The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Author takes students inside Holocaust war trials

“I am really interested in knowing why someone does somethingwhen everything says ‘don’t do this’,” said Joshua Greene, authorof the book “Justice at Dachau,” to be released April 8.

In a Gartner Series Lecture Tuesday night, Greene explained thatprosecutor William Denson, the basis for his book, showed extremeintegrity in prosecuting Nazi war criminals at Dachau. Although theDachau trials are not well known, they were the largest war crimetrials in history.

Denson was a law professor at Westpoint when he was called toGermany as a judge’s advocate. Greene said that since Denson’sfamily had a strong background in law, Denson was excited about theopportunity to advance his career.

“He went into postwar Germany not knowing what he was going tofind, ” Greene said.

Denson was able to tour concentration camps only weeks afterliberation. Greene said that once Denson spoke to survivors and sawthe human ashes in the incinerators, the blood-stained ground belowthe execution wall, and “doctor’s” operating tables soaked withhuman fluids, he found there was too much corroborating evidence toignore.

Aware of the obstacles in the trials at Nuremberg, esepciallywith the charge of crimes against humanity, Greene said that Densonset out to prove that the camps were illegal and by design, it madeall involved guilty. Even in Germany, murder, torture andstarvation were illegal.

Denson was concerned with keeping due process alive in thetrials, even for the Nazi war criminals. Greene said that the smallteam of prosecutors was even able to get some Nazis to signconfessions and Denson was able to find witnesses to find crediblebut “heart felt” witnesses that painted a picture of how they weredehumanized in camps.

The trials dragged on for two years, and Greene said that Densoncame out of them having lost about 50 pounds and developed anoverall trembling. When he returned to America, Denson hadsucessfully prosecuted every war criminal at Dachau, but hissuccess wouldn’t be long lived.

Greene explained after the trials had taken place, the UnitedStates quietly overturned or commuted all of the Nazis’ sentencesas a move to ease relations with Germany. Upset, Denson started aletter-writing campaing that led to a Senate sub-committee to lookinto the matter. While the committee found that Denson had done aneffective job in prosecuting the criminals, it was too late tosentence them further.

Denson died in 1998 at the age of 86, never having stepped in acourtroom again.

“Its interesting that such a large part of history received suchlittle publicity,” sophomore Veronica Terefenko said.

Although the book has yet to be released, Greene is looking forfunding to make the book into a film for PBS. His next book will bea biography of George Harrison.

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