Spoils of War: General Patton, Looter

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A shocking tale of military malfeasance.

General Patton, Looter

Back in 1945-1946, the Allies put the war criminals responsible for the Holocaust on trial in Nuremberg. To do this, they needed documentation: who gave what orders, when, where. Mostly, they had the goods on these people. But one thing really bothered the prosecutors: when it came to presenting the court with the very first anti-Jewish Nazi law, the infamous Nuremberg Laws that redefined race in Germany, they were forced to use print sources. Now, the print sources were official – government issue – but they weren't as dramatic as the signed typescript would have been. Unfortunately, they couldn't find the original.

Why, you ask? Because General Patton didn't obey orders.

Yes, Old Blood and Guts himself, strict disciplinarian when it came to other soldiers, ignored his superior's (Dwight D Eisenhower's) instructions to turn all official documents over to authorities rather than hoard them as souvenirs. When the original Nuremberg Laws came into his possession, Patton gifted them to the Huntington Library in California. Patton was killed in an automobile accident in December, 1945. The librarians at Huntington, who knew they weren't supposed to have Patton's loot, didn't want anybody to get into trouble…so they hid the documents in a vault. Until 1999.

The original Nuremberg Laws were turned over to the (US) National Archives in 2010, long after all the miscreants had been passed onto a higher court. It only took the papers 63 years to be turned in.

So here's the signature page the prosecutors wanted to show at Nuremberg. It proves that yes, they did this, and yes, they knew what they were doing.

Signature page of Nuremberg Laws.

This piece of documentation was literally part of the 'spoils of war'. If you'd like to read more of the story, check out the informative article from NARA's Prologue magazine.

Spoils of War Archive

Dmitri Gheorgheni

24.08.15 Front Page

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