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German War Trials Report Of Proceedings Before The Supreme Court In Leipzig1

August 8, 1921

The Treaty of Peace with Germany contains the following provisions:—

Article 228

The German Government recognizes the right of the Allied and Associated Powers to bring before military tribunals persons accused of having committed acts in violation of the laws and customs of war. Such persons shall, if found guilty, be sentenced to punishments laid down by law. This provision will apply notwithstanding any proceedings or prosecution before a tribunal in Germany or in the territory of her allies.

The German Government shall hand over to the Allied and Associated Powers, or to such one of them as shall so request, all persons accused of having committed an act in violation of the laws and customs of war, who are specified either by name or by the rank, office or employment which they held under the German authorities.

Article 229

Persons guilty of criminal acts against the nationals of one of the Allied and Associated Powers will be brought before the military tribunals of that Power.

Persons guilty of criminal acts against the nationals of more than one of the Allied and Associated Powers will be brought before military tribunals composed of members of the military tribunals of the Powers concerned.

In every case the accused will be entitled to name his own counsel.
Article 230

The German Government undertakes to furnish all documents and information of every kind, the production of which may be considered necessary to ensure the full knowledge of the incriminating acts, the discovery of offenders and the just appreciation of responsibility.

In accordance with Article 228, lists of accused persons were prepared by the principal Allied Governments, and a final list was compiled and presented to the German Government, on the 3rd February, 1920. This list contained a very large number of names, and amongst them were those of many of the principal military and naval leaders in Germany.

The German Government represented that if the Allied Powers insisted

1 British Parliamentary Command Paper, No. 1450. For the texts of the decisions, see Judicial Decisions, infra, p. 674 et seq.

upon the surrender of the persons accused, grave political difficulties would ensue, which might seriously imperil the government's existence. By way of compromise, therefore, they proposed that the accused persons should be put upon trial before the Supreme Court of the Empire in Leipzig.

An Inter-Allied Commission, appointed to examine this proposal, reported that the offer of the German Government was compatible with the execution of Article 228 of the Treaty of Peace, and the Allied Governments accordingly decided that without taking any part in the trials, so as to leave full and complete responsibility with the German Government, they would leave to that Government the duty of proceeding with the prosecution and judgment upon the understanding that the Allies would thereafter consider the results of these prosecutions and whether the German Government were sincerely resolved to administer justice in good faith. If it should be shown that the procedure proposed by Germany did not result in just punishment being awarded to the guilty, the Allied Powers reserved in the most express manner the right of bringing the accused before their own tribunals. (See text of note, Appendix I).*

In pursuance of this decision, certain cases were selected for submission to the Supreme Court at Leipzig, and on the 7th May, 1920, an abridged list containing 45 names was handed to the German Government with a note communicating to them the decision of the Allied Governments and the conditions of their acquiescence in this proposal. To this list the British Government contributed the names of seven persons, who were charged with grave outrages against the laws of war. The names of these persons and short particulars of the outrages with which they were charged were as follows:

(1) Commander Helmut Patzig, who was charged with having sunk, without warning, the British hospital ship Llandovery Castle and with having subsequently fired on and sunk the boats containing the survivors with the consequent loss of 234 lives.

(2) Lieut.-commander Karl Neumann, who was charged with having torpedoed, without warning, the British hospital ship Dover Castle, when homeward bound from the eastern Mediterranean fully laden with sick and wounded with the loss of six lives.

(3) Lieut.-commander Wilhelm Werner, who was charged with having sunk the British S. S. Torrington, and with having subsequently drowned the whole of the crew, with the exception of the master, by submerging while they were on the deck of the submarine.

(4) Karl Heynen, who was charged with ill-treating prisoners of war at the Friedrich der Grosse mine.

(5) Captain Emil Muller, who was charged with ill-treating prisoners of war at Flavy-le-Martel camp.

5 Printed in Supplement to this Journal, p. 195.

(6) & (7) Heinrich Trinke and Robert Neumann, who were charged with ill-treating prisoners of war at the working camp at Pommerensdorf Chemical Works.

After receiving the abridged list of accused persons, the German Government represented to the Allied Governments that difficulties were being experienced in obtaining evidence against the persons accused by reason of the fact that much of the evidence and information necessary to secure conviction was in the possession of the Allied Governments. A general conference was accordingly held at Spa on the 9th July, 1920, at which it was arranged that the Allied Governments should collect and provide statements of the evidence against the persons whose names appeared in the abridged list and transmit them to the Oberreichsanwalt (Public Prosecutor) in Leipzig.

H. M. Government immediately put in hand the completion of the evidence against all the persons whom they had named, and, on the 26th October, 1920, a printed volume containing the evidence in the cases in which they were immediately concerned, was handed to the German Ambassador in London for transmission to the Oberreichsanwalt in Leipzig.

In due course the German Government intimated that they were in a position to proceed against four of the persons named by the British Government, namely:

Karl Heynen,
Captain Emil Muller,
Robert Neumann,
Lieut.-Commander Karl Neumann.

They explained, however, that they were not in a position to bring to justice Commander Patzig, who was stated, after official enquiries had been made by the sheriff at Rosenberg, to have an address in Danzig, but whose present whereabouts were unknown. Lieut.-Commander Werner could not be traced at all, and Trinke was resident in Poland. Warrants for the arrest of Patzig and Werner, on the charge of murder, and of Trinke had been issued but had not been executed, but their property had been sequestrated.

