Sunday, April 9, 2017

Wehrmacht military justice

Fort Zinna, Torgau
A controversy has broken out over an exhibit in Torgau, site of a former military prison. It concerns allegations that insufficient attention has been paid to the harsh treatment of Wehrmacht deserters. Excerpt:
An exhibition about injustice in Germany's dictatorships is under fire for under-representing the victims of the Nazi military justice system in favor of victims of the communist East German regime. 
The exhibition is in a castle in the eastern German town of Torgau, where the German military, then called the Wehrmacht, moved its main court in 1943, and where it maintained the country's largest military prison at Fort Zinna. Thousands of German deserters and other victims were sentenced, imprisoned and executed there during the war, and it often took decades for their criminal records to be cleared. 
After World War II, Torgau was home to a Soviet military tribunal as well as prison camps used by the Soviet secret police until 1949, when it was taken over by the East German People's Police. 
Two-thirds of the space in the exhibition is devoted to the post-war Communist oppression, while only a third tells the story of the Nazi regime's brutal military justice. 
According to the German society of the victims of Nazi military justice, that means the exhibition not only omits important aspects of the story, it also reneges on an agreement made with the Saxony state memorial foundation, which promised the exhibition would focus on the Nazi period, and breaches the federal government's policy for remembering those victims.
"The Nazi military judiciary handed down 30,000 death sentences during World War II, of which more than 20,000 were carried out," said Rolf Surmann of the NS military justice victims society. "It was an exceptionally cruel judiciary. But certain parts of the exhibition are not being presented - such as the portraits of the Luxembourg citizens who were conscripted to the Wehrmacht, refused to serve, and were shot in Torgau."

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