War crimes and war criminals
War crimes and war criminals
The Cabinet discussed the possibility of reprisals for the savage cruelties being practised by the Germans in Czechoslovakia. The PM suggested wiping out German villages (three for one) by air attack. The RAF said that it would require 100 bombers and bright moonlight. The Cabinet discussed whether it was a good idea, whether resources should be diverted for this purpose and whether it would lead to reprisals both in Czechoslovakia and in the UK.
It might lead to even greater atrocities in Czechoslovakia.
General view that it wd. be wise to think this over.
Danger is that it costs us something & them nothing. Against it.
General feeling of Cabinet - against doing this. (i.e. L.P., M/Inf., CO., H.O.)
My instinct is strongly the other way.
W.M.(42)74th Meeting held on 15 June 1942
Reports of large scale massacres of Jews in Poland
The Cabinet in December 1942 discussed the large-scale massacres of Jews in Poland. Eden reported that there was no confirmation of the methods used but that it was known that Jews were being transferred to Poland from occupied countries:
Any confirmn. of story of wholesale massacre? By mass electrical methods.
Nothg. direct : but indicns. tht. it may be true. Can´t confirm the method.
Know tht. Jews are being withdrawn eg. fr. Norway and sent to Poland, for some such purposes evidently.
Agreement reached on joint decln. - prob for issue Thursday. This commits us to punishg. those responsible.
W.M.(42)168th Meeting held on 14 December 1942.
Discussion of trial and punishment of war criminals
The Cabinet discussed a scheme, which had been agreed in principle with President Roosevelt, for the establishment of a UN Commission on Atrocities which would be a purely fact-finding body. The Cabinet had before them a memorandum setting out the issues involved in the trial and punishment of war criminals.
Contemplate tht. if Hitler falls into our hands we shall certainly put him to death.
Not a Sovereign who cd. be said to be in hands of Ministers, like Kaiser.
This man is the mainspring of evil. Instrument - electric chair, for gangsters no doubt available on Lease Lend.
W.M.(42)86th Meeting held on 6 July [sic] 1942.
On 4 November the Cabinet discussed the health of Rudolf Hess and the passing on of the details to the Soviet Government:
Include reference to health and fall over bannisters etc.
Why not say on verge of insanity.
He wasn´t when he arrived : we can´t say he was.
W.M.(42)150th Meeting held on 4 November 1942.
Warning to Neutrals
The Cabinet discussed in July 1943 whether it was premature to make a declaration about enemy leaders and war criminals and how they should be treated and whether, sooner rather than later, neutral countries should be warned not to take them. The view was that several Allied governments were interested not in war leaders so much as in enemy nationals who were known to have taken part in maltreating Allied nationals.
Distinctn. Between leaders H &M. (political ques) and list of blackguards proved guilty of bestial behaviour. Second class = concern of the U.N. Commission for Investigations of War Crimes. We have selected our member & others are doing so (incldg. U.S.).
S/Doms. Hand over to most injured nations like Norway & Poland.
W.M.(43)94th Meeting held on 7 July 1943.
Should principal Nazi leaders be put on trial or executed summarily?
The Cabinet discussed in April 1945 whether the principal Nazi leaders, including Hitler, should, when caught, be put on trial or summarily executed without any judicial inquiry:
I agree with M.A.P. Believe all major Allies commd to
execution of Hitler. This mock trial is objectionable. It is really a
political act: better to declare tht. we shall put them to death.
Agree the trial will be a farce. Indictment: facilities for counsel. All sorts
of complications ensue as soon as you admit a fair trial. I agree with H.O.: tht. they shd. be treated as outlaws.
We shd. however seek agreemt. of our Allies.
I wd. take no responsibility for a trial - even tho´ U.S. want to do it.
Execute the principal criminals as outlaws - if no Ally wants them.
Summary execution dangerous - as I said when here
last. A dangerous precedent.
However much we may favour summary execution, don´t believe you will get Allied agreemt. U.S.
won´t: & I gather Stalin won´t. We must therefore compromise or
W.M.(45)43rd Meeting held on 12 April 1945.
The situation had changed by May 1945:
I prepared a statement of objns to trial procedure.
Gave it to Cadogan. But see his later views as at Annex C.
Esp. para. 2 & 3.
Situation has changed: if we can´t agree on procedure for leaders,
let us get agreed procedure for the others. The leaders are being
Cd. you negotiate with e.g. Himmler & bump him off later.
Quite entitled to do so. And trouble if he isn´t - Head of Gestapo.
Buchenwald is not a war crime.
W.M.(45)57th Meeting held on 3 May 1945