How to look for records of... War crimes 1939-1945
How can I view the records covered in this guide?
1. Why use this guide?
Use this guide if you are looking for records of war crimes and criminals (both alleged and proved) from 1939-1945. It will tell you the types of records we hold and how to search for them.
2. What types of records does The National Archives hold?
- selected lists of war criminals and individual case files
- documentation relating to administration and policy
The records we hold mainly relate to:
- investigations and trials in Europe and the Far East
- the United Nations War Crimes Commission (UNWCC), whose role was to record and investigate war crimes and to advise governments on legal procedures for bringing suspects to trial
- the Central Registry of War Criminals and Security Suspects (CROWCASS), which assisted the UNWCC and allied governments in tracing ex-enemy nationals suspected of committing war crimes or atrocities in Europe
- the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg
3. How to search for war crimes records at The National Archives
The best way to start is to search Discovery, our catalogue using keywords such as:
- war crimes
- war criminal
- Nuremberg trials
- United Nations War Crimes Commission or UNWCC
- Central Registry of War Criminals and Security Suspects or CROWCASS
Many war crimes records originated in the Foreign Office or the War Office, so you can refine your search to these collections, which have the letter codes FO and WO.
Not all relevant records will come up in an online search. In particular, Foreign Office political correspondence in FO 371 contains a lot of information about war crimes as does FO 1060 for ‘minor’ war crimes in the records of the legal divison of the Control Commission for Germany, but our catalogue does not provide full details.
To find out more about the contents of FO 371 in the period 1920-1951, use the printed index in the reading rooms at The National Archives at Kew, and look under the general heading ‘War Criminals’.
4. Investigations and trials in Europe and the Far East
Search our catalogue for:
- case files of the War Crimes Group (NW Europe) name within WO 309. These cover both individual cases and general procedural policy
- quarterly historical reports of the War Crimes Investigation Unit within WO 267
- policy papers in WO 32
- references to trials and investigations in WO 208 and FO 1060. Use keywords such as ‘war crimes’
- documentation on the prosecution of war criminals within WO 204. Use keywords such as ‘war crimes’. This series also contains policy papers concerning crimes committed by or against Italians
- lists of war criminals (alleged or proved) in TS 26. Use keywords such as ‘war criminal’. The list provides brief details of the crime(s). This series also contains a sample of lists of charges prepared against Germans and Italians in connection with war crimes investigations in TS 26/176-802
- case files of the War Crimes Group (SE Europe) in WO 310. Most of these files concern investigations in Austria and Italy, Greece, Romania and Yugoslavia
- the Control Commission for Germany and Austria in FO 1060 and FO 1020 respectively
- files of the War Crimes Investigation Branch, HQ Allied Land Forces Norway in WO 331
- investigations and prosecutions in WO 311, WO 353 and WO 355
- reports of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) courts of enquiry in WO 219/5045-5054. Reports cover alleged atrocities committed against Allied prisoners of war by the German armed forces
- records of proceedings in British military courts in WO 235
- records of the Ravensbrück war crime trials in RW 2
4.2 The Far East
Search our catalogue for:
- individual cases in WO 203 by keywords such as ‘investigation’ or ‘trial’
- files concerning ALFSEA’s investigations into war crimes in WO 325
- reports of Far East Land Forces investigation teams in WO 203. Use keywords such as ‘war crimes’
- card indexes concerning investigations and trials in South East Asia. Search by name of accused or victim in WO 356
- files of the Judge Advocate General’s Military Department in WO 311
- investigations in WO 357
- war crimes papers in WO 235/813-1117
- correspondence on the setting up of the IMT Tokyo in FO 371/57422-57429
5. International Military tribunal (IMT), Nuremberg
Search and download (£) records which mention the IMT and the Nuremberg trials on the Cabinet Papers website. These include cabinet minutes and memoranda for the Second World War and post-war periods (CAB 65, CAB 66, CAB 128, CAB 129).
Search our catalogue for:
- Foreign Office records relating to the trials in FO 1049, FO 945 and FO 1060
- records of the British War Crimes Executive, Court Contact Committee and documents submitted on behalf of defendants, and correspondence from the public in FO 1019
- Policy discussions in PREM 4 and PREM 8
- Transcript minutes of the Nuremberg trial proceedings in FO 371/57435-57517
Consult the printed index to General Correspondence of the Foreign Office, 1920-1951 at The National Archives under the heading ‘War crimes: German (Nuremberg trials)’ to identify records within FO 371.
6. Records held in other archives
Contact the Imperial War Museum Archive for selected records of war crime trials of Europe (such as the Nuremburg trials) and the Far East.
For records of the UNWCC, its sub-commissions and committees contact the United Nations Archives.
7. Further reading
Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal (42 vols, Nuremberg: IMT, 1947-49)
The Tokyo War Crimes Trials. The Complete Transcripts of the Proceedings of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, ed RJ Pritchard and SM Zaide (22 vols, New York: Garland, 1981)
Guide reference: Military Records Information 27