Judge Advocate General's Office: War Crimes Case Files, Second World War

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Details of WO 235
Reference:WO 235
Judge Advocate General's Office: War Crimes Case Files, Second World War

This series contains the case files of the Judge Advocate General relating to persons tried before British military courts after the Second World War for war crimes in both Europe and the Far East.

The files consist of daily transcripts of proceedings, prosecution and defence summations and court exhibits such as maps and photographs. The bulk of the files are concerned with war crimes in Europe and the Far East. There are also a large number of Deputy Judge Advocate General's files of administrative papers issued from the headquarters of the British Army of the Rhine.

Also included in the series are some files concerning the trials of Kurt Meyer and Johann Reitz at Aurich which were conducted by the Canadian military court; a transcript of a British trial held in Austria; and some files of petitions for pardons.

A register of war criminals giving the date and place of trial, the charge and the sentence is in WO 235/1118.

Note: The naming of a defendant within this catalogue does not imply guilt.
Date: 1940-1967

The files have been listed in case number order.

Related Material: For the prison records of war criminals held at Allied National Prison Werl see FO 1024
Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English
Creator: Lord Chancellor's Office, Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Forces, 1948-1972
War Office, Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Forces, 1935-1948
Physical description: 1124 files and volumes
Access conditions: Subject to 30 year closure unless otherwise stated
Unpublished finding aids: Separate indexes of War Criminals (Europe) and War Criminals (Far East) are held at The National Archives, Kew.
Administrative / biographical background:

The military courts set up by the national military authorities of the Allied occupying powers adjudicated upon a large number of charges of war crimes brought against former members of the enemy armed forces and civilians. Not only did these trials take place in the French, British and American zones of occupation, but also defendants were often removed elsewhere (for example, to France, Holland, Belgium, Italy and Norway) for trial before either military or civil courts.

The powers of military government courts to impose sentence were graded. General military courts were authorised to inflict 'any lawful sentence including death'. An accused person was guaranteed the essentials of a fair trial and although there was no appeal against any order of a military government court every convicted person was entitled to have his or her case reviewed. No death sentence might be executed until it had been confirmed by the supreme commander.

The instrument, under which the trials of persons charged with war crimes before British military courts were conducted was the royal warrant of 14 June 1945, issued under Army Order 81 of 1945. By this instrument, military courts were established which were governed by the provisions of the Army Act and the rules of procedure relating to field general courts martial. This instrument restricted the jurisdiction of the military courts to the trial of war crimes, which were defined as 'violation of the laws and usages of war committed during any war in which His Majesty has been or may be engaged at any time since 2 September 1939'.

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