German Proceedings

So-called denazification courts were set up at the directive of the Allies to try people who had been members of the Gestapo, the SS or other criminal organisations. Between 1947 and 1949, proceedings were initiated against at least 46 former members of the Bergen-Belsen guard squads and headquarters staff. Nearly half of these proceedings were discontinued. In 16 cases, the defendants were sentenced to between 120 days and two and a half years in prison or they were fined. However, the judges declared that since these defendants had been interned by the Allies for years in most cases, their prison terms had already been served in full.

Only one German court case was held relating to crimes committed at Bergen-Belsen. This trial held before the Jena district court in 1949 ended with the acquittal of a former SS-Unterscharführer. No other trials relating to Bergen-Belsen were ever carried out in either West or East Germany, and the few investigations initiated by the public prosecutor’s office in Lüneburg were eventually discontinued.

More than 200 SS members from Bergen-Belsen who are known by name never had to stand trial.

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