CURRENT WAR CRIMES PROCEEDINGS
For the past fifteen years, “Justice at Dachau” has been staged before sell-out audiences at legal, educational, and cultural venues nationwide. With rare footage and photographs from inside the U.S. Army courtroom in Germany, bestselling author Joshua M. Greene evokes the drama, pathos, and historic achievements of the largest yet least-known war crimes trials in history. From 1945 to 1948, while the world’s attention was focused 65 miles north at Nuremberg, a young lawyer from Alabama nearly sacrificed his life fighting for righteous judgements against the men and women who ran Hitler’s camps. Based on Greene’s bestselling book published by the American Bar Association.
“Riveting—destined to be a classic among Holocaust histories.”
PATRICK O’DONNELL, AUTHOR, BEYOND VALOR AND INTO THE RISING SUN
CURRENT WAR CRIMES PROCEEDINGS
Col. Denson confronted perennial themes of justice in the Dachau trials. How does a victor nation provide its defeated enemy with due process of law? What can the international community reasonably expect from international tribunals? Is it possible to strike a balance between the law and government directives for expedient trials? How far down the line can accountability be ascribed for participation in a genocidal regime?
MORAL AND RELIGIOUS ISSUES
William Denson was a devout man of God. He felt the U.S. had an obligation – under international law and under divine law – to provide the accused with fair trials. It was, nonetheless, his duty to win convictions. What role do reconciliation and forgiveness play in war crimes proceedings? Does the South African model make sense in increasingly aggressive – and remote – warfare? What role might religious and spiritual leaders play in the peace process?
William Denson did not believe that atrocities in the camps were German in origin. Rather, his concern sprang from an intuition that anyone, under the wrong circumstances, could be moved to such unthinkable acts. Among the accused were reputable doctors and outstanding citizens who turned brutal through overexposure to brutality. What lessons emerged from the Dachau trials that might inform our understanding of human behavior?
PRODUCTION AND EDITORIAL ISSUES
Presentations inevitably provoke questions concerning the reconstruction of historic events. How does an author compress 12,000 pages of trial transcripts into a 350-page book? What are the dangers in oversimplifying complex issues? Are there moral parameters to be respected when dealing with history, or does the artist enjoy licenses unavailable to historians and academics?
Bill Denson, just thirty-two years old, with only one murder trial to his name, led a brilliant and successful prosecution, but nearly two years of exposure to such horrors took its toll. His wife divorced him, his weight dropped to 116 pounds, and he collapsed from exhaustion. Worst of all was the pressure from his army superiors to bring the trials to a rapid end when their agenda shifted away from punishing Nazis to winning Germany’s support in the emerging Cold War. Denson persevered, determined to create a careful record of responsibility for the crimes of the Holocaust. When, in a shocking final twist, the United States used clandestine reversals and commutations of sentences to set free those found guilty at Dachau, Denson risked his army career to try to prevent justice from being undone.
Responsible for hundreds of deaths in his “research” for a cure for malaria
“Bitch of Buchenwald,” whose penchant for tattooed skins and human bone lamps made headlines worldwide
A Harvard psychologist turned Gestapo informant
Clips from a recent Justice at Dachau presentation for a continuing legal education (CLE) conference.
Joshua M. Greene is a former Holocaust instructor at Hofstra and Fordham Universities. He has been a featured speaker at The Pentagon, Yale University, and the New York Public Library Distinguished Author series.
JUSTICE AT DACHAU HAS BEEN PRESENTED AT…
The world remembers Nuremberg, where a handful of Nazi policymakers were brought to justice, but nearly forgotten are the proceedings at Dachau, where hundreds of Nazi guards, officers, and doctors stood trial for personally taking part in the torture and execution of prisoners inside the Dachau, Mauthausen, Flossenburg and Buchenwald concentration camps. In Justice at Dachau, award-winning author and filmmaker Joshua M. Greene recreates the Dachau trials based on thousands of pages of transcripts and reveals the dramatic story of William Denson, a soft-spoken young lawyer from Alabama whisked from teaching law at West Point to lead the prosecution in the largest series of war crimes trials in history.
In a makeshift courtroom set up inside Hitler’s first concentration camp, Denson was charged with building a team from lawyers who had no background in war crimes, and with determining charges for crimes that courts had never before confronted.
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