Committee for the investigation of Nazi War Crimes in Baltic Countries: papers (microfilm)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Correspondence and papers of the Committee for the Investigation of Nazi War Crimes in Baltic Countries, 1948-1971, including the following correspondents: Vereinigung der Verfolgten des Naziregimes; Hauptamt Opfer des Faschismus; Foreign Office; Central Committee for Liberated Jews in the US Zone of West Germany; Canadian Jewish Congress; World Jewish Congress; Wiener Library.

Also authenticated statements and affidavits from eyewitnesses with covering letters relating to the crimes of the following indiviuals (amongst others): Herbert Cukurs, 'the hangman of Riga' (1900-1965); Harry Hanke; Hans Hoffmann; Hans Lange; Kurt Migge, Kriminalsekret?r (1908-); Albert Sauer; Willy Tuchel; Rudolf Lange, SS Standatenf?hrer (1910-); Viktor Arajs.

Administrative / Biographical History

The prosecution of what became known as the 'Riga Ghetto Case' (LG Hamburg vom 29.12.1951, [50] 14/51) was significant because it signalled a change in policy on the prosecution of war crimes trials in Great Britain. The British originally planned to prosecute the five defendants accused of the most serious crimes, in a Control Commission Court (ie for crimes against humanity) and let the 11 lesser accused be tried in a German Spruchkammer for membership of illegal organisations. After some delay, the decision was made in Spring 1948 by the Foreign Office to hand over the prosecution of all the defendants in the Riga Ghetto case to the German authorities, stating that the German courts were perfectly capable of undertaking the work.

The Committee for the Investigation of Nazi War Crimes in Baltic Countries, (made up of former inmates of camps in Riga/ Buchenwald and formerly known as the Group of Baltic Survivors in Great Britain), formed a sub-committee, which met in London, to assist in the investigation of crimes for this trial. Its activities consisted of contacting potential witnesses and gathering statements and affidavits in support of the prosecution. At one point, the General Secretary of the Committee, Josef Berman, a Latvian Jew and former inmate of Riga and Buchenwald, was asked to go to Hamburg to meet the investigating judge in the case. Much to the latter's dismay, most of the statements which had been gathered over the past years could not be used by the investigating judge because they apparently did not meet the rigorous criteria demanded by German courts.

The trial outcome consisted of the following: two defendants were given life sentences, one was acquitted, one was given 1 year 8 months. Whilst many potential defendants had already died, or in certain cases had escaped - such as Herbert Cukurs, who fled to Brazil in 1946 and was, in 1965, killed by an Israeli Mossad hit squad - some escaped after being released from custody by the British, the most important of whom was Viktor Arajs, who was finally convicted at the Hamburg Landesgericht in 1979 and sentenced to life imprisonment for mass murder. An additional barrier to prosecutions for crimes committed in Riga, was the fact that much of the relevant documentation had been appropriated by the Russian authorities, and was therefore inaccessible. Many potential defendants would have out-lived the period of the statute of limitations (in the cases of offences that carried a sentence less than life imprisonment) or would have died by the time this material was made available. A reluctance, for political reasons, to extradite suspects to Eastern Block countries presented a further barrier to prosecutions.

Arrangement

By document type; correspondence, alphabetical.

Conditions Governing Access

Open

Acquisition Information

Josef Berman

Other Finding Aids

Description exists to this archive on the Wiener Library's online catalogue www.wienerlibrary.co.uk.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Microfilm

Archivist's Note

Entry compiled by Howard Falksohn.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies can be made for personal use. Permission must be sought for publication.

Location of Originals

Wiener Collection, Tel Aviv University, Israel.

Bibliography

Justiz und NS- Verbrechen: Sammlung deutscher Strafurteile wegen nationalsozialistische T?tungsverbrechen, 1945-1966 , ed. Fritz Bauer et al(University Press Amsterdam, 1968)