Oral History

William Denson describes counsel provided to accused war criminals

William Denson graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1934 and attended Harvard Law School. He returned to West Point to teach law from 1942 until 1945. In January 1945, Denson accepted the position of Judge Advocate General (JAG) in Europe and was assigned to US Third Army headquarters in Germany. He took part in more than 90 trials against Germans who had committed atrocities against downed American pilots. In August 1945, Denson became chief prosecutor for the US government at the Dachau concentration camp war crimes trial. He was also asked to serve as chief prosecutor for a series of other concentration camp trials, including Mauthausen, Flossenbürg, and Buchenwald. These trials came to an end in early 1947, and Denson returned to the United States.


And I would like to point out at this time that any time any accused was brought to trial, he was furnished with counsel by the United States government; that is American counsel. And he could have German counsel of his own choosing. In other words, we gave these accused in these cases all the rights that a citizen would have had he been tried for a crime in the United States district courts or the federal courts of this country. So we gave these accused that protection that our own citizens would have received. So it is very difficult to understand the complaint that some people have with these trials, saying it's nothing but victor's justice. That isn't true. That isn't true at all. They had a fair trial, just as our citizens would have had.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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