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Field Marshal Von Manstein (Trial)

Volume 465: debated on Tuesday 17 May 1949

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asked the Secretary of State for War what are the charges against Field Marshal Von Manstein; and whether he will now consider the abandonment of such trials and review the sentences that have already been passed.

It would not be proper to disclose the charges until they have been considered by the convening officer and served on the defendant. His Majesty's Government do not intend to bring to trial in the British Zone of Germany any other persons accused of crimes against the laws and usages of war, apart from trials already begun and that of ex-Field Marshal von Manstein. I have already set up boards to review all war crimes trials undertaken by the military authorities.

But surely my right hon. Friend will agree that conditions today are entirely different from what they were in 1945, and that it is high time we abandoned the trial of Field Marshal Von Manstein and of any others on my right hon. Friend's list?

No, in view of the allegations that have been made against ex-Field Marshal Von Manstein—I repeat, allegations—we are not prepared to abandon the trial.

In view of the fact that it is nearly four years since these delicate questions of international law have been handled by the Department of the right hon. Gentleman, can he without impropriety give the House an assurance that he is open to advice from the Attorney-General and not merely from the highest judicial authorities of the Army.

Does not the Minister realise that large sections of public opinion condemn the cat-and-mouse policy which has been followed in this and other cases, and owing to the long delay in bringing this man to trial, will not my right hon. Friend look at it again and decide to call it off? It would be a good gesture, which would help our future relations with the Germans.

In spite of the fact that strict justice may require that this man should be charged and perhaps punished, would not larger interests be better served by dropping the whole thing just at the moment when it is important that conditions in West Germany should become as normal as possible?