The Curiohaus Trials in Hamburg
Nazi War Crimes Tried in British Military Courts
A travelling exhibition presented by the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial.
“We will only halt our struggle when the last perpetrator stands before the judges of the peoples!”, as the survivors from the Buchenwald Concentration Camp swore a few days after their liberation.
Sanctions for those responsible for Nazi crimes of violence was an important issue for the countries allied against Germany during the war. The Nuremberg Trial of the Major War Criminals was observed worldwide and is viewed as a milestone in legal history. It is less well-known that the allies realised hundreds of further trials.
The Curiohaus in Hamburg-Rotherbaum was the most important court location for the war crimes trials in the British occupation zone from 1945 to 1949. Here, 188 military court trials were held against 504 defendants. Who were the accused, for what crimes were they brought to justice? Who were their victims?
The exhibition provides an overview of these trials negotiated in the Curiohaus and shows the share of former persecuted persons in the legal action. Preliminarily, the exhibition introduces the peculiarities of British criminal prosecution. It broaches the issue of trials against different groups of perpetrators.
The majority of proceedings were directed against the concentration camp Neuengamme’s staff. But also crimes against prisoners from other concentration camps such as Ravensbrück, Bergen-Belsen and Groß-Rosen were brought before court here. The accused also included entrepreneurs and company employees, for example from the Hamburg company “Tesch & Stabenow”, which sold “Zyklon B” [death gas] to the SS and supplied the concentration camps. Further trials were held against those responsible for crimes against Gestapo prisoners, forced labourers and prisoners of war.
A separate section of the exhibition is dedicated to the aftermath of the trials. In light of the Cold War, the allied law enforcement came to an abrupt halt. People sentenced as war criminals were released early from imprisonment during the 1950s and were able to apply for compensation in accordance with federal German jurisdiction. Many perpetrators were never held accountable.