Prosecution files of Nazi heads in Belgium only accessible at the Cegesoma

At the end of 2005, as part of the large digitization project of the federal scientific institutions Cegesoma started the describing and digitization of the judicial files with regard to the persecution of a number of important representatives of the German occupation authorities. The project has now been concluded and the inventory and digital images can be consulted in the reading room of Cegesoma. In view of the protection of privacy, the documents cannot be put on the web.


In April 2004, the council of ministers approved a ten-year project with regard to the digitization of the scientific and cultural patrimony of the federal institutions. In a first phase (2005-2010), the FPS Science Policy spent 15.1 million euros on 9 different digitization projects. As part of one of these projects, Cegesoma digitized post-war judicial criminal files (1947-1951) drawn up during the prosecution of a number of officials of the German occupation authorities. The files were chosen because they provide a privileged view of the functioning and the goals of the occupation authorities. Cegesoma had acquired photocopies of such files in the 1970s, more specifically the (incomplete) copies made for the lawyers of the defendants. As the files that are kept in the Military Prosecutor's Office in the Brussels Palace of Justice are more complete and also include the court trials, it was finally decided to digitize the latter.

 

Alexander von Falkenhausen, as head of the German military authorities of Belgium and Northern France during the occupation  (Photo Cegesoma, N° 81.561).
Alexander von Falkenhausen, as head of the German military authorities of Belgium and Northern France during the occupation (Photo Cegesoma, N° 81.561).

The complete files consist of the documents created in the context of:
• The judicial investigation of the Chief Military Prosecutor's Office against Karl Constantin Canaris (head Sicherheitspolizei-Sicherheitsdienst (Sipo-SD) in Belgium and Northern France);
• The trial against Karl Constantin Canaris before the court-martial in Brussels;
• The judicial investigation of the Military Prosecutor's Office in Liège against Alexander von Falkenhausen (Militärbefehlshaber von Belgien und Nordfrankreich) and Eggert Hans Reeder (Militärverwaltungschef von Belgien und Nordfrankreich);
• The judicial investigation of the Military Prosecutor's Office in Liège against George Franz Bertram (Oberfeldkommandant Liège);
• The judicial investigation of the Military Prosecutor's Office in Liège against Bernhardt von Clear (Oberfeldkommandant Liège);
• The trial against Alexander von Falkenhausen, Eggert Hans Reeder, George Franz Bertram and Bernhardt von Clear before the court-martial in Brabant;
• The judicial investigation of the Military Prosecutor's Office in Brussels against Karl Theodor Moskopf (leader of the Ersatzkommando Wallonien  der Waffen-SS since the summer of 1944).

 

Tablet with photographs concerning the state of health of six Breendonk prisoners, [1942] (Cegesoma, Archives of the judicial investigation against Karl Constantin Canaris, AA 2146/1145).
Tablet with photographs concerning the state of health of six Breendonk prisoners, [1942] (Cegesoma, Archives of the judicial investigation against Karl Constantin Canaris, AA 2146/1145).
They mainly concern the activities of the Militärverwaltung and Sipo-SD, and the relation between them, the reprisals and the hostages, forced labour, the deportation of the Jews, the Breendonk internment camp, the Sicherheitshaft (preventive arrests) and the verschärfte Vernehmung (interrogation with torture). Von Falkenhausen and Reeder were sentenced on 9 March 1951 to 12 years forced labour for among other actions the execution of hostages and the deportation of Jews. Bertram received a 10-years prison sentence for his implication in the execution of hostages. Von Clear was acquitted. Canaris was sentenced to 20 years of prison in August 1951 for the execution of hostages and the torture of prisoners in Breendonk. The case against Moskopf was dropped for lack of evidence.

 

First, the files were described, because the existing access was too limited and not detailed enough. In order to prepare the digitization, the attribution of the necessary metadata and because of the importance of the documents, this was done piece by piece. In total, some 7,000 document descriptions were made. The administrative documents and the case files were described at the level of the file. Next step was the digitization which consisted of the material preparation, the actual scanning and the quality control. The digitization was completely done internally, which had the great advantage that faulty scans and other problems could be solved or adjusted quite quickly. Because of the important qualitative differences between the documents and the many handwritten documents, it was decided not to apply optical character recognition (OCR). Finally, the nearly 36,500 images were connected to the descriptions in the integrated access and management system Pallas and loaded in this programme.

 

This process took a considerable time, but now that the operation is completed the full text searchable inventories and the images connected to them can finally be consulted by the public in the reading room of the Cegesoma. Because of the legislation on the protection of privacy, we cannot put the documents online. It is however possible to receive the EAD-generated inventories via a motivated email to Gerd De Coster or Dirk Martin.

 

Gerd De Coster

 5 / 3 / 2012

 

  Back