Full title: Bloodlines – Recovering Hitler’s Nuremberg Laws, from
Patton’s Trophy to Public Memorial
The physical typescript of the Nuremberg Laws – from their
discovery by two Jewish American soldiers in Eichstätt, Germany in 1945 to their
first public exhibition in 1999 at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles –
is the focus of Anthony Platt’s riveting book, Bloodlines.
Platt, a professor emeritus at California State University, Sacramento, was on
sabbatical with his partner and co-author Cecelia O’Leary doing research at the
Huntington Library in 1999.
His curiosity was aroused by the controversy stirred by the Huntington’s
announcement that it was loaning an original copy of the Nuremberg Laws to the
new Skirball Cultural Center. Received by the library from Gen. George S.
Patton, Jr., in June 1945, the documents had been in the Huntington’s vault in
The Nuremberg Laws were enacted by the Reichstag and signed by Adolf Hitler in
September 1935. They made the swastika the national symbol of Germany. They made
Jews non-citizens in their own country. They prohibited marriage and sexuality
between Germans and Jews and prohibited Jews from employing Germans younger than
The Nuremberg Laws made anti-Semitism legal. It laid the foundations for the
vast bureaucracy that carried 6 million Jews to the crematoria.
Patton said in a statement dictated at the Huntington in 1945 that the documents
were captured in battle in March 1945. He claimed he was given the documents by
Gen. Van Fleet, commander of the 90th Division in a public presentation honoring
Patton in May 1945.
Platt found no evidence of such a presentation. What he did discover was Martin
Dannenberg. Dannenberg had photographs of himself and another soldier in a bank
vault holding the documents. He also had direct knowledge of how the documents
moved from German hands to U.S. hands.
In 1945, Dannenberg was a special agent in charge with the 203d
Counter-Intelligence Corps. He, Military Intelligence Interpreter Frank Perls
and Agent Maxwell Pickens were led to the documents by an informant. They turned
them over to Patton’s intelligence chief believing they would be forwarded to
the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force document unit in Paris.
There, documents were being prepared to put war criminals on trial.
Patton was a known anti-Semite. His taking of the Nuremberg Laws violated Allied
policies about found enemy documents and other materials.
Perhaps this explains why Patton’s depositing of the documents at the Huntington
was done with no fanfare.
He did not donate the documents to the Huntington. His death from a car accident
six months later left the documents in limbo. Despite several requests by the
Patton family that all papers related to Patton be given to the Library of
Congress, the Huntington did not do so.
Platt and O’Reilly’s book is highly readable. It is a well-told, suspenseful
story. The book leaves readers pondering the elitist views in our own country,
how a document can shape our understanding of the past and the responsibilities
of libraries and museums.
© Jeannette M. Hartman, 2009