Home Contact Us
Index Purchase Info
About Site About Us
Appendices Credits
Further Reading Links
Special Features
By Keyword:

Page Number:
Click on an image to see a larger, more detailed picture.
1946: The Pursuit of Justice
 pg. 641 
  Of the 142 defendants who were found guilty, 25 received death sentences but only 12 were carried out. One who was executed was Otto Ohlendorf, leader of Einsatzgruppe D. In 1941-42, this killing squadron, which was attached to Nazi Germany's 11th Army, murdered 90,000 men, women, and children, mostly Jews, in the Ukraine, the Crimea, and other regions in the southern sector of the war's Eastern Front. In his testimony as a prosecution witness during the initial Nuremberg Trial, Ohlendorf had stated that it was "inconceivable that a subordinate leader should not carry out orders given by the leaders of the state."

Sentenced to death in April 1948, Ohlendorf spent more than three years in detention before he was hanged in Landsberg Prison on June 8, 1951. By that time, however, more than half of the 142 convicted defendants from the Subsequent Nuremberg Proceedings had been set free, and others had their sentences reduced as the new political climate of the Cold War brought pressure to strengthen West Germany as a check against Soviet expansion. Many of the ex-convicts, especially the industrialists and other professionals, resumed their careers and received retirement pensions.

Even if all of the sentences meted out to Nazi war criminals had been fully carried out, the pursuit of justice through legal proceedings could not begin to prosecute and punish all those who were responsible for the stabbing memories and pervasive loneliness experienced by survivors such as Gerda Weissmann Klein. Nor could the pursuit of justice do anything to bring back the millions who had been murdered during the Holocaust.

Nevertheless, the trials that took place in 1946 and thereafter remain significant for reasons that Telford Taylor emphasized on December 9 of that year, when he made the prosecution's opening statement in the "doctors' trial," the first of the so-called Subsequent Nuremberg Proceedings. "It is our deep obligation to all peoples of the world," he said, "to show why and how these things happened. It is incumbent upon us to set forth with conspicuous clarity the ideas and motives which moved these defendants to treat their fellow men as less than beasts." He then quoted Justice Jackson, saying, "'The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored because it cannot survive their being repeated.'"

As Taylor spoke those words, Gerda Klein's life in Buffalo, New York, went on. Nearly half a century later, she returned to Volary, Czechoslovakia, the site of her liberation. "I paused," she wrote in All But My Life, "at the graves of my beloved friends who were never privileged to know the joy of freedom, the security of a loaf of bread, or the supreme happiness of holding a child in their arms." Her memory of the Holocaust's dead, she adds, "brought up the unanswerable question that has haunted me ever since the day I left them there: Why?"

Because no pursuit of justice can ever put it to rest, that question--Why?--will continue to cry out whenever the Holocaust is remembered.

Sorry, an error has occurred retrieving this image.

Those accused of war crimes were often extradited. This airplane contained numerous accused war criminals being flown to Poland.
Photo: SYddeutscher Verlag Bilderdienst

Dorothy Levy of the American Joint Distribution Committee holds a girl in the Berlin-Duppel camp for displaced Jews.
Photo: American Jewish Joint Dist. Committee

1946: The Pursuit of Justice
 pg. 641 
The Holocaust Chronicle
© 2009 Publications International, Ltd.