Thursday, September 6, 2007

Women at Nuremberg: Witnesses

(Part 4 of IntLawGrrls' Women at Nuremberg series)

A characteristic of modern warfare is its catastrophic consequences for noncombatants; in particular, for women and children. World War II was emblematic of this phenomenon. It's little surprise, then, that the record made during proceedings at which "the entire ideology and bureaucratic reach of the Nazi regime were put to light," as Peter Heigl writes in his book Nürnberger Prozesse - Nuremberg Trials, included testimony from a number of women.
Women's testimony had particular significance at 2 of the later trials.

Doctors' Trial
In what has come to be known as the "Doctors' Trial," the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg adjudicated charges against 23 German physicians alleged to have taken part in the Nazi program to euthanize mentally ill, mentally retarded, and physically disabled persons, or to have performed nonconsensual experiments on concentration camp inmates. Among the latter were Polish women who survived the Ravensbrück concentration camp in Northern Germany. Three -- Maria Kusmierczuk, Wladislawa Karolewska, and Jadwiga Dzido -- are shown above left talking with a nurse about their ordeal. Dzido was a Polish Catholic who'd studied pharmacology before the war (above right). At the December 22, 1946, trial session at left, Dzido stood mute as Dr. Leo Alexander, a Boston psychiatrist and neurologist, pointed to scars on her leg and testified about her mistreatment.
Based on the testimony of Dzido and 84 others, as well as 1,500 documents, the Doctors' Trial ended with the conviction of 16 defendants and the execution of 7. (photos courtesy of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum archives)

Justice Trial
There was also the 3d proceeding, United States v. Alstoetter, known as the Justice Trial. Witnesses included Anna M., whom Heigl describes as "one of countless women subjected to forced sterilization." (Forced sterilization arises, with regard to a male victim, in "Judgment at Nuremberg," the 1961 film based on that trial. In it a defense attorney throws a tu quoque jab at the Allied judges by quoting Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes' infamous 1927 condonation of a forced sterilization in the United States on the ground that "Three generations of imbeciles are enough.")
Of the 14 defendants who faced verdict in Alstoetter, 10 were convicted; 4 of them received life sentences and the other 6, from 5 to 10 years' imprisonment.

Still to come in IntLawGrrls' Women at Nuremberg series: Defendants. Already posted: Prosecutors, Staffers, Press.

No comments: