Pohl trial

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Oswald Pohl receives his sentence to death by hanging.

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]

  1. Participating in a common plan or conspiracy to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity.
  2. War crimes through the administration of concentration camps and extermination camps, and the mass murders and atrocities committed there.
  3. Crimes against humanity on the same grounds, including slave labor charges.
  4. 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]

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.

Name Function Sentence of
Nov 3, 1947
Sentence of
Aug 11, 1948
1951 Amnesty
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 [1] 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]

References[edit]