At a later date (June, 1921) the German Government further intimated that as a result of the enquiries made into the case of Commander Patzig, they had decided to put upon trial two officers serving in the same submarine, Lieutenants Dithmar, an officer in the German Navy, and Boldt, a retired officer of the German Navy, who appeared to be implicated and responsible for a part in the outrage with which Patzig was charged.

The question how best to make available at the trial of the accused the evidence of the British witnesses was one which presented considerable difficulty.

Three of the cases to be tried involved the ill-treatment of prisoners of war at prison camps in Germany, and in these cases a conviction was only likely to be obtained if a large number of witnesses could be collected and produced at the trial to give evidence of a continuous course of ill-treatment by the person charged. The witnesses had long since been demobilized from the army and were dispersed to civilian employment all over the country.

In the remaining cases, the charges were torpedoing of hospital ships and a merchant ship, and the witnesses, who were mainly employed in the merchant service, were also widely dispersed at sea.

Tracing these witnesses through changing addresses and taking comprehensive statements, such as were suitable for production in a court of law, involved great labor and some delay. When the question arose of securing their testimony at the trial, it was found that it was not possible to secure the attendance in Leipzig of all the witnesses, and there was of course no means of compelling unwilling witnesses to attend the trials there.

Many further witnesses in the cases of Heynen, Muller and Neumann were traced and interviewed with a view to making the Crown's case as complete as possible, and as soon as the collection of the evidence had been completed, arrangements were made for the examination in London at as early a date as could be arranged of all the witnesses in those cases, who were unable or unwilling to proceed to Germany to give oral evidence at the trial.

After consultation with the representatives of the German Government, who visited London in February, 1921, for the purpose of conferring with the Attorney-General upon the procedure to be adopted in securing the evidence of the British witnesses the 26th April was fixed for the examination at Bow Street Police Court before the chief magistrate of all British witnesses, who were unable to attend the trials. The German Government and the accused German persons were legally represented and an opportunity was given to them of putting questions to the witnesses. The examination of witnesses was commenced on that date and continued on April 27th, 28th and 29th, fifteen witnesses being examined in the three prison camp cases. The depositions of these witnesses were at once transmitted to the Supreme Court in Leipzig and were available at the main trials of the accused.


The cases were taken in the following order:—

Karl Heynen.
Captain Emil Muller.
Robert Neumann.
Lieut.-Commander Karl Neumann.

and the trials opened in Leipzig with the first of these cases on May 23rd. The court comprised seven judges under the presidency of Dr. Schmidt.

A British mission attended the trials and followed the proceedings throughout. It comprised the Solicitor General (Sir Ernest Pollock, K.B.E., K.C., M.P.), Sir William Ellis Hume-Williams, K.B.E., K.C., M.P., Mr. V. R. M. Gattie, C.B.E., Mr. R. W. Woods, C.B.E. (of the Department of H.M. Procurator General). Mr. Claud Mullins, Barrister-at-Law, accompanied the mission as interpreter. Mr. J. B. Carson, of the British Embassy in Berlin, and Commander Chilcott, M.P., also attended the trials.

In accordance with the arrangement made between the Allies stated above, whereby they agreed not to intervene in the trials but to leave the full responsibility to the Germans, the mission took no part in the proceedings, and declined the offer of the German authorities to be joined as parties to the proceedings. The mission obtained, however, and asserted on many occasions, the right to communicate in court with the Oberreichsanwalt, through the representative of the German Ministry of Justice, for the purpose of calling his attention to any point, which appeared to have been overlooked or imperfectly brought to the attention of the court by the necessary translation of the evidence of the witnesses.

In accordance with the practice prevailing in Germany and other Continental countries, the witnesses were examined and the proceedings were for the most part conducted by the president. The Oberreichsanwalt (Dr. Ebermeyer), appeared on behalf of the German State. The accused persons were present and were represented by legal advisers, who, although entitled to question the witnesses, took a relatively small part in the proceedings, and confined themselves to addressing the court after the examination of the witnesses had been concluded.

The Oberreichsanwalt summed up the evidence in his address to the court and indicated which charges in his opinion had, and which had not, been proved and where he had come to the conclusion that the accused was guilty demanded the sentence which he considered proper. The court then considered its decision and in due course delivered orally its judgment and sentence. The judgment was subsequently reduced to writing in a more extended form and a translation of the full judgment in each case is attached hereto as an appendix.3

The evidence of the British witnesses was given through an interpreter.

At the trials of Heynen and Mtiller, and at the trial of Lieuts. Dithmar and Boldt, to which separate reference is made hereafter in connection with the charge against Commander Patzig, the interpreter was Dr. Peters, who is a professor of languages at Leipzig University and holds a degree of Aberdeen University. Dr. Peters' interpreting left nothing to be desired. It was entirely satisfactory, and with his assistance the witnesses were enabled to give their answers fully and clearly. Dr. Peters' engagements unfortunately prevented him from attending the trial of Robert Neumann and the interpreting in that case was less satisfactory, being done in a more perfunctory and less intelligent manner; but it cannot be said that its defects, such as they were, had any effect upon the sentence.

! Printed herein, infra, pp. 674.

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