Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher and is a follow up to Tuesday’s post.
On May 9, 1945, CIC Agent Allen, a driver, and three of Hitler’s stenographers went to the Hintersee area to look for the location where stenographic notes and transcripts of Hitler’s conferences had been burned. They found a large hold in the ground that contained the remains of Hitler’s copy of the transcripts of his conferences, a mass of charred paper perhaps two feet deep. With the aid of the stenographers Allen began to search the ashes to determine whether they could find anything that had escaped destruction. After digging about for a few minutes, he came upon what he was told was a complete stenographic original of a whole conference, then another, and then quite a few typescripts which had been charred around the edges. After finding a dozen or more conference records that were intact, or only partially destroyed, Allen decided to take them back with him to Berchtesgadenand to continue the search the next day. He went out again twice more, once with Albrecht and once alone, and on each occasion recovered additional fragments. All in all they were able to recover the remains of fifty-one conferences and conversations, four completely intact, some practically complete, and some consisting of only a few charred pages. Most of the fragments were in shorthand, still wrapped in their original manila envelopes; the other fifteen were typewritten copies and bore the world Fuehrerkopie at the top of each first page. All told, they filled about 800 typed pages, and covered conferences from December 1942 toMarch 23, 1945. They also included Hitler’s addresses to division commanders on December 12 and 28, 1944. The stenographers estimated that only less than one percent of the documentation had been saved from the fire.
Allen discussed with Albrecht what they should do with the fragments. Since many of them were charred and would stand little handling, they decided to set up offices in Berchtesgaden, where the stenographers could re-transcribe them. There were very few complete records of any one meeting, most the preserved transcriptions having small or large gaps due to destruction by fire. One of the stenographers possessed an excellent memory, which enabled him to remember or deduce from a burnt shred of paper the approximate date of it and the topic it covered, and also who actually took the notes. In some cases they were able to compare two versions of their shorthand notes of the same conference session, one of which may have contained more information than the other. As they transcribed in long hand the documents into German an attempt was made by the stenographers to fill some of the gaps by completing sentences, either from memory or by comparing the two different versions or by logical completion of a sentence. They also used their knowledge of the subjects under discussion to fill the gaps of single words and parts of words, as well as to supply many missing phrases. Whenever they added anything they always put these supplied portions in brackets. In addition Allen and Albrecht brought in as typists several women who had originally worked on the notes in Berlin and who were familiar with the system and arrangement of the material.
At the end of the May stenographers wrapped up their work. They managed to compile some 1,000 pages of transcriptions. The source of each fragment (stenogram or typed copy) was filed together with the corresponding transcription. They made six copies of the reconstructed record, a number they thought would be sufficient for the Army’s needs.
Of the six copies of the transcripts prepared Allen gave one copy to the G-2 Section of the 101st Airborne Division for its archives and retained one copy to go with his collection of the interrogations Albrecht and he had made at Berchtesgaden. Allen sent this material to the Library of the University of Pennsylvania. Allen turned the original charred remains and four copies to a U.S. Army Documents Team. Of these four copies three were sent to Wiesbaden, where they came under control of a Judge Advocate General War Crimes Office. One copy of the reconstructed transcripts, along with the original fragments, was sent to the Seventh U.S. Army Document Center at Heidelberg. When this document center closed down, the transcripts and original fragments were sent to the German Military Document Section at Camp Ritchie, Maryland in January 1946.
During the second half of 1945 and early American and British war crimes prosecution staffs tried to track down copies of the transcripts and the charred original fragments, to be used as evidence for the International Military Tribunal (IMT) at Nuremberg. They were able to have the charred documents returned from Camp Ritchie and were able to locate transcripts that could be used at the IMT.
One stenographic record was found at the USFET G-2 Documents Center at Frankfurt. This document was a 96-page transcript of aJanuary 27, 1945situation conference at which atrocities against Allied military personnel were discussed. The staff of the Office of Chief of Counsel for Prosecution of Axis Criminality believed that the information contained in it implicated Hitler, Reichsmarshal Goering, Field Marshal Keitel, and Generals Jodl and Guderian. This document would be the first of the stenographic records introduced at the trial. This happened during the cross examination of Goering on March 20, 1946, when Justice Robert Jackson, the American Chief of Counsel, introduced into evidence as USA Exhibit 787. The exhibit file contains not only a translation, but also the actual burned stenographic fragments and the actual reconstructed typed transcript.
Image is from Stenographic transcription in the Headquarters of the Fuehrer, Discussion on the Situation of January 27, 1945, Exhibit USA 787, Filed March 20, 1946, Prosecution Exhibits, USA, United States Exhibits, 1933-1946, Office of the Chief of Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality, National Archives Collection of WWII War Crimes Records, Record Group 238.