Debate Comments


[Lee Casey]

I hope you will all excuse this late interpolation. I was, however, intrigued by Scott Horton's last post, and especially the reference to Manfred Nowak and his invocation of "von Ammann's" case, part of the Altstoetter case. Perhaps Mr. Nowak has other information, but the only defendant in the Altstoetter case with a name approximating "von Ammann" was Wilhelm von Ammon. According to the official record of his trial, he was Ministerial Counsellor of the Criminal Legislation and Administration Division of the Reich Ministry of Justice "and coordinator of proceedings against foreigners for offenses against Reich occupational forces abroad." (p. 15 of trial report).

According to the court's judgment, von Ammon was convicted for his participation in the execution of Hitler's "Nacht und Nebel" or "Night and Fog" decree. Under this decree, civilians "of occupied territories who had been accused of crimes of resistance against occupying forces were spirited away for secret trial by certain Special Courts of the Justice Ministry . . ." (Para. 13 of indictment, p. 21 of trial report). Many of these people were sent to concentration camps, including Mauthausen, Auschwitz, Flossenbuerg, Dachau, Ravensbrueck, and Buchenwald, among others. (p. 1044 of trial report). According to von Ammon, about half of all those tried by the "People's Court" received the death sentence. (p. 1054 of trial report).

In summing up its verdict with regard to von Ammon, the court indeed noted that "[h]is main activity in the Ministry during [1935-1937] concerned 'questions of international legal usage in penal matters.'" (p. 1132 of trial report). However, the court also noted that, during the period 1942 onwards, he was "in charge of Nacht and Nebel procedure," and that von Ammon "held an executive position of responsibility involving the exercise of personal discretion. Within the ministry he was in charge of the section which handled Night and Fog cases. The defendant Mettgenberg stated that the Night and Fog section within his subdivision was headed by von Ammon and that whenever von Ammon had doubts concerning the handling of individual cases joint discussions were held. We quote: 'When he had no doubts he could decide on matters himself.'" (p. 1134 of trial record). In addition, the court noted that "[v]on Ammon is chargeable with actual knowledge concerning the systematic abuse of the judicial processes in these cases."

These were the activities for which von Ammon was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. If he did issue memoranda providing the legal basis for the Night and Fog program, as claimed by Mr. Nowak, this did not appear to figure in the court's verdict.

The Altstoetter case was, of course, complex, and perhaps Novak was thinking of another individual. Indeed, if anyone is in communication with him, I would very much like to know what he is referring to here.

At any rate, the trial report of the Altstoetter case is available (http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/Military_Law/pdf/NT_war-criminals_Vol-III.pdf) from the Library of Congress' splendid site on the Nuremberg trials. That site is http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/Military_Law/Nuremberg_trials.html, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.