HL Deb 15 October 1946 vol 143 cc246-72

5.4 p.m.

VISCOUNT MAUGHAM had the following Notice on the Paper:—To call attention to the trials in the British zone in Germany of persons alleged to be guilty of war crimes and of German nationals alleged to be guilty of crimes and atrocities against the laws of humanity and of members of the organizations declared to be criminal by the International Court at Nuremberg, and also to the measures taken against persons described as security suspects; and to move for Papers.

The noble and learned Viscount said: My Lords, this Motion that stands in my name is one which relates to a most complex and difficult subject. The problems which have to be solved by the occupation authorities in the British zone are indeed not capable of a really satisfactory solution. Like many political problems all you can say, if you advocate a particular view, is that on the whole there are fewer objections taken to that course than to any other. I would like to preface my observations by saying that what I am going to say this evening is not in any sense, in my view, a Party matter at all. My intervention is only an endeavour to help, as far as I can, the occupying authorities who up to date, I have not the slightest doubt, have done their best.

They are operating under a council known as the Control Council, which ultimately owes its authority to the fact that the British are in occupation of their zone and the other great Powers are in occupation of the other three zones. The Potsdam Agreement laid down certain principles which the persons engaged in the administration of this zone have followed. It laid down in section 3 the purposes of the occupation. It says this: The purposes of the occupation of Germany by which the Control Council shall be guided are" — and after some things that are irrelevant to my purpose, it says: war criminal and those who have participated in, planning or carrying out Nazi enterprises involving or resulting in atrocities or war crimes shall be arrested and brought to judgment. That obviously implies that they shall be tried and sentenced as may be thought just. It then goes on thus: Nazi leaders, influential Nazi supporters and high officials of Nazi organizations and institutions and any other persons dangerous to the occupation or its objectives shall be arrested or interned. That second branch of the section deals with people who have not committed any crimes at all in the ordinary sense—I will say something about people who are members of organizations later on—but in the Potsdam Agreement these are people whose freedom is going to be interfered with because they are dangerous. However, they are not criminals. Dangerous or suspected persons without being subjected to any sort of trial may upon examination be held to be dangerous and to have their liberty interfered with. That is a very serious fact but not one with which most reasonable people will quarrel if that power is properly exercised.

It is a huge task. There are 23,000,000 Germans in our zone; there are no less than 8,000,000 Nazis in Germany, and the S.S. people number more than 400,000. We have got to do justice to all these people on the lines which I have already mentioned. A great deal of work has already been done. Over 434,000 persons have been examined and categorized in one way and another. There were originally 67,000 people whom we had in prison in concentration camps. Of those we have dealt with some 27,000 and most of them have been released. There remain about 40,000 people in concentration camps who have got to be dealt with in some way, and it is on the problem of doing that that I wish to say a few heartfelt words. It is just about a fortnight since the judgment of the International Tribunal, which was first established on August 8, 1945, by the Charter of the four nations, and adhered to by nineteen other nations, was delivered after a trial lasting over nine months. Lawyers and laymen alike who have had an opportunity of seeing how justice was administered and how every effort was made to obtain the information on which sentences could be given will not, I think, be inclined to doubt the guilt of those arch-criminals or to criticize the sentences which they have received. We know that eighteen criminals out of twenty-one have 'been convicted and sentenced to death or imprisonment, and that three have been acquitted. Having some knowledge of the facts and having been there, I do not hesitate to say that the Judges of the four nations who took part in these great trials have earned and amply deserve the grateful thanks of all the citizens of the four countries mainly concerned.

I could not forbear paying my humble tribute to their great achievements, but prisoners tried by International Courts, whether it be the Nuremberg Court or any other International Court, are not my concern this evening. I am desirous of discussing the policy of this country in relation to prisoners and detained persons in the British zone, of trying to persuade the Government to do all in their power (and more than they have yet done), to expedite the trial or the categorization, as they call it—horrible word!—of the persons who are not criminals but who are in Germany and whose freedom is supposed to be dangerous to us, and of obtaining some further information on the matter from the Government. The substance of my remarks tonight is the question of how long it is going to take our Government to clear the lists, to try and convict or acquit those who are supposed to be criminals, and to deal as shortly as possible with the vast number of persons whose freedom is thought to be detrimental to the cause of peace. I hope to persuade your Lordships that the questions involved are of very great importance and very great difficulty, because we have no precedent for anything of this sort. There has never been an occasion when after a war duties such as those specified in the Potsdam Agreement have had to be performed by people from this country.

I need not detain your Lordships by telling you anything about our jurisdiction over the Germans in our zone. According to International Law, a victorious army which occupies enemy territory is entitled to act as a sovereign authority until, as a result of the peace, there is a sovereign authority in the country occupied. At the present time there is no such thing in Germany; from the legal point of view, we are still at war with Germany and that is our justification for doing all that is necessary in our view for the administration and the Government of the country. In the British zone—and subject to the Allied Control Council—it is the Commander-in-Chief of the British Army of the Rhine (generally known as B.A.O.R.) who is in charge. He has, with the assistance of not less than some 26,000 British men and women, to administer this great country and to assist in the doing of justice on the lines I have mentioned. We administer it at a cost of £80,000,000 a year. Although I am not going to lay very much stress on that, I think it is one of the reasons for every just expedition in the carrying out of our duties. The longer it takes to try all these various people and to deal with all those in the concentration camps, the worse it will, be for us, because even in these days, when we deal with enormous figures which are almost impossible to realize, £80,000,000 a year is still a very substantial sum.

