The Nuremberg SS-Einsatzgruppen Trial, 1945-1958: Atrocity, Law, and History

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Based on extensive archival research, this book offers the first historical examination of the arrest, trial, and punishment of the leaders of the SS-Einsatzgruppen - the mobile security and killing units employed by the Nazis in their racial war on the eastern front. Sent to the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941, four units of Einsatzgruppen along with reinforcements, murdered approximately one million Soviet civilians in open air shootings and in gas vans and, in 1947, twenty-four leaders of these units were indicted for crimes against humanity and war crimes for their part in the murders. In addition to a describing the legal proceedings, this book also examines recent historiographical trends and perpetrator paradigms and expounds on such contested issues as the timing and genesis of the Final Solution, the perpetrators' route to crime and their motivation for killing, as well as discussing the tensions between law and history.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A magnificent study of one the most important but forgotten trials of the Holocaust. Hilary Earl adds valuable insight to our understanding of how Nazi perpetrators were dealt with by the law.” – Michael Bazyler, Chapman University School of Law and author of Holocaust Justice

“Earl has written a highly readable, impeccably researched, and richly informative book about an important and insufficiently studied trial. A timely and valuable contribution.” – Lawrence Douglas, Amherst College and author of The Memory of Judgment: Making Law and History in the Trials of the Holocaust

“This is a compelling, well-written, and well-researched book. In this imaginative and important study, Hilary Earl both tells the story of the Nuremberg Einsatzgruppen Trial, the ‘biggest murder trial in history,’ and paints a fascinating collective portrait of some of history’s biggest killers. In the Einsatzgruppen Trial, the Americans prosecuted twenty-four members of the leadership corps of the SS-Einsatzgruppen, the mobil killing squads that initiated the Final Solution in the Soviet Union. In a world where the concept of genocide was as yet ill defined, prosecuting racialized mass murder proved a daunting challenge. Earl provides a compelling account of how both the prosecution and the defense responded to this challenge in the course of the trial. At the same time, she tells us a great deal about the men who perpetrated some of the most brutal crimes of the Holocaust: who they were, what their backgrounds were, and what their motives might have been. Along the way, she sheds new light on the question of whether and when Hitler might have issued a formal order to initiate the Final Solution.” – Devin O. Pendas, Boston College

“Scholars in Holocaust studies have long understood more about the broad mechanics of mass murder than about the men who carried it out. Hilary Earl’s groundbreaking work is a corrective to that understanding in directly focusing our attention on the actions of the leaders of the SS-Einsatzgruppen and thoroughly tracing their subsequent arrest, trial, and punishment. Moreover, she does so in a uniquely interdisciplinary way, drawing – accurately and insightfully – on perspectives from a wide range of historical, social scientific, legal, and humanistic sources to offer a mature and nuanced comprehension of what all too often is passed off as incomprehensible.” –James Waller, Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation

“At last we have a serious, thoughtful, and well-written account of the one trial at Nuremberg in which aspects of the Holocaust were central. Based on an extraordinary command of the relevant published and archival materials – with some of the latter only recently declassified – this impressive study provides new insights into the way individuals became mass murderers and how a court could deal with this phenomenon.” – Gerhard L. Weinberg, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

"Hilary Earl has produced an important and compelling study that deserves a wide readership among scholars and students interested in German history, the Holocaust, comparative genocide, and transitional justice." -Alan E. Steinweis, H-German

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521178686
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 9/30/2010
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,341,905
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Hilary Earl is Assistant Professor of History at Nipissing University, North Bay, Ontario, Canada. Her research has been featured in several collections, including Lessons and Legacies IV (2004), Secret Intelligence and the Holocaust (2006), and Biography between Structure and Agency: Central European Lives in International Historiography (2008). Her most recent project, The Genocide Paradox: Prosecuting Genocide from Nuremberg to The Hague, is a historical examination of the legal outcomes of war crimes trials from the post-World War II period through the trials conducted by the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia. She has received fellowships from the Holocaust Educational Foundation, the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Leonard and Kathleen O'Brien Humanitarian Trust, and the Joint Initiative for German and European Studies.

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Table of Contents

Illustrations and Tables ix

Abbreviations xi

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction 1

1 The United States and the Origins of the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials 19

2 Otto Ohlendorf and the Origins of the Einsatzgruppen Trial 46

3 Defendants 96

4 Defense 135

5 Trial 179

6 Judge and Judgment 217

7 Aftermath: From Perpetrators of Genocide to Ordinary Germans 265

Conclusion 296

Bibliography 305

Index 329

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