Cover image for The Wehrmacht War Crimes Bureau, 1939-1945
The Wehrmacht War Crimes Bureau, 1939-1945
De Zayas, Alfred M.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Wehrmacht-Untersuchungsstelle. English
Publication Information:
Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, [1989]

Physical Description:
xix, 364 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
Translation of: Die Wehrmacht-Untersuchungsstelle.

Includes index.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
JX5419.5 .D4913 1989 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
JX5419.5 .D4913 1989 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

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A best seller when it was published in Germany in 1980, and now translated into English by the author, The Wehrmacht War Crimes Bureau, 1939-1945 is the only account to date of the German investigations of war crimes allegedly committed by the Allied armies against the Nazi regime. During World War II the little-known German Bureau on War Crimes documented and filed reported cases of Allied violations of the laws of war. Filling 226 volumes, these files were seized in 1945 by American troops and brought to the United States, where they were treated as classified material, out of reach of scholars and journalists. They were returned to the Federal Republic of Germany's Bundesarchiv in 1968 and released in 1973. Alfred de Zayas is the first researcher to evaluate this material, which represents the most important discovery of World War II records since the Nuremberg trials. In addition, he studied related files in German, American, British, and Swiss archives and interviewed more than three hundred German military judges and witnesses involved in the bureau's investigations. His book documents many of the alleged violations and also describes the bureau's origin, organization, and modus operandi. Widely praised, the German edition was the subject of a television special in 1983.

Author Notes

Alfred M. de Zayas is an American lawyer and graduate of the Harvard Law School. A former Fulbright scholar, he holds a Ph. D. in history from the University of Göttingen in West Germany. His works include Nemesis at Potsdam: The Expulsion of the Germans from the East , also available as a Bison Book.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Published in Germany in 1980, this well-documented report evaluates previously inaccessible archival material about a little-known German office that during WW II investigated crimes allegedly committed by Allied armies against German soldiers and civilians. De Zayas, a United Nations legal officer for human rights, substantiates that the Allies, particularly the Soviets, perpetrated numerous atrocities. The German bureau appears to have performed creditably without becoming an instrument of Nazi propaganda; however, it is difficult to accept the author's assertion that ``the German military judge . . . saw himself as a protector of generally accepted human values and not until after the German unconditional surrender was he confronted with the full reality of Nazi crimes.'' De Zayas defensively reiterates that his intention is not to weigh Allied excesses against Nazi horrors but to establish the folly of war. The Allied confrontation with Hitler, however, does not bolster his advocacy of pacifism. Photos not seen by PW. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

De Zayas's thorough study of German investigation of enemy war crimes in WW II contains much information on the mistreatment of both German soldiers and non-Germans (e.g., Ukrainians and the Polish officers at Katyn) by Allied forces, mostly Russians. There is a detailed dicussion of the legal procedures adopted by the Wehrmacht-Untersuchungsstelle, and of its analysis of specific incidents. However, the book as a whole must be regarded with suspicion on several grounds: first, the author's statement that the bureau was a haven of objective, apolitical lawyers is implausible. This is the old picture of the anti-Nazi Wehrmacht retouched; the author feels no need to address the question of the use to which the regime put the bureau. Further, De Zayas implies an equivalence of Allied and Axis behavior that is not dispelled by his occasional genuflection to "Nazi" enormities, which both in scale and nature (at least on the evidence shown here) differed from those of their opponents. De Zayas is a lawyer; his book reads like a brief for the defense. M. Mazower Princeton University