Before dealing with the actual question of these trials, I would like to mention that we have had a great many difficulties there. I am very anxious that nobody should think I am attacking the occupation authorities. We have demobilized over 3,000,000 members of the German Wehrmacht; we have taken into our zone (much against our will, I think) 1,500,000 persons from Poland—persons described as refugees—and other persons as well as those 1,500,000 from other parts of Europe. These things have been done in a country where the means of communication have been largely destroyed and where in many places they were almost non-existent in June, 1945. I might mention as an example of that in passing that no less than 1,300 bridges had been destroyed, many of which assisted important roads to function. The food supplies are very scanty. I am not going to say anything about that because my noble friends Lord Saltoun and Lord Beveridge are going to deal with it at an early date. I can only say to them that I am sorry I am to some extent interfering with the hearing of their Motions.

Now I come to the subject of trials. Your Lordships will appreciate there are two points there. Firstly, there are the trials of people who are supposed to be criminals and who are in many cases well known to be criminals, and secondly, there is that very much larger body of persons who are not criminals but who it is supposed cannot safely be allowed out at the moment. On the subject of trials, there are trials conducted under British Royal Warrants—trials conducted by British Military Courts under Army Order 81 of 1945. The people who are mainly the subject of those trials are people who have been guilty of breaches of the rules and usages of war. Their offences extend from quite minor ones to mass murders and horrible deeds of different kinds—it is important to realize that they differ enormously—but if the crime proved against any of those persons is a serious one, amounting to a crime as great as murder, the death penalty must be imposed just as it would be imposed here on any person who committed murder in times of peace.

But the British Military Courts who try these cases, and who are not bound by the ordinary rules of evidence, may in fact sentence a prisoner to something much less than the death penalty, to something such as imprisonment, confiscation of property or a fine. In the case of people proved to be guilty of very minor offences, it must be remembered that they will already have been in a concentration camp for a year and possibly for a much longer period. Now I should like to mention that every sentence is subject to confirmation by a confirming officer, and after confirmation the Secretary of State, or any officer not below the rank of Major-General, may deal with the sentences in the direction of remitting them or granting less sentences. There is, therefore, every care taken so far as our trials are involved. The person will have every opportunity of justice and of not being unfairly treated. I may perhaps without too much egotism say that I have read some dozen lengthy documents in connexion with our trials in Germany, and Army Orders of great length and complexity. In my opinion the system which has been evolved in Germany is an admirable system, and will be absolutely just, so far as human justice can be just. But, if the case is as I conceive it to be, that system must necessarily be careful and it will also be slow, and it is on this aspect of the matter that I urge His Majesty's Government to see what can be done. I am given to understand that not more than 100 persons or thereabouts have been tried in Germany since the British Military Courts began to function. I hope it is much larger in number, but I do not know how much larger. At any rate, I am perfectly sure that it is a very small fraction of the total number that will have to be tried by British Military Courts. I did not invent the figure—


Perhaps the noble Viscount will allow me to give him the figure which I believe to be the correct one, which is 495.


My informants were in error. I am exceedingly glad, and I can treat that as 500.


I do not wish to contradict the remark the noble Viscount made subsequently on the same subject.


You are not contradicting the remarks I have not yet made.


The noble Viscount went on to say that whatever the figure was it was a comparatively small proportion of the total number. I was not contradicting that remark.


I am exceedingly happy to know that. These trials relate only to war trials, and it is very important to remember that that refers to war crimes in the narrow sense—namely, offences against the rules and usages of war. They do not include crimes against humanity which are generally known in Germany as atrocity cases. Those cases involve atrocities committed by Germans mostly in relation to the murder of other Germans, anti-Nazis and others. Those crimes, of course, are often the most horrible, much worse than the ordinary crimes that I imagine are being tried by our people, and they are fairly numerous. There are known to be, I understand, between 450 and 500 atrocity cases already imprisoned in our zone—I hope that figure is not going to be challenged—and it is a little curious that these cases are to be tried by German Courts like a number of other cases I am going to mention.

Now I have some other figures for the noble Lord to digest, if he has not done so already. There are a number of concentration camps in Germany. There is no other name for them except that name, which causes a feeling of horror to run through us, but these camps I understand are very well conducted. I think there are 23,000 war criminals, including not only' those who are guilty of breaches of The Hague Convention and so on, but also other war criminals. All those criminals have got to be tried and every now and then new ones are being brought in. I have some reason to suppose that there is not room for a great many more than at present existing in the concentration camps, and while there is no room I understand that the powers that be are not anxious to have people pulled in. They keep an eye on them and when they can be provided for they are brought in.

There are, or were, 47,000 other persons in our zone in concentration camps, liable for their offences to a maximum sentence of fifteen years, forfeiture of property or fine. The 23,000 war criminals may be criminals of greater or lesser degree and, of course, the worst of them are obviously guilty and have got to be sentenced. Altogether that amounts to some 70,000 persons in the concentration camps in our zone who have got to be dealt with in a legal manner according to the system that has been laid down in various laws, directive orders and so forth. From time to time the Council makes new laws for Germany, especially new criminal laws, and German Courts are allowed to function subject to alterations in their laws which we make for the purposes of the occupation. When the occupation comes to an end all the material things will have to be extended in the Peace Treaty or will come to an end.

