Moment of Indiana History

Hoosier Justice At Nuremberg

Two Indiana Supreme Court Justices were recruited into the grim business of holding Nazis accountable for their crimes against humanity during World War II.

Farben defendants

Photo: The Wiener Library

Defendants in the I.G. Farben Trial at Nuremberg in August 1947 were charged with committing numerous crimes against humanity and belonging to the SS.

The International Military Tribunal created by the October 1943 Moscow Declaration provided a means for the World War II Allies to hold war criminals accountable for their actions.

A panel of Allied judges presided over the most high-profile cases involving such defendants as Hermann Göring; after those concluded, trials known as “Subsequent Nuremberg Proceedings” took place in front of U.S. Military Tribunals. Two Hoosier Supreme Court justices, Curtis Shake and Frank Richman, took part in those historic events.

Curtis Shake lived from 1887 to 1978 and was Indiana’s seventy-second justice. He graduated from Vincennes University in 1910, was an Indiana State Senator, and was appointed to the state’s highest court in 1938.  Shake served as the presiding judge for the U.S. Military Tribunal in Subsequent Nuremberg Proceedings Case #6, the I.G. Farben Trial, in 1947.The trial ran from August 1947 to June 1948, “making it the third longest Nuremberg proceeding.”

I.G. Farben was a German industrial concern, and over twenty of its employees were named as defendants in an indictment for crimes such as “the planning, preparation, initiation, and waging of wars of aggression and invasions of other countries; committing war crimes and crimes against humanity through the plunder and spoliation of public and private property in countries and territories that came under German occupation; committing war crimes and crimes against humanity through participating in the enslavement and deportation for slave labor of civilians from German-occupied territories and of German nationals; . . . and, participation in a common plan or conspiracy to commit crimes against peace.”

Three of the defendants were also charged with belonging to the SS, an organization recently declared criminal. Overall, ten of the twenty-three defendants were acquitted of all charges, while the remaining thirteen who had been convicted of one or more of the crimes received “prison terms ranging from one and a half years to eight years in prison, including time already served.”

Frank Richman lived from 1881 to 1956 and was Indiana’s seventy-fourth justice. He was born in Columbus, graduated from the University of Chicago law school in 1909, and served on the Indiana Supreme Court from 1941 to 1947. Richman served as a judge of the Military Tribunal IV in 1947, which was created to try the Flick Case, the fifth Subsequent Nuremberg Proceeding.

That case involved six defendants who “were all leading officials in the Flick Concern, a large group of industrial enterprises including coal and iron mines and steel producing and fabricating plants.”  All of the men “were charged with committing war crimes and crimes against humanity through the use of slave labor, the deportation for labor of civilians of German-occupied territories, and the use of POWs for war operations.”

Some of them were additionally charged with offenses against property, participation in the murder, torture, and atrocities committed by the Nazi Party and the SS, and belonging to the SS. The Flick trial took nine months; the judges, including Richman, acquitted three of the defendants and convicted the other three. Those who were found guilty were sentenced to prison terms ranging from two and a half to seven years.

Although this was no doubt a grim business, Shake and Richman’s service on the Subsequent Nuremberg Proceedings helped to restore the world’s faith in order, justice, and the rule of law.

A Moment of Indiana History is a production of WFIU Public Radio in partnership with the Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations. Research support comes from Indiana Magazine of History published by the Indiana University Department of History.

Source articles:

1. Indiana Supreme Court Legal History Lecture Series, “Hoosier Justice at Nuremberg,”

http://in.gov/judiciary/citc/cle/nuremberg/index.html

2. http://in.gov/judiciary/citc/justice-bios/shake.html

3. http://in.gov/judiciary/citc/justice-bios/richman.html

4. Minde C. Browning, Richard Humphrey, and Bruce Kleinschmidt, “Biographical Sketches of Indiana Supreme Court Justices,” Indiana Law Review 30 (1997): 329-389.

5. http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007077

6. http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007076

7. http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005140

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