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Pursuing the Killers

Page 23

Some former inmates wrought immediate, summary justice against their persecutors, and there was little the military could do to stop them. Both liberators and the liberated sought to punish those responsible for the atrocities in the concentration camps, and for the first few days after liberation, some exprisoners and Allied soldiers engaged in spontaneous acts of revenge. A number of SS guards, staff; and their collaborators were clubbed, stoned, knifed, shot, beaten, or otherwise molested. The freed prisoners wanted retribution; many Allied soldiers agreed that the guards deserved whatever spontaneous punishment they received.

The Allies had anticipated the need for punishing those responsible for war crimes, and formal procedures were pursued in apprehending and jailing individuals suspected of war crimes. In November 1945, the International military Tribunal brought legal proceedings against the major Nazi war criminals. Conducted at Nuremburg, the former site of massive Nazi Party rallies, the trials lasted until September 1946.

In addition, smaller military tribunals run by Allied military authorities were conducted in the various occupied zones beginning in 1945. In three early military trials, justice was usually served: the director and key staff of the Hadamar sanatorium and the former commandants and a number of guards and other defendants from the Bergen Belsen and Dachau concentration camps were convicted, sentenced to death, and hanged.

Courtesy of: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum