Trials of Nazi war criminals by Allied courts began early. From late 1945 onwards, Camp SS perpetrators were convicted by US judges in Dachau. The first British trial (in Lüneburg) took place even earlier: in November 1945, 30 men and women were convicted of crimes in Bergen-Belsen; 11 were sentenced to death. This trial was widely covered by the media, which helped to inform the public, but was also guilty of sensationalism.

117 – German newspaper report on the Bergen-Belsen trial, autumn 1945

On the fourth day of the trial the film of the conditions in Belsen is shown. The film was shot by British cameramen and has been eagerly awaited […]. The film, which is being shown in the court room, provides a complete picture and documentation of the horrific actions which have put the Beasts of Belsen in the dock, for only beasts could have done or permitted such things. […]

US military court at the former Dachau camp (1945/6)

KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau (V. Wegard)

As a German journalist one would like to be able to say all this is untrue; it’s all a bad dream, an illusion, for nothing like that could happen in Germany. But it is true. I have seen it myself. I know every one of these SS guards from having seen them in the dock and I have recognized them in the film. I think this film ought to be shown throughout Germany […].

The lights go up again. They are the same searchlights which used to flood Belsen camp so that no one could escape. Now they were lighting up the court room in which the accused are sitting. Every face in the court room is marked by what has just been happening. With the exception of the faces of the accused. Theirs as ever are indifferent and expressionless. What’s all the fuss about anyway? They have known about it for years and not just from the film. It was reality for them.

Source: Neuer Hannoverscher Kurier, 21 September 1945, in Konzentrationslager Bergen-Belsen. Berichte und Dokumente (Göttingen, 2002), pp. 221–2

Translation: Lesley Sharpe and Jeremy Noakes