The defendant's dock and defense counselors in the Lueneburg courtroom where 45 former camp personnel and prisoners from Bergen-Belsen were put on trial. Over the course of two months, from 17 Sept. to 17 Nov. 1945, 45 former camp personnel and prisoners from Bergen-Belsen were tried for war crimes before a British Military Tribunal in Lueneburg, Germany. The defendants, 32 former members of the SS (16 men and 16 women), including Josef Kramer, the former camp commandant, and 12 former prisoners (seven men and five women), were specifically charged with, either at Bergen-Belsen or Auschwitz, being responsible for either the murder of Allied nationals or the suffering of those nationals under the terrible conditions of the camp. Regarding the second charge, a problem soon arose for the prosecution because unlike Auschwitz, where camp personnel were considered directly responsible for the deadly conditions, Bergen-Belsen was not an extermination camp, making it harder to prove that the defendants were responsible for the conditions. Persuasive evidence, however, including film footage taken during the camp's liberation and a visit to the camp by the court, enabled the prosecution to secure guilty verdicts for all but fourteen of the defendants. Of those found guilty, eleven were sentenced to death (including Kramer), and nineteen were sentenced to various jail terms, from life to one year. Those sentenced to death were hanged on 12 Dec. 1945.
Photo credit: Imperial War Museum, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives
A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
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College of Education, University of South Florida © 1997-2013.