Under a plan commonly known as the Heyman Report, very carefully considered both in Germany and here, and approved by the British Minister, there are five categories of the people to be dealt with. I am afraid I made a slip of the tongue. I think there are only 40,000 in the concentration camps at present. I think I gave the larger figure.


I was trying to trace the 70,000, thinking it must be my ignorance.


I am sorry; I was thinking of something else at the moment, and I was wrong. I should like to put that right at once. There are, however, 23,000 in the first category; in the second category there are 47,000. I do not know what they come to now, although I thought I did. But it was stated in the House of Commons—and I am willing to accept it for this purpose—that there are 40,000 now in concentration camps. Under the Heyman plan there are five categories. The first category consists of war criminals. That, I think, does not include those guilty of crimes against humanity. I understand that there are 23,000 in that category. That is a very important figure. The second category consists of prominent Nazis; for instance, Hitler Youth leaders, Intelligence Officers, senior officers of the Navy, Army and Air Force, Police, Nazi profiteers and others. The penalties prescribed for guilt there are forfeiture of property, fine or internment for fifteen years. Then there are two other categories which consist of less dangerous Nazis, militarists, Regular officers of the Army, persons excluded from office under Control Council Directive 24, air crews and others. These are put in categories 3 and 4 and they are not criminal. They are subject only to restrictions of their personal liberty. For instance, none of them may stand for election. One category of them is not entitled to vote and there are other restrictions on their movements.

This is a very large body, and the largeness of it is important because it means a great deal of work. There are probably over 250,000 of them. They are not in concentration camps at all, they are people on whom an eye is being kept and who are going to be pulled in and placed in the appropriate category when the facts in regard to them are ascertained, and there is accommodation for them. There are people, I need not mention, who have got clearance certificates. People in the first category are to be tried by German tribunals unless accused of specific crimes or crimes against the peace. The first are going to be tried generally by Military Courts, and others, I think, by German Courts. In the second category, everybody, as I understand it, is going to be tried by German Courts. The persons whom I mention, who number 250,000 or more, are people who will be dealt with, for the most part, by what are called denazification tribunals, and, sometimes, by British Review Boards. They are people whose specialized knowledge makes them potentially dangerous, and they may be examined by British Review Boards or by German tribunals. I cannot help thinking that it is important to bear in mind that many of these people are Germans citizens of the very greatest ability, and if they could be let out they would be exceedingly useful in getting German industry back on to its legs again.

I have, so far, been dealing with all the criminals and suspects other than those who are guilty of belonging to criminal organizations—and here comes in the action of the International Tribunal who, by their judgment, have declared that the S.S., the S.D., the Gestapo, and a section of the political corps leaders, were and are criminal organizations. They have also pointed out, which I have no doubt they were expected to do, that criminal guilt is personal. You are not guilty because you were a member of an organization, but because the guilt is personal to you; because you committed some crime. Accordingly, the tribunal have indicated for the benefit of members of the courts who are to be engaged in trying these members of organizations, that under Law No. 10, which has been laid down in the zone by the Control Council, they must be proved to have guilty knowledge of the organization to which they belong. The result of this is that all the members of these organizations who are declared to be guilty have got to be separately dealt with. Of course, you could try half a dozen at a time, but they have got to be dealt with separately because each one must be proved to be a criminal in the sense that he had guilty knowledge of the organization which he joined.

There are, I should think, a very large number of these people. I have endeavoured—this time without success—to obtain the figure. I hope that a good proportion of them are in the concentration camps already and are therefore included in the total which I have already mentioned—40,000. But how many are there not yet in the concentration camp who will have to be dealt with under this ruling of the International Tribunal? I would stress that here we are dealing with very large numbers. The S.S. which has been held to be an illegal organization, the end of the war comprised some 40,000 people. The Nazi Party officials now interned number some 14,000, and how many officials are not yet interned I do not know. It is said that the S.S. and the Gestapo alone consisted of not fewer than 300,000 members—40,000 of that total being members of the S.S.—at the end of the war. Now I imagine that we should be very lucky if we found that there were not more than 10,000 people to be added to those who have to be tried by reason of the finding of the International Tribunal. A great many of the members of these various organizations are guilty men. Now I have already said that they have to be tried under Law No. 10 of the Control Council, and I gather—though I think that details of the machinery of this have not yet been published—that they will be tried by German Courts. The punishments prescribed under Law No. 10 range from fines to imprisonment for life, to death and to confiscation of property.

Thus, as your Lordships will see, we are dealing with a very large number of men, a goodly proportion of whom are going to be tried for their lives, and there are, as I say, an unknown number of people not yet interned who will have to be tried by German judges. One has to be very careful as to trial by German Judges, because we must remember that during the whole of the Hitler régime non-Nazis were not allowed to be Judges, and were removed from their posts. Accordingly, we shall find some of these Judges are wholly inexperienced when they come to the judicial work of a judge. We must also remember that some of them have been so badly treated by the Nazis that they are not quite to be trusted, without careful review, with sentences on people who are Nazis and who are shown to have some guilty knowledge or other. I have no doubt that the decisions of these Judges will be subject to very careful review by British Judges, or by other British persons of experience. No doubt, that will be considered by the occupation authorities; and it has to be done.

