The United States conducted World War II war crimes trials in Europe under three jurisdictions: the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, U.S. military tribunals at Nuremberg, and 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.

 

In addition to the International Military Tribunal (IMT) and the United States Military Tribunals, Nuremberg, there were also war crimes cases tried by the U.S. Army. From 1945 to 1948, the U.S. Army tried 1,672 individuals in 489 proceedings at the site of the former concentration camp Dachau. These records are located in two record groups:

 

  • Record Group 153, Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Army), which includes case records and other files pertaining to war crimes trials maintained by that office in Washington, DC, and
  • Record Group 549, Records of United States Army, Europe, which contains the records generated by Army war crimes agencies subordinate to the Office of the Judge Advocate General in Europe.


Neither record group by itself provides full documentary evidence of the cases, but they complement one another. We advise researchers to consult both record groups when conducting research on war crimes trials conducted by the U.S. Army.
This blog post will provide an overview of World War II war crimes related records located in the Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Record Group (RG) 153). The majority of World War II records within RG 153 document the activities of the Army Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) War Crimes Branch, established in October 1944 to centralize the investigation and prosecution of war crimes committed against U.S. personnel. In addition, the War Crimes Branch also investigated and prosecuted general war crimes and atrocities that had occurred in the areas that subsequently came under American military jurisdiction. With its headquarters in Washington, DC, the Branch also maintained numerous field offices in Europe.


Case records of the Branch Headquarters constitute the majority of war crimes documentation in RG 153. The main collection consists of Case Files, 1944-1949, of specific war crimes or groups of related war crimes. This series is arranged according to a numerical scheme in which the first number designates a geographical location (country, island group, body of water) where a war crime was committed, and the second number indicates the incident or case number within the area represented by the first number. All war crimes cases for Germany are filed sequentially under “12”. For example, case 12-226 concerns the operation and administration of Dachau concentration camp; cases 12-391, 12-565, 12-2182, and 12-3188 all involve killings of American fliers by members of the German police. Case files include correspondence, investigative reports, interrogations, trial records and transcripts for those cases brought to trial, and clemency petitions and reviews. Also included are photographs of atrocities, exhibits introduced in evidence at war crimes trials, and newspaper clippings.


Another important series in RG 153 is the Persons and Places Dossier Files, 1944-1949. These dossiers focus on a suspected individual or a specific place and include all available evidence relating to known or possible war crimes with which the individual or place is associated. This series contains correspondence, photographs, interrogation reports, memorandums, testimonies, messages, clemency petitions, interviews, diaries, newspaper clippings, and magazine articles. There is information on persons such as Hans Frank (file 100-66) and places such as Stalag III-D (file 100-405). Background information on war crimes can be found in the series titled Set-up Files, 1944-1949. This series is arranged in accordance with a two number filing scheme, in which the first number indicates the category where the file is located, and the second number is the file within the category. Subjects covered include: Allied plans and policies for the trial of war criminals (103), apprehension of Axis war criminals (104), investigation of war crimes and correspondence in connection (105), forced labor and deportation crimes (106), lists and directories of war criminals, suspects, enemy officials, enemy military leaders, enemy industrialists (110), German military government in occupied territories (113), and others.

 

There are several different indexes to records mentioned above that can be used depending on the information a researcher has relating to the war crimes. For example:

 

 

The indexes typically provide the case number, a brief summary of the contents of the documents indexed, the document number, and often the date the document was filed.


Two major reference series of records of the War Crimes Branch Washington Headquarters are worth looking into. The first one is titled Reports of Interviews with American Servicemen Who Were Prisoners of War, 1944-1948. This series is arranged in part alphabetically by last name of person interviewed, in part chronologically by month, and thereunder alphabetically by last name of interviewee, and in part unarranged. These interviews identify times and locations of imprisonment as well as knowledge of war crimes committed by the enemy. Most records relate to American prisoners of war (POWs) in German captivity, but they also include information on American military and civilian personnel held prisoner by the Japanese in the Philippines.


The second series titled Law Library Files, 1944-1949, includes publications issued by various agencies relating to German and Japanese military, police, and security organizations; reports of specific war crimes and of war crimes committed in specific areas; information on German and Japanese industries; laws and treaties; background and historical data; and information on denazification after the war.
The following series in RG 153 are also relevant when researching war crimes:

 

 

JAG sections attached to U.S. Army field commands forwarded their war crimes investigations to the Branch Headquarters in Washington, DC. Although these files are often duplicative of records located elsewhere, they nevertheless provide some unique documentation. Records relating to European war crimes include European War Crimes List, 1945-1947, List of European War Crimes Trials, 1950-1950, and List of War Criminals Executed at Landsberg Prison, 1950-1950. Data on atrocities committed by German forces in France in 1944, are located in the series titled French War Crimes Case Files, 1945-1946. Records of Concentration Camp Trials, 1952-1955, consist of duplicates of trial transcripts, exhibits, and correspondence found in the case files described earlier in this blog post.

 

This blog post provided an overview of the most relevant records relating to war crimes in Europe located in the Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Army) (RG 153). When reviewing pertinent cases, researchers should not only use records located in RG 153 but also consult records located in the Records of United States Army, Europe (RG 549), which will be described in detail in my next blog post.