Robert Kempner

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Robert Kempner
Born October 17, 1899
Freiburg, Germany
Died August 15, 1993(1993-08-15) (aged 93)
Königstein im Taunus, Germany
Nationality American
Occupation Lawyer
Known for Served as assistant U.S. chief counsel during the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg

Robert Kempner (October 17, 1899 – August 15, 1993) was a German-born American lawyer.

As a law student Kempner sat as an observer in the trial against Soghomon Tehlirian, who had assassinated Talaat Pasha in 1921, and made his defence an impeachment on the Armenian Genocide and Talaat's involvement in it.[1] After finishing his studies Kempner became a successful Jewish lawyer in Berlin during the 1920s, and then advanced to chief legal advisor to the Prussian police in 1928. In 1935 Wilhelm Frick revoked Kempner's German citizenship, forcing him to emigrate to Italy and then later to the United States.[2]

Grave of Kempner, his parents and sister, Berlin

After World War II Kempner returned to Germany, the land of his birth, to serve as assistant U.S. chief counsel during the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. In a reversal of fortune, Kempner would prosecute two of his former superiors and persecutors — Göring and Frick. More familiar with the German legal system than any other member of the Allied staff, Kempner headed the Defense Rebuttal Section, the team responsible for anticipating the defense strategies of the accused and for preparing cross-examinations.[3]

Kempner also presented the case against his old nemesis Wilhelm Frick. This irony was not lost on the American press. One headline read, "Man He Exiled Presents Case Against Frick." Kempner also served as counsel at the 1947-1948 trial of the German Foreign Office and is credited with finding the text of the Wannsee Protocol, a critical historical document in the history of the Holocaust. After Nuremberg, Kempner split his time between the United States and Germany where he represented Jewish clients in restitution cases against Germany. He also appeared as an expert witness at the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1961.[3]

When Kempner left the Nuremberg trials in the mid-1940s, he took away thousands of trial documents, which he brought back to his home in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania outside of Philadelphia. According to Patricia Cohen, who refers to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, the prosecutor's office gave Kempner permission to take the documents away,[4] but according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the removal of documents by Kempner was contrary to law and proper procedure.[5] Most significant among this historic cache was the diary of Alfred Rosenberg, one of Hitler's most long-standing leading supporters, who had been convicted and hanged for his war crimes in 1946. The loose-leaf diary pages, dating from 1936 through 1944, passed through various hands after Kempner's death at age 93 in 1993, until they were reported to have been finally recovered by U.S. ICE agents in June 2013.[4][6] Rosenberg's diary is now in the possession of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for examination.[7]


This article incorporates text from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and has been released under the GFDL.
  1. ^ Robert Kempner, Ankläger einer Epoche. Lebenserinnerungen, Frankfurt am Main, Berlin and Vienna: Ullstein, 1983, pp. 44seqq. ISBN 3-550-07961-3.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b « Reversal of Fortune: Robert Kempner », site of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
  4. ^ a b Cohen, Patricia (13 June 2013). "Diary of a Hitler Aide Resurfaces After a Hunt That Lasted Years". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 June 2013. 
  5. ^ U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, "Long-lost Nazi diary recovered after HSI investigation", June 13, 2013, online.
  6. ^ Reuters (June 10, 2013). "Encontrado el diario de un confidente de Hitler" [Found the diary of a confidant of Hitler]. La Vanguardia (in Spanish) (Barcelona, Spain). Archived from the original on June 22, 2013. 
  7. ^ Fenyvesi, Charles (2012-06-14). "Mysteries of the Lost (and Found) Nazi Diaries". National Geographic. 

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