A materiality, from my point of view, is that there is work to be done of a very difficult kind, involving the liberty and happiness and lives of great numbers of people. How many years is it going to take our authorities there to try all these people, and to deal with all these suspects who are to be subject to restrictive orders? In particular, we have to try 23,000 war criminals. I doubt whether it is possible that a court, in the ordinary way, could try more than about three a week. I do not know why we should suppose that even that is possible. We know how long it has taken to try the people at Nuremberg. I am quite willing to suppose that we shall take only a fraction of that time in trying some of these people, but one cannot hurry a man who wants to call witnesses in his defence, and one cannot graduate the speech of defence counsel.

It is a slow process, and I have made a very rough calculation as to what we can do with the number of British Military Courts at our disposal. Such Courts have been working in our zone in Germany since we took over, with sometimes two, sometimes as many as eight Courts, sitting at a time. I doubt if these Courts, for technical reasons—such as inability to find Courts for criminals, where all sorts of preparations have to be made for the prisoners to be kept and moved for trial—have the capacity to try a large number. How long will it take? I am a little shaken by the figures, which I am told are to be produced, as to how many people have been tried by British Military Courts under this heading, but I do not think any reasonable person would imagine that all this work would be done in less than five years, if we go on with the system on which we are proceeding at present.

The question is whether in some way we cannot expedite the process. I do not want to be dogmatic as to how long it will take before we can get rid of all these people and have a clean sheet. I have asked several other people what they think and they all agree with me that we ought to finish the whole job in two years from now. That would be over three years since hostilities have ceased. In order to finish in two years from now, every conceivable step must be taken to expedite as far as possible the trial of all these people. Then there are all the persons in Categories 2, 3 and 4, who have to be either tried or examined and made subject to restrictions. How long is it to take to deal with them? So long as this process continues, we shall have many Germans in our zone—23,000,000 in number—looking upon every execution as a sort of legal murder of soldiers and others whom they will not be able to believe are being justly tried and convicted.

Persons in confinement will also be considered, in some cases, as martyrs of the Fatherland. For my part, and I think that a great many of your Lordships would be of the same opinion, I do not believe that the re-education of German citizens can begin while these terrible but just sentences are being given out, week after week, month after month, during a prolonged period. After a couple of years, it will be thought: "This is mere revenge. They have punished the country enough, and we are suffering enough, owing to lack of food and so on. We need no further demonstration of the views of the victorious nations after this terrible war" I am not disposed in the least to criticize the occupying authorities for the present position. It might have been possible to maintain it before the Nuremberg judgments. It has now become much more difficult; and recent events have shown that it is more difficult.

We are going on with a number of German Courts. I do not know what information the noble Lord opposite has as to how these Courts are carrying out their duties, and whether their sentences are being approved. I understand that they have not been operating for very long. You may ask what is to be done. I think that there are various things which could be done. With regard to the trials of these persons I have a number of ideas, although I am not sure that it would be possible for me to ventilate them here. They are technical notions, connected with trials. With regard to people who are found guilty of comparatively trivial offences I have a strong feeling, having regard to the enormous job with which we are confronted, that it would be well if a great number of those were released on a species of ticket of leave. I will not use the word "parole," which is applied to soldiers of very high standing and sense of honour. We do not know that about many of these prisoners. I think it would be possible, however—at any rate I suggest that the possibility should be considered—to release them on an undertaking not to indulge in propaganda, or in politics, or in any munition work whatsoever, and to report to a particular office where they can be registered. We should explain to them, when they give these undertakings, that they will be pulled in if they break them, and will then be guilty of an offence which we should regard as very serious.

Consider that. There may be objections about which I know nothing, but I should like to hear that a great many of this vast number of Germans were treated in this way. Of course, any suggestion is liable to misunderstanding by somebody, and I should like to say that nothing is further from my mind than the notion of allowing anybody charged with the atrocious crimes which were committed and in respect of which evidence was given at Nuremberg, to be treated in any other way than they were, namely, tried, convicted and sentenced to death. That is the only way of dealing with people concerned with horrors such as were disclosed at Nuremberg.

I have given my view. I should like to end by giving the view of somebody whose voice is much more powerful than mine— namely, Mr. Churchill. On September 19, he made a speech at Zurich, in which he said: There must be an end to retribution. We must turn our backs upon the horrors of the past, and we must look to the future. He spoke also of a pact between France and Germany, which, of course, is a useful aspiration, and he spoke of a spiritually great Germany. All these things are things for the future. They are objectives for a distant period. The re-creation of the European family is a vast operation which will take years to accomplish. But that work, in my opinion, cannot begin until we have cleared the decks by putting an end to what I call the monthly executions. I saw in the newspaper yesterday that a Military Court had condemned eleven Germans to death. Those who look carefully in the papers will find that that is going on all the time. While there are tens of thousands of people in prisons for war crimes or in concentration camps, it seems to me impossible to think that the work of regeneration can really succeed. That is my firm belief. It is for that reason that I want us to have done at an early date with the trials, with the sentences and with the detentions in concentration camps. Let us try to persuade all the decent-minded Germans that we have come to an end of retribution, and are now desirous by every means in our power of helping the Germans to become once more a great nation, but a nation without any power again to re-arm or to make preparations for another war. I beg to move for Papers.

