned above, there are also records that directly relate to the conduct of the trial. These records include:
- Transcripts of Proceedings of the International Military Tribunal, November 1945-October 1946
- Transcripts of Hearings in Defense of Indicted Organizations, May-August 1946;
- United States Trial Briefs and Document Books, 1945-1946 (National Archives Microfilm Publication T991)
- British Documents, 1945-1946
- British Exhibits, 1945-1945
- British Document Books, ca. 1945-ca.1946
- French Documents, 1945-1946
- French Exhibits, 1945-1946
- French Document Books and Trial Briefs, 1946-1946
- Soviet Document Books, 1945-1946
- Soviet Exhibits, 1945-1946
- Translations of Soviet Exhibits, 1945-1946
- Defense Document Books, 1945-194;
- Defense Closing Arguments, 1946-1946
There are also two series of records titled Security-Classified General Correspondence, 1945-1946. These series are arranged according to the War Department decimal scheme and are useful for researching administrative and organizational data such as the employment of personnel (Classification 200) or the transmittal of documents (Classification 312.2).
Further, IMT publications Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression and Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal are also included in our holdings. These publications have been digitized and may be viewed on the website of the Library of Congress here and here respectively.
Finally, I have listed below some other significant records relating to the IMT that have been microfilmed and, in some cases, digitized:
- War Diaries and Correspondence of General Alfred Jodl (National Archives Microfilm Publication T989)
- Diary of Hans Frank, 1939-1945 (National Archives Microfilm Publication T992)
- Concentration Camp Dachau Entry Registers (Zugangsbücher), 1933-1945 (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1938). Records reproduced on this microfilm publication have been digitized and the digital images may be viewed in the National Archives Catalog.
This overview covers the most important series relating to the International Military Tribunal that are available at the National Archives at College Park, MD. Where available, I provided links to digitized images of the records in the National Archives Catalog. I will continue to provide updates as other records are digitized and made available online.