WASHINGTON (Jan. 31)
The State Department declined to comment on the cancellation today by the American authorities in Germany of death sentences of 21 Nazi war criminals and the granting of clemency to 54 others sentenced at the Nuremberg and Dachau war crimes trials.
The American order sparing the 21 Nazis from the gallows and restoring property rights to other convicted war criminals followed an order by the U.S. authorities in Frankfurt yesterday placing displaced persons in the American occupation zone under the criminal Jurisdiction of German courts. U.S. High Commissioner John J. McCloy reserved the authority to intervene in special cases wherever the interests of the occupation are involved.
While cancelling the 21 death sentences, High Commissioner McCloy and U.S. military commander Gen. Thomas T. Handy confirmed seven death sentences, including those passed on four men convicted of the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Jews. Death sentences passed on former Gestapo commander Gen. Oswald Pohl, who was in charge of the Nazi concentration camps, and Otto Ohlandorf, former Nazi general who headed the execution squads which followed up the German armies to wipe out “undesirable” civilians, especially Jew, were among the confirmed. Victims of these squads are estimated in several millions.
Rep. Jacob K. Javits of New York said today he would protest against the commutations, but the majority of Congressional opinion accepted the action as “logical” and “desirable.” In Frankfurt, High Commissioner McCloy, in explaining his action, said today: All the reviews have been designed to make sure that such defendant had the full benefit of a fair trial and of any possible legal appeals and of any grounds for clemency which could be asserted on his behalf. I have striven to temper justice with mercy.”
Some members of the U.S. Congress viewed the wholesale persons as unwise. The majority, however, interpreted the development as a logical readjustment of German industrial and military leaders. The rulings by the American authorities in Germany followed consideration of all remaining war crimes cases, undertaken in the face of a growing German clamor against war crimes verdicts.