The Pohl trial (also known as the WVHA Trial and officially The United States of America vs. Oswald Pohl, et al.) was the fourth of the twelve trials for war crimes that the United States authorities held in their occupation zone in Germany in Nuremberg after the end of World War II. These twelve trials were all held before U.S. military courts, not before the International Military Tribunal, although both courts presided in the same rooms at the Palace of Justice. The twelve U.S. trials are collectively known as the "Subsequent Nuremberg Trials" or, more formally, as the "Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals" (NMT).
In the Pohl case, Oswald Pohl and 17 other SS officers employed by the SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt (WVHA), the Economics and Administrative Department of the SS, were tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the time of the Nazi regime. The main charge against them was their active involvement in and administration of the "Final Solution". The WVHA was the Nazi government office that ran the concentration and extermination camps. It also handled the procurement for the Waffen SS and, as of 1942, the administration of the SS-Totenkopfverbände.
The judges in this case, heard before Military Tribunal II, were Robert M. Toms (presiding judge) from Detroit, Michigan, Fitzroy Donald Phillips from North Carolina, Michael A. Musmanno from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and John J. Speight from Alabama as an alternate judge. The Chief of Counsel for the Prosecution was Telford Taylor; James M. McHaney and Jack W. Robbins were the principal prosecutors. The indictment was presented on January 13, 1947; the trial began on April 8, and sentences were handed down on November 3, 1947. Four persons, including Oswald Pohl, were sentenced to death by hanging. Three were acquitted. The others received sentences of imprisonment between 10 years and lifetime.
At the request of the judges, the court reconvened on July 14, 1948 to consider additional material presented by the defense. On August 11, 1948, the tribunal issued its final sentences, confirming most of its earlier sentences, but slightly reducing some of the prison sentences and changing the death sentence of Georg Lörner into a sentence of life imprisonment.
Indictment[edit | edit source]
- Participating in a common plan or conspiracy to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity.
- War crimes through the administration of concentration camps and extermination camps, and the mass murders and atrocities committed there.
- Crimes against humanity on the same grounds, including slave labor charges.
- Membership in a criminal organization, the SS.
The SS had been found a criminal organization previously by the IMT. All defendants were charged on all counts of the indictment, except Hohberg, who was not charged on count 4. Charge 1 (conspiracy) was largely disregarded by the tribunal and no judgments on this count were passed.
Defendants[edit | edit source]
All convicts were found guilty on charges 2, 3, and 4, except Hohberg (who was not charged on count 4, but found guilty on counts 2 and 3). Three defendants were acquitted on all charges: Vogt, Scheide, and Klein.
Nov 3, 1947
Aug 11, 1948
|Oswald Pohl||head of the WVHA, Lt. General of the Waffen SS||death by hanging||confirmed||executed June 7, 1951|
|August Frank||deputy chief of the WVHA, Lt. General of the Waffen SS||life imprisonment||confirmed||commuted to 15 years|
|Georg Lörner||deputy chief of the WVHA, Maj. General of the Waffen SS||death by hanging||changed to lifetime imprisonment||commuted to 15 years|
|Heinz Karl Fanslau||deputy chief of the WVHA, Brigadier General of the Waffen SS||25 years||reduced to 20 years||commuted to 15 years|
|Hans Lörner||SS Oberführer||10 years||confirmed||released|
|Josef Vogt||SS Standartenführer||acquitted|
|Erwin Tschentscher||SS Standartenführer||10 years||confirmed||released|
|Rudolf Scheide||SS Standartenführer||acquitted|
|Max Kiefer||SS Obersturmbannführer||life imprisonment||reduced to 20 years||released|
|Franz Eirenschmalz||SS Standartenführer||death by hanging||confirmed||commuted to 9 years|
|Karl Sommer||SS Sturmbannführer||death by hanging||confirmed||commuted to lifetime imprisonment in 1949;|
commuted to 20 years in 1951
|Hermann Pook||Obersturmbannführer of the Waffen SS, chief dentist of the WVHA||10 years||confirmed||released|
|Hans Heinrich Baier||SS Oberführer||10 years||confirmed||released|
|Hans Hohberg||executive officer||10 years, incl. time already served||confirmed||released|
|Leo Volk||SS Hauptsturmführer, personal advisor of Pohl, head of legal department of the WVHA||10 years||confirmed||commuted to 8 years|
|Karl Mummenthey||SS Obersturmbannführer||life imprisonment||confirmed||commuted to 20 years|
|Hans Bobermin||SS Obersturmbannführer||20 years||reduced to 15 years||released|
|Horst Klein||SS Obersturmbannführer||acquitted|
Hohberg's sentence of 10 years included time already served—he was imprisoned on October 22, 1945—because he was not a member of the SS. The defense counsel for Karl Sommer filed a petition to modify the sentence to General Lucius D. Clay, the Commander-in-Chief for the U.S. occupation zone. In response to this appeal, Clay  ordered Sommer's death sentence to be commuted into a lifetime imprisonment on May 11, 1949. Pohl kept claiming his innocence, stating that he had been only a lower functionary. He was hanged on June 7, 1951, in the prison at Landsberg.
The head of Amt D: Konzentrationslagerwesen of the WVHA (the department of concentration camps), Richard Glücks, who had been the direct superior of all commanders of concentration camps and as such directly responsible for all the atrocities committed there, was not tried. On May 10, 1945, two days after the unconditional surrender of Germany, he had committed suicide in the navy hospital of Flensburg.
See also[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- Trial proceedings from the Mazal Library.
- Description of the trial from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
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