Document Analyst's Report

During April I finished the paper of one defendant (Lanz), covered all the documents of another (von Leyser), and started those of Field Marshal List, the commander in chief in southeastern Europe in 1941. This amounted to 229 documents and 1037 pages of material. Given the number of defendants already covered, not many new subjects appeared, but some vivid examples of familiar points were found.

Objection to the court: This was the seventh trial heard by the US Nuremberg tribunals, but in this case the defendants asserted that the tribunal had no proper authority over them. The argument wasn't that the tribunal was illegitimate, but rather that the defendants were military officers who had been captured (making them POWs), and charged with war crimes, so that under the existing law of warfare they should be tried by court martial before a panel of US general officers. (The argument failed.) Perhaps the defendants hoped that military officers would have some sympathy for what they had faced in the "dirty war" in Yugoslavia and would accept the "military necessity" defense, or would want to draw a veil over the atrocities that all sides had committed. It is clear in the trial transcript that the generals felt insulted at being treated as criminals before a criminal court rather than as officers before a court martial. Their pride as honorable old-school soldiers (as they put it) was at stake.

Church and Party: Once the military high command was dominated by Hitler personally, generals in the field faced increased pressure to conform to the Nazi code and abandon any other loyalties, including their religion. In 1943 General Schmundt informed Lanz that any further promotion or assignment to a major command "depended on his (Lanz) severing his connection with the church and binding himself to the Party." Lanz refused the offer.

Advanced math: Among several reports about how officers in the field "cooked" their reports to Berlin about reprisal killings in order to show that Keitel's reprisal order was being enforced, one affidavit describes how a staff officer presented General Foertsch with a draft reporting 5 executions. Foertsch "added a zero," so that 5 became 50.

The Italian problem: After the Italians deposed Mussolini and switched sides in 1943, most of the Italian forces in the Balkans quietly went home; some decided to fight the Germans. Hitler regarded this as treasonous and ordered the execution of all the Italian officers on Cephalonia. General Lanz responded, "Being a decent soldier . . . I shall not carry out this order." The problem had a terminological element; while Hitler's anti-Italian campaign in Greece was called "Operation Treason," a separate campaign against partisans and Italians in Albania was called "Operation Spaghetti." The latter name was whimsical; the first one deadly serious.

The Keitel order: After Keitel's order to hang captured partisans reached List's southeast command in 1941, List responded that "he was not a hangman, but a soldier."

Matt Seccombe, May 10, 2016