Records of the War Crimes Branch, U.S. Army, Europe in Record Group 549 include the war crimes trial records of the U.S. Army courts (military commissions or general military government courts) in Germany from 1945 to 1948. From July 1945 to October 1946, the responsibility for the prosecution of war criminals was divided between the Commanding Generals of the Western Military District (territory occupied by the U.S. Third Army) and the Eastern Military District (territory occupied by the U.S. Seventh Army). Afterwards, the Deputy Judge Advocate for War Crimes, U.S. Forces, European Theater exercised the responsibility for prosecution of war criminals beyond those in the jurisdiction of the Office of the Chief of Counsel for War Crimes. Most of the trials were conducted at the site of the former Concentration Camp Dachau, outside Munich.

War Crimes Branch records include documentation of the cases brought to trial; cases investigated but not tried; and associated records relating to war criminals' imprisonment, parole, and release. The records are very closely related to the case files of the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Army), in Record Group 153 that I covered in my previous blog post. Researchers should use both collections in any review of pertinent cases.

Relevant records of cases brought to trial are located in the series titled War Crimes Trials Case Files, 1947-1958, commonly known as “Cases Tried.” These records constitute the trial records of the 489 cases tried by US Army courts, involving nearly 1,700 individuals accused of war crimes.

These cases can be roughly divided into four categories:

  1. Main concentration camp cases
  2. Cases of concentration camps attached to the main camps
  3. Flier cases
  4. Miscellaneous cases

The first category, main concentration camp cases, comprises six cases with about 200 defendants. These defendants were mainly staff members and guards of Dachau, Buchenwald, Flossenbürg (Flossenberg), Mauthausen, Nordhausen, and Mühldorf concentration camps. The second category, cases of concentration camps attached to the main camps, includes about 250 proceedings against approximately 800 guards and staff members of the outcamps and branch camps of the major camps. The third category, flier cases, encompasses more than 200 cases in which about 600 persons, largely German civilians, were prosecuted for the killing of some 1,200 U.S. nationals, mostly airmen. The fourth category, miscellaneous cases, consists of a few cases. These cases include the Malmedy Massacre Trial (Case 6-24), in which more than 70 Waffen-SS men were tried for murdering large groups of surrendered U.S. prisoners of war during the Ardeness offensive and the Skorzeny case (Case 6-100), in which 10 members of the German Armed Forces were charged with wearing American uniforms during the Ardennes offensive.

In some cases the records are fairly complete within this series. For example, records of the Flossenbürg Concentration Camp Case (Case 000-5-46) include pretrial records such as authorizing orders, charge sheets, and several volumes of records of Headquarters, U.S. Third Army relating to war crimes committed at Flossenbürg; trial transcripts of proceedings and prosecution and defense exhibits, including English translations and German originals; and posttrial records such as reviews of sentences, clemency petitions, arrest, prison and execution records, and parole and release records. In other cases, however, these materials are divided between RG 549 and RG 153.

Depending on the subject of the case files, there are records on medical experiments, health conditions in concentration camps, death certificates and death registers of concentration camp inmates, daily lists of inmates of certain concentration camps, transfer lists of inmates, personnel and identification files, reports concerning capture of American fliers and treatment of captured enemy pilots, and other records.

The National Archives has microfilmed the records of several of these trials, combining pertinent sections from both record groups where appropriate. These cases, along with the dates of trial, RG 153 and RG 549 case file designations, popular name of case, and National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) microfilm publication number are listed below:

  • United States of America v. Alfons Klein et al. (Case Files 12-449 and 000-12-31), October 9-October 15, 1945 (Hadamar Case), Microfilm Publication M1078 (3 rolls)
  • United States of America v. Kurt Andrae et al. (And Related Cases, Case Files 12-481 and 000-50-37), April 27, 1945-June 11, 1958 (Nordhausen Cases), Microfilm Publication M1079 (16 rolls)
  • United States of America v. Franz Auer et al. (Case File 000-50-136), April 1, 1947-July 1, 1958 (Muehldorf Concentration Camp Case), Microfilm Publication M1093 (13 rolls)
  • United States of America v. Ernst Dura et al. (Case File 000-50-5-2), June 9-23, 1947 (Wiener-Neudorf Outcamp Case), Microfilm Publication  M1100 (2 rolls)
  • United States of America v. Juergen Stroop et al. (Case File 12-2000), March 29, 1945-August 21, 1957 (Superior Orders Case), Microfilm Publication M1095 (10 rolls)
  • United States of America v. Kurt Goebell et al. (Case File 12-489), February 6-March 21, 1946 and United States of America v. August Haesiker et al. (Case file 12-489-1), June 26, 1947 (Borkum Island Case), Microfilm Publication M1103 (7 rolls)
  • United States of America v. Otto Skorzeny et al. (Case File 6-100), July 13, 1945-December 13, 1948 (Skorzeny Case), Microfilm Publication M1106 (24 microfiche)
  • United States of America v. Johann Haider et al. (Case File 000-50-5-13), September 3-12, 1947 (Haider Case of Mauthausen and Subcamps), Microfilm Publication M1139 (2 rolls)
  • United States of America v. Martin Gottfried Weiss et al. (Case Files 12-226 and 000-50-2), November 15-December 13, 1945 (Dachau Concentration Camp Case), Microfilm Publication M1174 (6 rolls)
  • United States of America v. Michael Vogel et al. (Case Files 000-50-2-112 and 12-226-110), July 8-15, 1947 (Muehldorf Ring-”Vogel”-Case), Microfilm Publication M1173 (2 rolls)
  • United States of America v. Hans Joachim Georg Geiger et al. (Case Files 000-50-5-6 and 5-31-7), July 9-August 5, 1947 (Ebensee Outcamp Case), Microfilm Publication M1191 (2 rolls)
  • United States of America v. Friedrich Becker et al. (Case File 000-50-46), June 12, 1946-January 22, 1947 (Flossenbuerg Concentration Camp Case), Microfilm Publication M1204 (16 rolls)
  • United States of America v. Ernst Angerer et al.(Case Files 000-50-2-22), November 26-December 3, 1946 (Angerer Case, associated with Dachau Concentration Camp), Microfilm Publication M1210 (1 roll)
  • United States of America v. Valentin Bersin, et al.(Case File 6-24), May 16-18, 1946 (Malmedy Massacre Case), Microfilm Publication A3390 (6 rolls)

