Justice at Dachau: The Trials of an American Prosecutor

Justice at Dachau: The Trials of an American Prosecutor

by Joshua Greene
Justice at Dachau: The Trials of an American Prosecutor

Justice at Dachau: The Trials of an American Prosecutor

by Joshua Greene


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The world remembers Nuremberg, where a handful of Nazi policymakers were brought to justice, but nearly forgotten are the proceedings at Dachau, where hundreds of Nazi guards, officers, and doctors stood trial for personally taking part in the torture and execution of prisoners inside Dachau, Mauthausen, Flossenburg, and Buchenwald concentration camps. In Justice at Dachau, Joshua M. Greene, maker of the award winning documentary ‘Witness: Voices from the Holocaust,’ recreates the Dachau trials and reveals the dramatic story of William Denson, a soft-spoken young lawyer from Alabama whisked from teaching law at West Point to leading the prosecution in the largest series of Nazi trials in history.

In a makeshift courtroom set up inside Hitler’s first concentration camp, Denson was charged with building a team from lawyers who had no background in war crimes and determining charges for crimes that courts had never before confirmed. Among the accused were Dr. Klaus Schilling, responsible for hundreds of deaths in his “research” for a cure for malaria; Edwin Katzen-Ellenbogen, a Harvard psychologist turned Gestapo informant; and one of history’s most notorious female war criminals, Ilse Koch, “Bitch of Buchenwald,” whose penchant for tattooed skins and human bone lamps made headlines worldwide.

Denson, just 32 years old, with one criminal trial to his name, led a brilliant and successful prosecution, but nearly two years of exposure to such horrors took its toll. His wife divorced him, his weight dropped to 116 pounds, and he collapsed from exhaustion. Worst of all was the pressure from his army superiors to bring the trials to a rapid end when their agenda shifted away from punishing Nazis to winning the Germans’ support in the emerging Cold War. Denson persevered, determined to create a careful record of responsibility for the crimes of the Holocaust. When, in a final shocking twist, the United States used clandestine reversals and commutation of sentences to set free those found guilty at Dachau, Denson risked his army career to try to prevent justice from being undone.

Originally published in 2001 and never before available in paperback, this new edition celebrates the 70th anniversary of the start of the Dachau trials and revisits the extraordinary work of one of history’s forgotten heroes.

Praise for Justice at Dachau

“A new American hero—William Denson—bursts forward in the riveting pages of Justice at Dachau. An Alabama lawyer, Denson was sent to Europe by the U.S. Army to prosecute Nazi butchers feigning innocence in the bloody aftermath of the Second World War. Brilliantly written and fastidiously researched, Joshua M. Greene’s narrative builds chapter by chapter in dramatic Hollywood-like fashion. Each war criminal Denson convicts brings a cheer to the heart. This is historical storytelling at its finest.”

— Douglas Brinkley, former director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the Universityof New Orleans and coeditor of Witness to America, with Stephen Ambrose

“Justice at Dachau is a mesmerizing account of one of history’s most infamous periods. Joshua Greene takes the reader back in time by weaving together a riveting narrative of the trial and its central figure, Judge Advocate William Denson, a true hero and humanitarian. This book is destined to be a classic among Holocaust histories.”

— Patrick O’Donnell, author of Beyond Valor and Into the Rising Sun

“[This book] has immense value. First, it provides a permanent testimony of the horror of the Hitler regime and the courage of its adversaries. More important, it resolves a long-standing misimpression concerning the efforts of those in the post-Holocaust period who strived to establish a democratic foundation for human rights. Justice at Dachau is an irreplaceable document.”

— Arthur Haulot, founder of the Underground Prisoner Committee inside Camp Dachau

“A remarkable account of one determined prosecutor’s quest to reveal and punish the atrocities committed by German officials at the Nazi concentration accounts.”

— Drexel A. Sprecher, former Nuremberg prosecutor and author of Inside the Nuremberg Trial: A Prosecutor’s Comprehensive Account

“An exciting account of the course of the Dachau trial proceedings. It is not the least thanks to William Denson’s sense of justice, tied to deep empathy with the victims of the accused, that the Dachau trials have become a historical lesson in dealing with crimes against humanity.”

— Barbara Distel, former director of the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781634256650
Publisher: American Bar Association
Publication date: 04/01/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 392
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

JOSHUA M. GREENE (Justice at Dachau: The Trials of an American Prosecutor) is a renowned Holocaust scholar and filmmaker whose biographies have sold more than a half-million copies worldwide. Greene is a popular lecturer who has spoken at the Pentagon and before the Judge Advocate General’s College, and his documentaries on Holocaust history have aired on PBS and Discovery. He has appeared on national media outlets from NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross to FOX News, CNN, and more. Greene earned his degrees at Hofstra University, where he taught Hinduism and Holocaust history.

Table of Contents

Foreword xv

Preface xxi

Part 1 War's End 1

1 The Liberation of Dachau 3

2 A Call for Trials 9

3 An Appointment in Court 13

4 Preparing for Trial 24

Part 2 Dachau 33

5 Common Design 35

6 Credibility 51

7 The Prosecution on Trial 61

8 Manna from Heaven 75

9 In the Name of Humanity 82

10 The Clock of Civilization 94

11 Judgment at Dachau 106

Part 3 Mauthausen 119

12 Christmas, 1945 121

13 Preparations Begin 126

14 186 Steps of Death 128

15 A Hollywood Soldier 131

16 Death Books, Doctors, Sick Camp 141

17 Christ's Rebirth 147

18 Witnesses for the Prosecution 149

19 "The Pigs Must Perish" 158

20 Case for the Defense 165

21 Life and Death in the Block 174

22 A Ruling for the Defense 179

23 The Oldest Defendant 189

24 A Witness for the Defendants 193

25 The Youngest Defendant 197

26 Quarryman 201

27 Closing Arguments 211

28 The Verdicts 217

29 The Miracle 220

30 Flossenburg 222

Part 4 Buchenwald 225

31 In the Shadow of Nuremberg 227

32 Goethe's Prophecy 230

33 A Tour of Buchenwald 237

34 The Buchenwald Report 239

35 Commando 99 245

36 The Dachau Death Train 253

37 Tattoos, Lampshades, Shrunken Heads 259

38 The Bitch 271

39 The Commandant 278

40 An American Collaborator 291

41 The Verdicts 305

42 The Sentences 309

Part 5 Aftermath 313

43 Homecoming, 1947 315

44 Justice Betrayed, 1948 317

45 Senate Hearings Begin 321

46 Senate Hearings Conclude 327

47 Huschi 339

Epilogue: Five Years Later 345

Postscript 353

Acknowledgments 357

Author's Note 359

Endnotes 364

Index 375

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