Although the Nazi concentration camps were being liberated when Harry Truman inherited the presidency in April 1945, the effects of the Holocaust lasted throughout his two terms in office. The prosecution of German war criminals, the Jewish refugee crisis in Europe after the war, the reparation dilemma for victims of Nazi crimes and the creation of the Jewish state of Israel are all issues that grew out of the Holocaust. The following documents and questions provide an introduction to the Truman administration and the Holocaust.
2. Continuity and change in the history of Missouri, the United States and the world
6. Relationships of the individual and groups to institutions and cultural traditions
7. The use of tools of social science inquiry (such as surveys, statistics, maps, documents)
Benchmark 2: The student uses a working knowledge and understanding of individuals, groups, ideas, developments, and turning points in the era of the Great Depression through World War II in United States history (1930-1945).
7. (K) examines the complexity of race and ethnic relations (e.g., Zoot Suit Riots, Japanese internment camps, American reaction to atrocities of Holocaust and unwillingness to accept Jewish refugees).
Benchmark 5: The student engages in historical thinking skills.
1. (A) analyzes a theme in United States history to explain patterns of continuity and change over time.
2. (A) develops historical questions on a specific topic in United States history and analyzes the evidence in primary source documents to speculate on the answers.
The eastward advance of Allied troops into Germany uncovered both the horrors and the secrets of the Nazi regime. Though the most infamous of the concentration camps lay east of Berlin and were liberated by the Soviet Red Army, the Allied Forces in the west also encountered the horrors of the "final solution." But concentration camps were not the only findings of the Allied armies. Protected deep in caves from Allied bombs and shells, American and British troops discovered Nazi mines filled with confiscated valuables including rare books, priceless works art, jewelry and bars of gold. Often times, these valuables were seized from Jews prior to their deportation to concentration camps. The largest of these storage facilities was found in southcentral Germany at Merkers Mine. In this cave alone, American troops discovered 830 tons of art, jewelry and foreign currencies and 569,726 pounds of gold. The following cartoon comments on the uncovering of stored, Nazi loot.
Document Survey: Questions
Document 2: Press Release of President Harry Truman
Anticipating the defeat of Germany in October of 1943, the Allies established a United Nations War Crimes Commission to collect evidence that could be used to prosecute Nazi war criminals. After the surrender of Germany, President Truman appointed Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson as chief counsel to investigate and try Nazi war criminals. From November 1945 until October 1946, the International Military Tribunal, in the former Nazi stronghold of Nuremburg, heard cases against 22 senior, Nazi leaders. The court sentenced twelve to death and three to life sentences. Hundreds of other lesser figures in the Nazi conspiracy (what Truman called "second stringers") were tried from January 1946 to April 1949. The Office of Military Government found 185 more Nazis guilty of war crimes. The following statement of President Truman relates to the Nuremburg Trials.
Katherine Fite Lincoln was an assistant to Justice Robert Jackson in the Office of the United States Chief of Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality for the last six months of 1945. As part of the prosecution at Nuremburg, Lincoln was instrumental in constructing the case against Nazi war criminals. In the letters she wrote home to her parents, Lincoln revealed her views of the trials, the war criminals and Germany itself. The following letter illustrates both these views and the value of a personal letter to the historian.
Follow-up Questions for Document One
Follow-up Questions for Document Two
Follow-up Questions for Document Three