Trials of Dachau

The Dachau Trials were part of the set of jurisdictional processes – the most well known were the Nuremberg trials – to carry out the responsibilities of defunct Nazi Germany at the end of World War II . He judged war criminals caught in areas occupied by the United States and accused of violating its citizens. They were held by US authorities between November 1945 and August 1948 where the Dachau concentration camp was located .

Legal authority

They were carried out entirely by US military personnel whose legal authority had been conferred by the Department of the Judge Advocate General in the US Army. The chief prosecutor of the Dachau Military Court was military lawyer William Denson. 1 The chief defense attorney was Lieutenant Colonel Douglas T. Bates Jr., an artillery officer and counsel for Centerville ( Tennessee ).

The crimes

As in the other trials in international courts against the Nazis, the accused were charged with four offenses:

  1. War crimes , the existence of murders , torture and rape , acts contrary to the Laws of War .
  2. Crimes against humanity , when facedwith mass extermination and death.
  3. Genocide , when a whole ethnic group was killed.
  4. War of aggression, based on a premeditation to alter the peace and understood as the process to attempt against the internal security of a sovereign State.


Unlike the trials of the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal which prosecuted the main Nazi war criminals under the jurisdiction of the four Allied occupying powers , the Dachau courts were held exclusively by the United States military.

All the hearings were held in Dachau, because it was, at that time, the best-known of the Nazi concentration camps and would act as a backdrop to emphasize the moral corruption of the Nazi regime.

For nearly three years, the US Military Tribunals brought 1672 German war criminals to court in 489 separate proceedings. A total of 1,416 former members of the Nazi regime were convicted, of whom 297 were sentenced to death and 279 were sentenced to life in prison . All the convicts were sent to prison for war criminals in Landsberg am Lech to serve their sentences or go to the gallows .

The process of the massacre of Malmedy

Main article: Massacre of Malmedy

During the Dachau trials one of the most important trials was held for the Malmedy massacre . Officially known as Case 6-24, United States versus Valentin Bersin et al 2 began the day December as maypole as 1946 and the verdicts were read 16 as July as 1946 .

They accused 74 members of the Waffen SS murder of 80 prisoners of war violating the Geneva Convention at the crossroads of Baugnez ( Belgium ) on 17 of December of 1944 during the German counter – offensive of the Battle of the Bulge . The trial was highly controversial. After three hours of deliberations, the court admitted the probative force of Schwäbisch’s confessions and declared the 74 defendants guilty of war crimes. 43 of them are condemned to die by hanging; 23 are sentenced to life imprisonment, two to twenty years imprisonment; One to fifteen years; The last ten are sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment.

All capital punishments handed down by the Dachau court are commuted to life imprisonment. The head, Joachim Peiper, remained imprisoned in the prison of Schwäbisch until 22 of December of 1956 .

The concentration camps

  • Dachau concentration camp: 40 officials were tried, 36 of the defendants were sentenced to death on 13 December 1945. Of these, 23 were hanged on 28 and 29 May 1946, including former commander Gottfried Weiss And field doctor Schilling Claus . The smaller groups of officials and guards of the Dachau camp were included in several subsequent court trials. On 21 November , it was announced that, to date, 116 defendants in this category had been convicted and sentenced to prison terms.
  • Mauthausen concentration camp : 61 officials were tried in March and April 1946, 58 defendants were sentenced to death on 11 May of the same year. Among those executed the commander of the SS-Totenkopfverbände .
  • Flossenburg concentration camp 52 officials and guards of this camp were tried between December to June of 1946 and 19 of January of 1947 . Of the accused, 15 sentenced to death and 25 to prison terms.
  • Buchenwald concentration camp : between April and August 1947, 31 defendants were convicted. Of these, 22 were sentenced to death, from 9 to prison.
  • Mühldorf concentration camp , five officials were sentenced to death by a war crimes tribunal on 13 May 1947 and seven to prison terms.
  • Dora-Mittelbau concentration camp : on August 7, 1947, convicted 15 ex-SS guards and one Kapo (one was executed). The trial also addressed the issue of responsibility to prisoners by scientists at V-2 rockets in Mittelwerk .


  1. Back to top↑ Greene, Joshua (2003). Broadway, ed. Justice At Dachau: The Trials Of An American Prosecutor . New York. P. 400 pp. ISBN  0767908791 .
  2. Back to top↑ Officer Valentin Bersin was the first name in alphabetical order of the list of defendants.