Tag Archives: Holocaust

Researching the Nuremberg trials

In this week’s blog post Emma Chadwick discusses her experience researching the transcripts of the Nuremberg trials for her Master’s thesis.

As part of my Masters course in History, I have spent my summer writing my final thesis. Though longer than my undergraduate dissertation, the project has been far more enjoyable because I have had the opportunity to use original manuscripts held in the University’s Special Collections. In particular, I have been using the collection MS 200 which contains documentation from the Nuremberg trials and the subsequent, International Military Tribunals (1946 – 47).

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The core of my project is examining the relationship between collective memory and Holocaust trials and therefore, I have been comparing the Nuremberg trials and the Eichmann trial (1961). Part of my interest in this particular topic came from an earlier visit to the archives to view a series of tapes that contained survivor testimony. I was struck by the trauma and devastation of the survivor more than I had been by literature I had read. As we are now approaching a time when soon there will be no more survivor’s left to bear witness, I wondered how we would represent the Holocaust in the future. Having already done some research in the Nuremberg trials, I found there was an absence of survivor voice and struggled with the silence within the trial. Though the defence brought witness testimony, survivors did not come to court but were asked to provide affidavits as sources of evidence. I questioned how possible it was that a Holocaust narrative could be formed just by using the Nazi documentation that had been left behind. By contrast, the Eichmann trial had over 120 witnesses speak about what they had experienced leaving those within the courtroom horrified. Therefore, I decided that as the resources were right in front of me, I could look at collective memory in both trials by examining the evidence presented at them along with the original transcripts.

Initially, I was overwhelmed by the amount of material in the archives relating to the Nuremberg trials (around 500 boxes) and struggled to see how I would pick what to look at. Helpfully, there was a catalogue on the archives website which explained what was in each box so I began to select evidence that I thought might be interesting to get an idea of the trial. To exemplify, I looked at reports from Reinhard Heydrich (a Nazi officer in the SS) on the ‘Final Solution’ which were clear proof of the Nazi’s plans to exterminate the Jews of Europe. As a history student I am familiar with this, but seeing the words on the original manuscript was still shocking. One sentence that was particularly striking read ‘as far as possible the territories enumerated under 1) are to be cleared of Jews, but the very least to be aimed at is the formation of a very few “concentration” towns’. [MS 200 IMT/16/1] Though the document does not specifically refer to the ‘Final Solution’, it is a piece of a puzzle whereby all the evidence can be put together to unveil these horrific plans.

International Military Tribunal: Opening statement for the United States of America, 21 Nov 1945 [MS 200 IMT/13/1]

International Military Tribunal: Opening statement for the United States of America, 21 Nov 1945 [MS 200 IMT/13/1]

The evidence used at the trials was not just official Nazi documentation such as reports. There were also a number of excerpts taken from Hitler’s, Mein Kampf, and newspapers such as National Socialist Monthly which give the historian a glimpse into the anti-Semitic rhetoric that was spread throughout Germany and Eastern Europe. The writings are again, shocking and disturbing but by looking through such a variety of material helped me to understand the case the prosecution was attempting to build against the Nazi’s by showing the methods they used to rally support that led to the murder of six million Jews.

Using the archives has really helped me develop my skills as a historian. Though in my undergraduate degree I used them to look at the Mountbatten Papers collection, it has been through this project that I have really learnt how to select evidence properly and how to critique sources in a way that portrays my argument effectively. What has also been motivating is having access to real documents; it has been important for me to look at original material – rather than just relying on secondary sources – to shape my understanding of the trials. I am also very grateful to the staff at the Archives who have been very patient with me and always helpful in terms of answering questions and providing me with the material that I needed!

Along with the papers of the Nuremberg trial, papers relating to the Eichmann trial can be found among the collections MS 60 Papers of Revd Dr James Parkes and MS 237-41 Papers of the Institute of Jewish Affairs.


Holocaust education and combatting prejudice

International Holocaust Remembrance Day, observed on 27 January (the date in 1945 that Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by Soviet troops), is a memorial day for the victims of the Holocaust.

Education on the Holocaust is a compulsory part of the history curriculum in England and there are many educational trusts that do important work teaching keys issues that can be learned about the Holocaust. One such organization is the Anne Frank Educational Trust UK, for which the Special Collections at the University of Southampton holds archives (MS 266).

Letter writing competition, 1994, of letters from school children to Anne Frank: MS 266 A896

Letter writing competition, 1994, of letters from school children to Anne Frank: MS 266 A896

The name of Anne Frank still continues to resonate as a symbol of peace with children across the world and the Educational Trust uses her diaries as a means of challenging prejudice and reducing hatred.

In 1993, during the Bosnian conflict, a letter, translated by their teacher, was sent from pupils of the Os Ivan Goran School, Zenica, 50 kilometres from Sarajevo, to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.

“We wait spring… war is here. We wait peace…. Nobody hear us, we are an corner of world. All year we hope…. Our teacher… told us about Anne Frank and her hiding and her life… Our youth is very similar. After fifty years history repetition again in Bosnia – war, hate killing, hiding displacements…

We wait spring… we wait peace, like Anne Frank fifty years before. She didn’t live to see peace, but we…?”

This letter led to an Anne Frank Educational Trust UK Children to Children Appeal Bosnia in conjunction with People newspaper and GMTV. With the aim to encourage British children to send message of support and goodwill to children in Bosnia, the campaign elicited a positive response from schools across the UK, with children learning Serbo-Croat phrases to include in their letters.

