im 20. Jahrhundert
Citizens´ Association "Landsberg in the 20th Century"

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The Landsberg prison for war criminals

In 1946, the supreme commander of the American forces in Germany named the Landsberg prison as "War Criminal Prison Nr. 1". The prison housed 110 persons convicted during the Nuremberg trials, 1416 war criminals from the Dachau trials, and 18 from the Shanghai trials.

As early as December 1945, the first prisoners were sent to the Landsberg prison. They were the war criminals sentenced to death at the Dachau trials for "crimes against humanity".

Until 1951, there were 284 executions of war criminals at the Landsberg prison. Those whose bodies were not claimed by their relatives were buried in the war criminals cemetery near the Spöttingen chapel. In 1988, this cemetery was declared a protected historical site, and it is now being maintained at the expense of the taxpayers. This confers an undeserved honor on the graves, especially since there is no mention anywhere in the cemetery of the historical context.

The Landsberg war criminal prison was dissolved in May of 1958, when the last four prisoners were released. They were high-ranking SS officers who had been convicted during the trial of SS-Einsatzgruppen (Execution commandos).

A history of assistance for war criminals

The Catholic prison priest Karl Morgenweis (active from 1932- 1957) played a central role in the history of the official support given to the war criminals. In 1951, Morgenweis received the prestigious "Verdienstorden" (medal of merit) of the Federal Republic of Germany. This was followed in 1952 by the "Verdientsmedallie" of the State of Bavaria and in 1960 by the "Goldener Ehrenring" (golden ring of honor) of the city of Landsberg.

As early as 1948, the Association for the Welfare of Prisoners of the Bavarian ministry of justice took over the care of the Landsberg war criminals. Many forces in the newly founded Federal Republic of Germany - politicians, the church, industrialists, and artists - raised their voices in behalf of the inmates of the Landsberg war criminals prison. By the middle of the fifties, these inmates began to be seen not as war criminals but as political prisoners or prisoners of war. For instance, in1955, the city council of Landsberg asked their mayor "to work for the overdue release of the political prisoners" in the Landsberg prison.
But the most far-reaching decision in behalf of the war criminals was made as early as 1951 by the state government of Bavaria when it passed a resolution declaring that the inmates of the military prisons at Landsberg, Werl, and Wittlich should be recognized as prisoners of war and that the federal law guaranteeing financial assistance to prisoners of war should be applied to them.
The government agency which disburses financial aid to prisoners of war was supposed to examine the verdicts of the American military courts and check them against laws governing the relation between the occupation forces and German citizens. The result was that the guilty verdicts of the military courts were ignored. Moreover the convictions of war criminals by military courts were considered as foreign convictions and therefore did not become part of an individual' s criminal record.
According to estimates of the Freiburg military historian Gerhard Schreiber, 5,000 German war criminals have received additional pensions as prisoners of war.