Next year will mark the 70th anniversary of the start of the Dachau trials, the single largest yet least-known series of war crimes trials in history. To coincide with this historic anniversary, Ankerwycke has re-released bestselling biographer Joshua M. Greene’s “Justice at Dachau,” a definitive account of the trials as seen through the eyes of chief prosecutor Col. William Denson.
Noted historian Douglas Brinkley has described “Justice at Dachau” as “historical storytelling at its finest.” Greene tells the story of how Denson, a lawyer and humble Army colonel from Alabama with no experience of war, succeeded in winning due process verdicts against the operators of Hitler’s concentration camps and nearly lost his life in the process. The book captures the drama and legal charges related to the largest legal proceeding in history that in total was five times larger than the Nuremberg trials.
For nearly two years, Denson led the prosecution team that by August 1948 had found 177 Nazis guards and officers guilty of war crimes at Dachau, Mauthausen, Flossenburg and Buchenwald concentration camps. Ninety-seven were sentenced to death, 54 to life imprisonment and the rest to terms of hard labor. After Denson’s death in 1998 at the age of 86, his wife sorted through boxes of documents in their basement: 30,000 pages of trial transcripts, miles of microfilm, stacks of photographs and newspaper clippings, death’s head insignias and letters from both SS officers and victims of Nazi horror.
Greene, coauthor of “Witness: Voices from the Holocaust,” writes that with the rise of the Cold War, American priorities shifted from punishing Germans to winning Germany’s support in the fight against the Soviet Union, and reveals that one by one, the sentences of Nazis found guilty at Dachau were either commuted or completely reversed. Altogether, the book details how 1,300 condemned Nazi henchmen by the U.S. government were clandestinely released.
A former instructor of religion and philosophy at Hofstra University in New York, Greene is a frequent lecturer on Holocaust history. His books have been translated in a dozen languages and his documentaries, including “Memory After Belsen: The Future of Holocaust Memory” and “Hitler’s Courts: Betrayal of the Rule of Law in Nazi Germany,” have been broadcast worldwide. He was director of strategic planning for the U.N. Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders and served on the board of the Holocaust Memorial and Educational Center of Nassau County, N.Y., among other boards.
The Ankerwycke edition marks the first time that “Justice at Dachau” has been released in paperback. Widely hailed as among Holocaust classics when it first appeared in 2003, the book has been out of print for several years. The new release includes a photo insert with 30 images and a new Foreword.