5.55 p.m.


who had given Notice that he would ask His Majesty's Government whether their attention has been called to the manner in which the case tried before a War Criminal Court at Wuppertal between 28th May and 1st June, 1946, was reported in the Press; and move for Papers, said: My Lords, I have a Motion on the Paper to-day, but for the convenience of the noble Lord who will reply, and with the permission of the noble Viscount who has just spoken, I beg to intervene for a few minutes in this debate. My Motion deals with a kindred subject to that raised by the noble Viscount, but it deals with one particular event in the administration of justice in Germany. This year, between May 28 and June 1, there took place at Wuppertal in Germany the trial of some ten Germans who were charged with being concerned in the killing of four British women. Those brave women had been parachuted into France and had been captured. After a good deal of preliminary investigation, I understand that ten Germans were brought to trial on the charge which I have just enumerated.

What actually took place I think can best be brought to your Lordships' notice in the words of a letter written to The Times by a member of that court—Mr. Marlowe. These words are extracted from that letter: The simple facts proved to the satisfaction of the court were that these women were put to death and subsequently cremated. The only issue before the court was whether the unfortunate women had suffered 'judicial execution' after trial and sentence as spies or not. The court being satisfied that there had been no trial or sentence, the executioner or executioners could be condemned for murder. The evidence was clear that some four people were the executioners. Only one of these was before the court; he was duly condemned to death. Of the others, one had committed suicide and the other two had not been apprehended. The remaining accused were proved only to have played minor roles of complicity and (except for three who had clearly not been implicated and were therefore acquitted) were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. My reason in raising the question of this trial concerns the reporting of the trial in certain sections of the Press. It seems clear, according to my information, that the Press had some foreknowledge of the trial before it actually took place, and it appears, to put it at the lowest, very likely that some branch of the War Office dealing with public relations had given the Press some information about the prosecution's case. The report of that case was undoubtedly couched in rather lurid and horrific terms and made very glaring headlines in the paper. The court sat, with the result that I have just read out, as stated by Mr. Marlowe, a member of the court. But it appears that the Press was not present during the defence, or at any rate did not report the defence, with the consequence that on Sunday, June 2, there were articles in the Press of which I will, with your Lordships' permission read an extract.

This is from the Sunday Dispatch of June 2. The article is headed: "Oven Murder: Only 1 to die." It says: Six men who murdered by burning alive four British girl Service parachutists at Natzweiler concentration camp, Alsace, were sentenced by a Military Court at Wuppertal yesterday. Werner Rhode, the camp doctor, who gave the girls drug injections before they were put into red-hot ovens, was sentenced to death by hanging. The camp commandant, Fritz Hartjenstern, received a life sentence, and the chief crematorium executioner, Peter Straub, whom one of the girls fought as he forced her into the oven, was sent to gaol for 13 years. Then it goes on: Straub, who had 'seen 4,000,000 go in smoke up the chimney at Auschwitz,' broke down when his victim fought for her life, as her killers forced her into the oven, the court was told. The following editorial comment appeared at the foot of the article, of which I have read a part: The Sunday Dispatch reports this decision of the Wuppertal Court to the fullest extent made available by agency messages. In the absence of possible further detail, the Sunday Dispatch makes this comment, which it feels will express the opinion of the great majority of British people: That mere sentence of imprisonment for this horrific crime is an outrage against justice. That there can be no degree of guilt such as is inferred in the varying sentences. That the decision of the Court should immediately be reviewed by an appropriate authority. In the light of what Mr. Marlowe afterwards wrote, that can hardly be regarded as a satisfactory state of affairs. It may be that the Press used the information, and the only information, that was available to them. But it does raise this question in my mind. How came it about that the Press knew, first of all, beforehand only the prosecution' case? How came it about that they reported only the prosecution's case, that the defence was apparently neglected, and then the wrong conclusions drawn? It seems that there was some lack of liaison in the public relations branch, or whatever branch of the War Office was concerned, and that the good name of British justice in Germany has suffered. Those officers who took part in that trial would naturally feel that they had been misreported and had far less than justice done to them.

To show the extent to which the public can be misled, may I quote from a debate which took place in your Lordships' House in July of this year? The noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, was raising a question which concerned Germany, and in his speech he made the following remark: The most flagrant case of inadequate information was the Wuppertal case. We were considerably stoked up for a long time by being told that four British girls had been burnt alive, and that only one German was to be hanged for it. It turned out afterwards that three more were to be hanged, but that was only because as a sort of sideline they had been murdering British airmen too. So the long arm of coincidence was brought in to reinforce the short arm of the law. Shortly after that we were told that the evidence of the burning alive was quite inadequate, but we only learned that by a casual letter to The Times. Even then, there was no doubt the four girls were murdered, and only one German was to be hanged, a camp doctor. What was the matter with stringing up the camp commandant? The noble and learned Viscount who sits upon the Woolsack, in replying to the debate, said: The noble Lord, Lord Vansittart, referred to some other trials. I will confess to him, if it is any consolation to him, that I myself have been rather uneasy about some of the decisions I have read in the newspapers. I think in some senses it is a pity that when these military tribunals give their judgment, they do not give their reasons for the judgment. In the result, I am quite satisfied that, not infrequently, their decisions are entirely misrepresented. I agree with him that greater publicity would be all to the good. It seems to me the noble Lord spoke very justly about the misrepresentation of such a British Court in Germany. I think that perhaps in one sentence he does a little less than justice to that Court because Military Courts cannot, I understand, publish reasons for their judgments; which have to be confirmed by higher authority, and those Courts are not in the position of a Judge in our Courts.

