State of research and digitization

Post-First World War Trials

After the Belgian Government decided to put an end to the proceedings against German war criminals in 1925, the in absentia trial records were centralised by the appellate Cour Militaire in Brussels in 1927. From there, the Germans seized them in 1940. Taken from Berlin to Moscow by the Red Army, the record collections finally returned to Belgium in 2002.

So far, our research has brought to light a collection of an estimated 130 trials held in absentia before Belgian military courts in 1924-25, for a total number of 187 German defendants. Of this total number of decisions, we found the complete archival file for 66% of the cases: 86 trials (137 defendants, of which 20 collective trials)  mainly from the jurisdictions of Namur, Hainaut, Flandre Occidentale, Anvers-Limbourg, and Brabant have been digitized and described. The collections from Flandre Orientale, Flandre Occidentale and Anvers-Limbourg jurisdictions have still to be located. In addition, original case-law, both handwritten and typewritten is available for the courts of Brabant, Flandre Occidentale, Flandre Orientale, Hainaut and Antwerp (76 original first instance decisions).

The total number of scans is 7788 with an average amount of 100 pages per case.

Distribution of the number of German war criminals judged in absentia by military courts
Convictions and Acquittals by defendant (First instance)

WWI Cases are held in the AAW (Aktensammelstelle West/Osoby) Records Series, also known as the “Moscow Archive”. After the Belgian Government decided to put an end to the proceedings against German war criminals in 1925, the trial records were centralized by the appellate Cour Militaire in Brussels in 1927. From there, the Germans seized them in 1940. Taken from Berlin to Moscow by the Red Army, the record collections finally returned to Belgium in 2002.

Post-Second World War Trials

The project deals with 35 war crimes trials held before Belgian military tribunals from 1947 to 1951 (108 defendants). 9 thematic trials were held, involving 74 defendants:

  • The SIPO-Liège, SIPO-Bruxelles, SIPO-Charleroi and SIPO-Dinant cases
  • The Wolfenbüttel case
  • The GFP-Brussels case
  • The Stavelot case
  • The case of the Generals
  • The Monsin case

The remaining 34 defendants were judged individually or in joint cases including 2-3 defendants. The overwhelming majority were of German nationality, but these war crimes cases also included a couple of Belgian, Austrian, Polish, Romanian and Luxemburgish nationals. 33 cases have been digitised, one case has been destroyed before the project started, one had been digitized previously.

In comparison to WWI-cases, the average amount of digitized pages per trial for the WWII-cases is about 3500. There are, however, huge differences because a small number of trials have more than 10.000 pages each. The complete case-law for Second World War cases (first instance and appeal) has been systematically scanned from the original judgement registers. This amounts to 35 first instance judgements and 30 appeal decisions (of which 28 before the Appeal court in Brussels and 3 in Liège).

Distribution of the number of war criminals judged in absentia by military courts

Convictions and Acquittals by defendant (First instance)