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Connor Sebestyen

Junior Fellow (11/2020 – 5/2021)


German War Criminals 1945–1958. Their Oversight by the Allies, their Prisons, their Lives as Prisoners, and German Society


Web Sebestyen This dissertation uses a comparative approach to examine the imprisonment of German war criminals – many of whom were perpetrators of mass murder and genocide – by the Western Allies after the Second World War. There has been and is a great deal of scholarly attention paid to Allied war crimes trials, but there is to date little understanding of how the resulting sentences were carried out. If historians wish to understand postwar justice, how it was meted out, and how it was received by the German public, it is as important to understand the nature of the war criminals’ incarceration as it is to understand their sentencing and trials. This project examines how Western Allied prisons were administered and what role they played within the wider occupation. Drawing on archival material from the USA, UK, France, and Germany, my research shows how middle and low-level officials in the Allied military occupation governments paired with bottom-up grassroots pressure from broad sections of the German public to significantly influence the treatment of war criminals, the public understanding of their roles as perpetrators, and the implementation of mass amnesty.


Connor Sebestyen is a doctoral candidate in History and Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto. His research interests lie at the intersection of military history, international relations, and the postwar social and judicial reckoning with the Holocaust. He has received fellowships from organisations such as Massey College, the Holocaust Education Foundation, and the Ontario, Canadian, and German governments. He has completed degrees at Trent University, Queen’s University, and the University of Oxford.


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The Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) is funded by:


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