I think no blame can attach to the principal of the Court because greater publicity was not given to the trial as a whole, but I do feel, on the facts as I understand them, that a grave responsibility rests upon the War Office to see that trials are adequately and fully reported, or at least that fair representations are given to the public of what actually takes place, because otherwise unfairness may be done to the members of British Courts and a wrong impression created in British public opinion. I hope we may hear from the noble Lord who replies to this debate that steps have been taken to settle this matter. I hope he will be able to take the opportunity of declaring in public how completely justified these gentlemen who were members of that Court were in reaching the conclusion they reached.

6.4 p.m.


My Lords, there are only two short points I want to make on my noble and learned friend's Motion. One is with respect to these people awaiting denazification, as it is called, in these concentration camps. I think that recently an amnesty was declared for those who were born later than the year 1919, which has resulted in a considerable clearance. I confess that the logic of that decision rather escapes me. There is plenty of evidence that German industry is very much handicapped by the lack of the key men who are still in these camps and whose cases ought, I think, to be dealt with. I should have thought that it was far more dangerous to release the people born since 1919 than the people born before that date. The people born since 1919 have been brought up for most of their impressible years in a purely Nazi régime without any other doctrine. They know nothing, for example, of Christianity, whereas the people born before that date must have been brought up originally in Christian surroundings. It would seem to me much more likely that they would be capable of returning to their first love, and not be so deeply impregnated with the Nazi doctrine. That is only my impression. I should have thought that the older men were the men whose cases could have been more sympathetically reviewed, except, of course, those people against whom there are definite charges.

The other point that troubles me is this. I have not read the whole of this Nuremberg judgment because I am waiting until His Majesty's Government give us the whole text, but I notice that one of the charges stated in the judgment was "planning wars of aggression." Of course, no sensible man can possibly doubt the guilt of the German Government in that respect. I know, as a matter of fact, that in the diplomatic archives of Vienna can be got proof that the 1914 war was planned by Germany as early as February, 1914. There is no question about that, but, with respect to the charge of planning wars of aggression, it appears to me that every soldier doing his duty to the country does plan wars of aggression. If Field-Marshal Viscount Montgomery is doing his duty I am sure that he is either planning, or does plan, wars of aggression because nobody wants to plan a purely defensive war. No soldier worthy of his name would do that. What I am afraid is that, at the end of every war in which any people may unhappily find themselves, the leaders on either side are bound to be liable to that charge. If that is so, then it seems to me the logical development is that wars will become more and more ruthless. For example, the Commandos. The Germans took grave exception to the Commando invasion of Europe and, as you know, they put cur men in chains when they were captured. If the leaders on both sides know that they are for the "high jump" at the end of the war if they fail to win it, then it seems to me that they will not content themselves with comparatively mild measures, but will proceed themselves to judge and to execute judgment.

The logical development of that seems to me to be that in future wars there will be very few prisoners taken at all, and there will be almost wars of extermination. I am not condemning that, I am not saying it is a good thing or a bad. When I was a young man I knew very many good soldiers of very mild tempers who deliberately said they thought the taking of prisoners was illogical and a mistake. I do not know whether it is a mistake or not. All I want to say is that, unless my logic is at fault—and if my noble friend opposite will point it out I shall be very grateful—while we may go forward possibly to a world without war, if war does come, it will be war of greater and greater savagery. That is the only thing I have to say, but I submit it is a question for the consideration of His Majesty's Government.

6.9 p.m.


My Lords, before my noble friend replies I want to intervene for one moment on the speech that has just been delivered by my noble friend opposite, because his speech is directed really to the reasoning of the judgment at Nuremberg. It really all rests on that. The question is whether aggressive war is to be an international crime or not. It is a vitally important question. I am not in the least quarrelling with my noble friend for having raised it on this issue, but in point of fact it shows how all these things hang together. My question is simply this: Will the Government in allotting the time which is at their disposal, which I understand is not very extensive at the moment, consider carefully whether there ought not to be reserved a proper opportunity for debating the principles of the Nuremberg judgment and the Court which was improvised—on this occasion necessarily improvised? And also whether that should be the permanent Criminal International Court, or whether there should be some other Court? There are other questions of great importance, but those two questions at any rate seem to me to be of absolutely vital importance to the future of the world. I do hope we are going to have a really serious debate. There is nobody in the Kingdom better qualified than members of this House to debate such a question of mixed law, politics and morals, and I hope we shall have a serious debate initiated in the ordinary way.


I beg the noble Viscount's pardon, but I must put myself right. I did not say "waging aggressive war"; I said "planning aggressive war," and I was careful to take the words I had read.

6.11 p.m.


My Lords, with regard to the very serious issues raised by the last two speakers I would just remind the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, that the following words are to be found in the Charter under which the Tribunal operated: Crimes against peace—namely, planning, preparation, initiation, or waging of a war of aggression. That is in the Charter, and if I understand the noble Lord correctly he was criticizing the Court for what was outside their power. I am not sure whether he realizes that those words are in the Charter.


I am not criticizing.


As regards what fell from the noble Viscount who spoke last, I am authorized on behalf of the Leader of the House to remind your Lordships that it was stated earlier this evening that it was hoped to provide an opportunity for a full discussion on Germany during this Session. I cannot help wondering whether the noble Viscount will not feel that that will be the appropriate opportunity. The noble Viscount shakes his head. Then he will no doubt wish to raise the matter further with the Leader of the House.

