JUSTICE AT DACHAU: The Trials of an American Prosecutor

Joshua Greene, Author . Broadway $26 (400p) ISBN 978-0-7679-0879-5

The protagonist of this tale is William Denson, a 32-year-old U.S. Army lawyer teaching at West Point who, at the end of WWII, was summoned to head the prosecution of Nazi war crimes perpetrated at four concentration camps: Dachau, Mauthausen, Floss-enburg and Buchenwald. Unlike the Nuremberg trials, which are well documented and well known, these trials, which took place at Dachau, have remained obscure. The 177 men tried (all were convicted) at Dachau were doctors, guards and soldiers who, despite their low rank, contributed significantly to the horrors of the Holocaust. Their crime, according to Denson, was participation in a "common design" to commit brutal acts against humanity. The trials demanded two years of arduous investigation and exhausting intensity by Denson. Sleep evaded him as images of Ilse Koch, the "Bitch of Buchenwald" (who killed prisoners and stripped their skin for lampshades), and shrunken skulls filled Denson's dreams, and loss of appetite made the once vibrant lawyer grow thin. Nevertheless, he persisted in what he considered his obligation to his country and to humanity, even while his superiors pressed for speedy trials and quick convictions. Greene, who produced and directed the award-winning documentary Witness: Voices of the Holocaust, does a masterful job of gathering the reams of documents and piles of evidence and forming them into a cohesive and gripping story. His writing is simple but effective, without histrionics yet demanding attention. Denson died in 1998; this is a fitting and much-needed tribute to his work. (On sale Apr. 8)

Reviewed on: 02/03/2003
Release date: 04/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 266 pages - 978-0-307-41905-7
Ebook - 400 pages - 978-1-63425-666-7
Paperback - 978-1-63425-665-0
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