The first German war criminals of the Second World War were given a four-day trial at the Kharkov theatre in Ukraine in December 1943, before a capacity audience of 6,000. The accused were represented by the best defence lawyers in the then Soviet Union and the trial was said to have been conducted “with moderation.”

In the dock were three German soldiers, Corporal Reinhard Retzlav, 36, of the secret field police; Hans Ritz, 24, of the Kharkov Gestapo; and Captain Wilhelm Langheld, 52, of the army’s secret service. The fourth man was a Russian spy, Mikhail Bulanov, who had assisted the Gestapo in Kharkov while working as a driver for the Germans.

The four men were found guilty of helping to gas “peaceful Soviet citizens” in mobile gas chambers on the backs of lorries, and the three Germans were also accused of torturing Russians with red-hot pokers. All four were hanged publicly in Kharkov’s central square at 11 a.m. on Sunday, December 19th, 1943. Worldwide Hangings from True Crime Library.

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