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Justice at Dachau: The Trials of an American Prosecutor Hardcover – April 8, 2003

4.7 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

For nearly two years, William Denson led the prosecution team at Dachau, Germany, that by August 1948 had found 177 Nazis guards and officers guilty of war crimes at Dachau, Mauthausen, Flossenburg, and Buchenwald concentration camps. Ninety-seven were sentenced to death, 54 to life imprisonment, and the rest to terms of hard labor. After Denson's death in 1998 at the age of 86, his wife sorted out boxes of documents in their basement: 30,000 pages of trial transcripts, miles of microfilm, stacks of photographs and newspaper clippings, death's head insignias, and letters from both SS officers and victims of Nazi horror. Greene, coauthor of Witness: Voices from the Holocaust, posits that with the rise of the cold war, American priorities shifted from punishing Germans to winning Germany's support in the fight against the Soviet Union, and points to the fact that one by one, the sentences of Nazis found guilty at Dachau were either commuted or completely reversed. George Cohen
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Review

"A new American hero--William Denson--bursts forward in the riveting pages of Justice at Dachau. An Alabama human rights lawyer, Denson was sent to Europe by the U.S. Army to prosecute Nazi butchers feigning innocence in the bloody aftermath of the Second World War. Brilliantly written and fastidiously researched, Joshua M. Greene’s narrative builds chapter by chapter in dramatic Hollywood-like fashion. Each war criminal Denson convicts brings a cheer to the heart. This is historical storytelling at its finest.”
-Douglas Brinkley, Director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans and co-editor of Witness to America: An Illustrated Documentary History of the United States from the Revolution to Today


"Justice at Dachau is a mesmerizing account of one of history's most infamous periods. Joshua Greene takes the reader back in time by weaving together a riveting narrative of the trial and its central figure, Judge Advocate William Denson, a true hero and humanitarian. This book is destined to be a classic among Holocaust histories."
-Patrick O'Donnell, author of Beyond Valor and Into the Rising Sun
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; 1 edition (April 8, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767908791
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767908795
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,023,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a book well worth reading for anyone interested in WW2, The trials that took place after the war, The Holocaust and the basis of criminal law itself.
This is a compelling story of one decent, civilized man; a lawyer, Colonel William Denson, who found himself in an almost impossible position: As lead prosecutor in the trials of the Nazi criminals at Dachau, Mauthausen and other camps--how was he to handle and balance the common, accepted practices of law and jurisprudence when faced with the almost incomprehensible crimes of the Holocaust.
The book is about Denson's personal struggle with these trials and about the trials themselves. Also, of course, about the details of the camps and the perpatrators and the victims.
These trials, along with the larger, more famous Nuremberg trials, helped establish the foundations for all the international criminal tribunals that have followed.
The book examines the political winds that blew behind the scenes of the trials and how that affected the charges brought and the final outcomes of the trials (including sentencing).
If you are interested in how humanity evolves, especially in the area of international law and punishing international criminals, I advise you to read this book.
Mike Feder/WBAI-FM
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Format: Hardcover
"Justice at Dachau" chronicles the life and times of Prosecutor William Denson, who headed the trials held at the former Dachau camp site. These trials were overshadowed by the Nuremburg trials. For two long miserable years Denson tried and prosecuted hundreds of defendants from the concentration camps Dachau, Mauthausen, Flossenburg, and Buchenwald. Those looking for a comprehensive record of the trials will be disappointed; the book only focuses on a few of the trials' highlights and concerns itself with only a couple of the major criminal figures. (The Flossenburg trial was hardly even mentioned!)The author mentions this in the endnotes and it should come as no suprise. There are thousands and thousands of transcripts and there was only room for some of them in a single book. Despite this minor flaw the book offers a good synopsis of the trials. Anyone who reads this book cannot help but admire William Denson-he was truly a remarkable human being! The reader should be forewarned that some of the testimony is quite graphic.
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Format: Hardcover
"Justice at Dachau" is the story of post-WWII military tribunals told by an author who is neither a lawyer nor a soldier. Joshua Greene has unearthed a trove of interesting information that he reveals in this book, and this book is a worthwhile read because its subject has been ignored for years, but this book lacks the insight of a legal mind and the perspective of a soldier.

Joshua Greene tries to tell the story of the tribunals from the point of view of the chief prosecutor, Lieutenant Colonel William Denson. These tribunals tried hundreds of Germans (and others) who ran the concentration camps at Dachau, Mauthausen, and Buchenwald. Although the book is a worthwhile read, it suffers many weaknesses. The first is that it its legal analysis is quite weak. The author tries to argue that, although the tribunals were ad hoc, the defendants were still given due process. But the author's selected quotations from the trial transcripts show loss after loss by the defense counsel, as they argue points that would prevail under basic tenets of American justice and common law.

It is also apparent that the author is not familiar with the United States military or the history of the US Army in World War II. He constantly refers to General Lucien Truscott as Lieutenant Colonel or Colonel Lucien Truscott (3rd Army Commander in Germany after WWII); he does the same with General Lucius Clay, military governor of Germany, incorrectly calling him a "lieutenant colonel" on one page then a "general" on another. The reader never gets a sense for the higher-level decisions made regarding the trials at "JAG HQ" or quite understands how the US Army was functioning in Germany during the immediate post-war period.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
this is an interesting book on a little known topic. the dedication of the prosecutor and the work involved in the trials is worth reading about and the politics behind the scenes are also intriguing. it is shameful that all the hard work that went to obtaining convictions was discredited and discounted in favor of political expediency. it is clear that the prosecutions were for political reasons rather than moral ones and the failure of the u.s. and others to carry out legitimate death sentences etc., is a disgrace. if nothing else the book is worth reading to vailidate the importance of the prosecutions.
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Format: Hardcover
As a fanatical student of WW2 and particularly the Holocaust I have always been astounded by the fact that so few perpetrators of the most heinous crimes committed in the war - particularly in regard to the Polish death factories (Treblinka, Sobidor etc) and the Einsatzgruppen killing squads - were ever sentenced to death. "Justice at Dachau" goes a long way in answering those pressing questions as it follows, in fascinating detail and at personal health risk, the endeavors of William Denson, the American Chief Prosecutor, to bring justice - over a taxing period of 21 months - to the voiceless victims of Dachau, Flossenburg, Mauthausen and Buchenwald. This is a totally engrossing insight into the history of the human right trials that took place in the shadow of the Nuremburg Trial. The lengthy procedure involved so much time-consuming translation that it lent a tedious tone to proceedings which eventuated in both local and world news moving on to more trajectory news. The commutation of so many death sentences, and indeed the ability of many perpetrators - in the absence of survivors - enabled so many to vanish into the aftermath chaos of the war and saw so many going on to live out their lives and die peaceful deaths in their beds, surrounded by their families. One wonders, what imagery formed their dreams?
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