The issues before us to-night are complicated. They are matters upon which the noble Viscount, Lord Maugham, has specialized for many years. I lay no claims to any great erudition in this field myself. I ask permission of the House to run rapidly over some of the ground he covered because there may be other noble Lords present besides myself who like to hear figures twice, particularly if they are not the same figures, before they are quite sure they have got them into their heads. Can we not simplify the whole problem—a very acute problem, as the noble Viscount brought out so forcibly—if we look at the people we are trying to deal with under this policy, which we are all agreed on, of denazification under three heads? It seems to me that there are great numbers of people we suspect of being criminals: there are others, even more, whom we suspect of being in some sense dangerous persons; and finally, there are a number of people whom we regard as unsuitable for holding positions of responsibility. I do not know that those categories can altogether be separated; there may be a certain amount of overlapping. However, it may focus thought if we carry them in our heads.

Take first of all the trials. We have tried in our zone of Germany by the Military Courts referred to by the noble Viscount nearly 500—actually 495—war criminals and we have cases against a further 4,000 or thereabouts in various stages of preparation. So the noble Viscount was not far wrong in the latter part of his remarks on that subject where he said we had only tried a limited proportion of the total number which it was thought deserved trial.


What is the figure of people awaiting trial?


Well, there are 3,913 suspects against whom cases are in various stages of preparation, but it is not dear what proportion of those will eventually be brought to trial. Only just over 1,000 of the 3,913 have so far been apprehended and we cannot tell how many of the others perished during the latter stages of the war. Therefore, one has got to be careful in talking of 3,900 or 4,000 coming up for trial under this head. Nevertheless, I think we must all recognize with the noble Viscount the seriousness of the problem. We must all desire expedition. It cannot be very easy, if we are determined to denazify Germany, to carry through a legal or quasi-legal process to which I suppose there is no parallel in history. However, I hope the noble Viscount will be reassured when I say that a review of the whole situation before the Military Courts is to be carried out during the next few weeks with a view to achieving the most rapid disposal of the more serious cases affecting British victims, and to determine in consultation with the Control Commission for Germany and Austria the future policy for dealing with outstanding cases, having in mind the desirability for ensuring that none but trivial offenders should escape. That distinction between the serious and the less serious offenders will, I believe, commend itself to the noble Viscount. So much for the first category.


Those are only war crimes properly so-called.


Exactly. I am dealing with the policy that has prevailed hitherto first of all, and then trying to place before you the contemporary situation. In the second category, comprising those whom you might call the people suspected of being dangerous, the noble Viscount provided us with the correct figures, as we knew he would. He pointed out that there are close on 40,000 —38,000 to 39,000—who remain in the camps. Then thirdly—although this does not come up under the noble Viscount's Motion, but it completes the picture—we have dismissed nearly 160,000 persons from office or responsible employment on account of their association with the Nazi Party. In addition, we have rejected as unsuitable applicants for appointments a further 86,000. Including those, we have examined altogether with regard to their suitability for employment about 1,250,000 individual cases. That is the third category, the category of people regarded as possibly unsuitable.

So much for the position as it has been hitherto. Coming to the future, if we take our first category, those suspected of crimes, the noble Viscount is perfectly right in saying that that category has been extended by the recent verdict.


Would the noble Lord allow me to interrupt for one moment? I think he has left out another category. The numbers he has given here as being tried by British Military Tribunals can only be persons who are guilty of crimes against the laws and usages of war, because those are the only people our Military Tribunals are trying. But there are others who are guilty of crimes just as great who are not tried in that way at all. He has not yet dealt with those.


May I come to that point? May I place before the House the position as it is at the moment? Under our first heading—people suspected of crime—our intention is to dispose as quickly as possible of all minor war criminals against whom we have satisfactory evidence and to hand over to our Allies for trial those other cases which warrant disposal in that way. Still dealing with those suspected of crime, we have now got to deal individually with the members of the organizations declared to be criminal at Nuremberg. That, of course, is a very much larger number. It may include people from the original 4,000 against whom cases were being prepared, but the number will be primarily drawn from the close on 40,000 who are still under detention. Some of these members of organizations declared to be criminal will be dealt with, as the noble Viscount has intervened to point out, by our Military Courts where the crimes are against peace, and where the crimes are crimes against humanity, the procedure will be through the German Courts. I would like to say emphatically on behalf of the Government that we sympathize very much with the concern felt by the noble Viscount on this point. I think the noble Viscount is perfectly justified in saying that the task of giving a proper and fair trial, with opportunity for appeal, to the many thousands of persons involved will present very formidable difficulties. I am in broad agreement with him when he says we should endeavour to limit our action to what can be practicably performed. There the noble Viscount carries us with him. The consequences of the Nuremberg verdict are now being carefully studied and I can assure him that we shall not set ourselves a task which we cannot carry out within a reasonable period. I do not suppose he will wish me to be more specific tonight, but only if because he has drawn that assurance from me I hope he will feel, as I do, that his Motion has been worth while.

I will not deal exhaustively with the remaining categories because they do not concern us so actively this evening. The Motion, your Lordships will recall, was concerned primarily with the trials of criminals, but I cannot close this part of my reply to the points which have been raised without re-emphasizing that the task of denazifying Germany is bound to be prolonged and arduous. It is quite true that we do not, and should not, approach the subject in any spirit of revenge, but nevertheless we are committed to re-educating Germany and we do not believe that that task can be properly concluded until the Nazi elements have been eradicated by one means or another.

