HOUSTON, TX (Aug. 11, 2005) – During the Dachau war crime trials, 1,600 Nazis stood accused of atrocious crimes against millions of prisoners held in camps at Dachau, Mauthausen, Flossenburg and Buchenwald.
Almost 60 years later, lawmakers, religionists and historians continue to struggle with issues raised at their trials. What principles guide the pursuit of justice? In extreme war crimes, are there degrees of guilt? What roles do forgiveness and reconciliation play?
Author and award-winning filmmaker Joshua Greene has created a powerful lecture discussing those and other issues based upon the personal archives of the Dachau chief prosecutor, the late William Denson, a lawyer from Alabama who became a hero of universal human rights and who established critical precedents for today’s international war trials.
Greene will discuss the challenges that faced Denson in a free public address at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2005, in the Herzstein Theater in the Morgan Family Center at Holocaust Museum Houston, 5401 Caroline St., in Houston’s Museum District.
Greene’s presentation, "Justice at Dachau: The Trials of an American Prosecutor," will explore a critical event in the post-Holocaust period, the largest yet least known war crimes trials in history. The story is told through the eyes of Denson, an officer determined to achieve righteous judgments against Nazi murderers but unprepared for the procedural and psychic obstacles he would encounter during more than two years of exposure to the horrors of the Holocaust.
The trials were all but ignored by the world press, which focused on Nuremberg 65 miles north. Nuremberg tried 22 policymakers, Nazi chieftains who never lifted their guns. At Dachau 1,600 guards, officers, doctors, kapos and other executors of Hitler’s "Final Solution" stood trial for personally aiding and conducting acts of starvation, torture and murder inside camps Dachau, Mauthausen, Flossenburg and Buchenwald.
Denson led his team through masterful prosecutions, basing his strategies on recognized conventions of international law. The accused included Dr. Claus Karl Schilling who used prisoners as human guinea pigs in malaria experiments; August Eigruber, overseer of Mauthausen death camp; and Ilse Koch, who had prisoners killed and their tattooed skins stripped and cured for her collection.
In 1948, when America’s priorities shifted from punishing Nazis to winning Germany’s support against Soviet Russia, Denson’s convictions were overturned in clandestine reversals of sentence. The scandal of those reversals erupted in headlines nationwide and led to a Senate subcommittee hearing that exonerated Denson and condemned the release of Nazi criminals.
The New York Times has described Greene as "a storyteller…who traces journeys to enlightenment." He is a degree candidate in sociology of religion at Hofstra University in New York and a frequent lecturer. His books and documentaries have been translated and broadcast in more than 20 countries. He is an Emmy Award nominee and five-time recipient of TV Guide’s "Best Programs of the Year" award.
His book Witness: Voices from the Holocaust (Free Press, 2000) was made into a feature film for PBS and chosen as one of the best Holocaust films of all time by Facets Media. The Washington Times wrote, "A program such as Witness: Voices from the Holocaust gives new meaning to the term documentary."
Greene previously served as director of programming for Cablevision and as senior vice president for global affairs at Ruder Finn, New York’s largest communications firm. He sits on the boards of the American Jewish Committee, the Holocaust Memorial and Educational Center of Nassau County and the Coalition for Quality Children’s Media.
While admission is free, seating for the event is limited, and advance reservations are required. For more information and reservations, call Tamara Savage at 713-942-8000, ext. 104. or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Holocaust Museum Houston promotes awareness and educates the public of the dangers of prejudice, hatred and violence against the backdrop of the Holocaust by fostering remembrance, understanding and education. Holocaust Museum Houston is free and open to the public and is located in Houston's Museum District at 5401 Caroline St., Houston, TX 77004.
For more information about Holocaust Museum Houston, call 713-942-8000 or visit www.hmh.org.