Records of investigations of war crimes that were never brought to trial due, for example, to insufficient evidence or the inability to locate the suspected perpetrators, are located in the series titled War Crimes Investigations Case Files, 1947-1948, commonly known as “Cases not Tried.” The extent of information in these files varies considerably, from a few pages of correspondence to several volumes of investigative materials. For some war crimes investigations, this series contains the most extensive documentation available. For example, Case 11-22 includes eyewitness affidavits, reports, photographs, and some original Schutzstaffel (SS) personnel records in the investigation of the killing of two American airmen in France, August 1944. These records should also be compared with those located among RG 153.

Access to the contents of these two series, “Cases Tried” and “Cases Not Tried,” is facilitated by two series of card indexes. The first one is titled Index to War Crimes Case Files, 1947-1947. It is arranged alphabetically by the last and first names of individuals and contains information relating to individuals (suspects, witnesses, and victims) involved in war crimes investigations and trials. In addition, there is a more specialized Name Index to the Malmedy Case, 1945-1947. Arranged alphabetically by the last name of an individual soldier, this index lists the names and units of individuals involved in the massacre of Allied prisoners of war that occurred during the German Ardennes offensive of December 1944-January 1945. It also provides cross-references to witnesses’ statements. The entire index has been digitized and can be viewed using the Catalog.

An example from the case files located in the series “Cases Not Tried” is the so-called Dameron Report (Case 000-12-463), a Report of Investigation of War Crimes (Hartheim), War Crimes Investigating Team No. 6824, Headquarters, 3rd U.S. Army, July 17, 1945. Signed by Maj. Charles H. Dameron, Investigator Examiner. This 13 page report provides a summary of facts, a list of persons implicated in war crimes, names of known employees at Hartheim with position in the castle and last known address, and a list of the 40 enclosed exhibits. Castle Hartheim, in Alkoven, near Linz, Austria, was used by the Nazis as an extermination center for mentally handicapped persons and others up to November 1944. Tens of thousands were killed there either by injection or gas chamber.

There are three series of records that document the fates of those convicted by U.S. military courts and held in War Criminal Prison No. 1 at Landsberg, Germany. The first series, titled Records Relating to Parolees, 1945-1948, is arranged alphabetically by parolee surname. It contains orders granting parole, monthly reports of parole officers, medical records, petitions by family and friends on behalf of the prisoners, identification photographs, fingerprint cards, clemency release orders, and other records. Records of convicted war criminals who were sentenced to death and executed are located in the series titled Records Relating to Executed Prisoners, January 1946-June 1951. Included are summaries of each individual’s case, medical records, registers of correspondence and visitation, photographs, and associated correspondence of American authorities. The third series, titled Records Relating to Released Inmates, 1945-1952, consists of medical records, personal data sheets (showing the prisoner's physical description, occupation, party affiliation, and details of the crime), identification photographs, and other personnel records of convicted war criminals who were inmates and were released. This series also includes a file on Ilse Koch, wife of the former commandant of Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Additional series of interest relating to convicted war criminals include Prisoner Summary Sheets, 1945-1948, Records Relating to Extradition, 1945-1952, Records Relating to Post-Trial Activities, 1945-1957, and Records Relating to Landsberg Prison (War Criminal Prison Number One), 1/5/1955 - 11/23/1955.

Other records of the War Crimes Branch worth mentioning are Translations of German Documents Relating to War Crimes, 1945-1950, which contain English translations of German-language petitions for clemency and parole, documents used as evidence, and other records relating to the conduct and administration of war crimes trials and the disposition of witnesses and suspected and convicted war criminals as well records relating to prisoners of the Langenstein-Zwieberge Concentration Camp. Some of these records have been digitized and may be viewed using the National Archives Online Catalog. Records of the Langenstein-Zwieberge Concentration Camp are located in the following series:

This overview provides search paths for many of the most relevant records located in Record Group 549 that can be utilized when conducting research on World War II war crimes and war crimes trials in Europe.