I come finally to the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord de L'Isle and Dudley. With one of his conclusions I whole-heartedly agree, and from another, with emphasis and, if he will allow me to say so, with a certain amount of heat, I must dissent. I will not traverse all the ground again which he covered so very clearly. I think that broadly, and also precisely, his account of the trial was accurate. It is quite true that some of the allegations of excessive cruelty were not substantiated during the trial. Moreover, as he pointed out, of the four men primarily responsible for the murders, two have never been apprehended and one committed suicide while awaiting trial. Only one was, therefore, actually brought to trial. The remaining accused were concerned only in a minor degree with the crime. The prisoner directly responsible was sentenced to death, five of the others were sentenced to varying terms of imprisonment and three were acquitted. I think all those points were made by the noble Lord himself. I agree with him wholeheartedly that there is nothing whatever in the case to suggest that the protests made in the Press of undue leniency on the part of the Court were in any way justified. His Majesty's Government are satisfied that the proceedings were properly conducted throughout and that the accused were dealt with appropriately on the basis of the various charges made and proved against them. In every possible sense, therefore, the officers of the Court are vindicated.

At the same time I cannot help expressing surprise because, possibly through some misunderstanding on my part, I had not got the impression that the noble Lord was going to levy a charge against the War Office. Of course, I am always open—as anyone who stands at this box should be open—to investigate any charge made against a Government Department, but I say that up to the present I see no evidence whatever to suggest that the War Office were at fault, and I cannot help hoping that the noble Lord, either tonight or on some later occasion, will withdraw the suggestion that there is any evidence against the War Office in this matter. I have attempted to deal with some of the points which have been raised but I feel that there may well be others to which we shall have to return on a later occasion.

6.28 p.m.


My Lords, if your Lordships will allow me to do so, there are two things I should like to say. The first thing concerns this Wuppertal business, though it is really only a sort of picturesque and horrible by-pass so far as my Motion is concerned. I should like to say something, if I may, for the benefit of the Press in dealing with judgments of this sort in the future. Nobody has yet mentioned the fact that trials under Special Army Orders, such as these were—and I hold the Royal Warrant in my hand; it is Army Order No. 81 of 1945—do not leave the decision on the death penalty to the mere, though admirable, Judges constituting a British Military Court. Not only has the convening officer to direct that a finding of guilty and the sentence awarded shall be announced by the President in open court, but he has also to direct that it shall be announced that such finding and sentence are subject to confirmation. It is nothing unless it is confirmed. This question of confirmation has to go before what is called a confirming officer, who often does not confirm. If he confirms, the accused may, within fourteen days, submit a petition to the confirming officer against the finding and sentence, and if he does that within fourteen days it has to go, together with the proceedings of the trial, to His Majesty's Judge Advocate-General or to any deputy of his approved for that purpose in the Command overseas where the trial takes place for advice and report thereon.

Therefore the notion that three military officers, or two military officers and one legal member, made some horrible blunder in this case and let off lightly some brutal murderers, was from the start a ridiculous idea, because it could not take place. I do not know whether these people who were guilty of murders for which they were sentenced appealed or petitioned. The sentence had to be confirmed and it would then go before the Judge Advocate-General, so that really the opportunities of mistake are, I venture to think, almost impossible. That may relieve the minds of a great many people, and it would rather suggest to reporters that before they make a disturbance about the original sentence they should wait and see whether it is confirmed or not, and whether there is a petition or appeal.

May I say one thing about the main subject of my Motions? I am very grateful to the noble Lord for what he has said and for the attitude of mind in which he has approached the important subject involved in the debate. I quite conceive that I may have been wrong in one of the figures I gave, although I am a little surprised, and if I have an opportunity I shall tell the noble Lord the source of my information.


I only intervene to say that I obtained that figure independently from two Government Departments, so I think it may be correct.


Well, maybe. But however, the noble Lord is wrong in thinking that that disposes of all the people who are guilty of crimes which may deserve a death sentence. That is far from being the case. The list he has given me, and which he says two Departments have given him, is a list only of cases tried by a British Military Court. It is nothing else. There are far more crimes which deserve death which are not being tried by Military Courts at all under the regulations that now exist, but which are going to be tried or have been tried by German Courts. As I said before, nothing is included in his list but what the British Military Courts have done, and crimes against humanity and other murders of all sorts, including murder of German subjects in Germany, are being tried by German Courts and not by British Courts at all. I hope the noble Lord will pardon me for saying that, because I think it is quite possible that I was quite wrong in my first figure and when I am wrong I like to acknowledge it. I think that if the noble Lord would give me an opportunity at some time to spend five minutes on this subject I could persuade him that in other respects I was right. Having said that, I ask leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.


My Lords, I hoped that I might, with the permission of the House, speak again in view of the remarks which fell from the lips of the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, at the end of the debate. I had no intention of making an attack on the War Office, but I thought it was a matter which the Government should investigate. There was clearly some pre-information by the Press which proved to be as, I thought, deleterious to the Court, and I thought that whoever was responsible for giving that information ought to have corrected the impression that was made publicly. So far I have seen no statement, official or unofficial, that that impression should be corrected. It was merely a suggestion that the matter should be looked into at the War Office, and if possible what I thought to be an unfortunate occurrence should be set right. I will not now proceed with my Motion.

6.38 p.m.