The Anne Frank Educational Trust UK currently engages with over 30,000 school children each year as part of their educational programme, as well as running writing competitions and other events enabling these children to learn about aspects of human rights and respect for others.

Southampton will be marking the UK’s national Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) with a commemorative event organised by Southampton Solent University and the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations, University of Southampton. For further details see:

Holocaust Memorial Day

27 January is Holocaust Memorial Day, the date chosen as it is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp. 2015 is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

The Parkes Library, created by Revd Dr James Parkes, who spent much of his life combatting anti-Semitism, contains a sizeable section of printed material on the Holocaust including general histories of the Holocaust, together with books describing events in individual countries. Published diaries and testimonials of victims and survivors are well represented and there are also sections on the interpretation of Holocaust literature and on the historiography of the subject.

Telegram (MS 175/142/1) sent to Hertz in November 1938 using the term 'Holocaust' in response to the events of Kristallnacht.

Telegram (MS 175/142/1) sent to Hertz in November 1938 using the term ‘Holocaust’ in response to the events of Kristallnacht.

There is considerable material within the Anglo-Jewish Archive collections at Southampton, ranging from a telegram sent to the Chief Rabbi Hertz in November 1938 using the term ‘Holocaust’ in response to the events of Kristallnacht, to memoirs and testimonials and papers relating to war crimes and war criminals.

The writings of Eugene (John) Heimler (MS220) on the Holocaust include some pages of his Holocaust memoir Night in the mist. The collection also includes material relating to the foundation of a Holocaust survivors’ centre. Amongst the papers of the Council of Christians and Jews (MS 65) is material of the Association of Nazi Camp Survivors and of the Holocaust Memorial Foundation Committee. Other smaller collections include an account of the war experiences of David Kutner, who was incarcerated in Lodz ghetto and subsequently Auschwitz, and papers of Rudi Kennedy who led a successful campaign for compensation for Jewish slave labourers.

The main collection relating to war crimes is MS 200 which is the papers of the International Military Tribunal and Nuremberg Military Tribunals, 1945-9. Further material on war crimes and war criminals can be found in collection MS 237-41 the Institute of Jewish Affairs and MS 137 the Anglo-Jewish Association.

The Archives and Manuscripts holds two collections of filmed interviews: the Fortunoff Video Collection of Holocaust survivors from Yale University Library, and the Association of Jewish Refugees Refugee Voices, which contains 150 filmed interviews with Jewish survivors and refugees from Nazism who have settled in Great Britain.

An event to mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2015 has been jointly organised by Southampton Solent University and the University of Southampton. For further details please visit the Parkes Institute Events page.

Reflections on war and warfare: Week 42 (15 – 21 December 2014)

As of March 2014, we are posting weekly extracts of writings on war and warfare drawn from our manuscript and printed collections. Ranging from items on the Maratha wars to the Second World War, the extracts will reflect opinions both from the battle front and from those at home. The quotes tie in with the exhibition ‘When “the days of conquest are passed”: reflections on war and warfare’, until recently on display at the Special Collections Gallery.

16 December 1914 The German Navy shell British towns
The attack by the German Navy on the north east seaport towns of Hartlepool, Scarborough and Whitby caused public outrage. Rich’s early estimate of 100 killed and wounded is modest; there were 137 fatalities and 592 casualties. The Royal Navy was criticised of the for failing to prevent the attack and “Remember Scarborough” was used in army recruitment posters.

“The war has come to England. Hartlepool, Scarborough and Whitby shelled by German warships this morning. Over 100 killed and wounded!”

MS 168 AJ 217/10 Journal of Samuel Rich

17 December 1942 United Nations proclamation about the Holocaust
On 17 December 1942, the joint declaration by Members of the United Nations, or a statement by the American and British governments on behalf of the allied powers, was issued relating to extermination of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe.  Anthony Eden, the Foreign Secretary, read this statement to the House of Commons.  The UN statement was made in response to a document The mass extermination of Jews in German occupied Poland addressed to the allied governments by the Polish government-in-exile.

“Two important news items: The United Nations proclamation about the murder of Jews by Germans. The H[ouse] of C[ommons] stood when Eden announced it. (J. de Rothschild spoke for the Jews and the 8th army’s flanking movement).”

MS 168 AJ 217/38 Journal of Samuel Rich, 16 December 1942

19 December 1851 The continuous nature of hostilities

“The colony … is quiet …. No signs of submission are however apparent in any of the chiefs and the war seems as far from its termination as at the commencement of the hostilities.”

MS 63 A904/3 Letter from Captain Edward Wellesley to his brother, Richard, 19 December 1851

20 December 1917 Division following the Balfour Declaration
The League of British Jews was founded in November 1917, shortly after British Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour wrote a letter – later known as the “Balfour Declaration” – stating that the British Government would support the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.  The LBJ aimed to oppose the idea that Jews constituted a political nation. At the time of writing, the British Army had occupied Palestine and Stein was serving in the Palestine Military Administration.

“I have looked at the papers rescued by the League of British Jews and must say I am not much impressed with them. Some of the more violent attendees of the Zionist Leaders certainly have been rather hurtful to English-born Jews, whose English feelings they, having been brought aboard, are naturally unable to appreciate.”

MS 170 AJ244/119 Letter from Leonard Stein to his family