Every adult in the U.S. Zone was required to register and submit certain details about his or her past activities. On the basis of information thus submitted and available from other sources, each registrant was placed in one of the following categories:
I. Major Offender; II. Offender; III. Lesser Offender; IV. Follower; and V. Exonerated.
Classification was based on the position and rank of the person in the party hierarchy, individual incrimination as indicated in documents or in direct accusations, and upon results of investigations conducted by court officials. Nearly thirteen and a half million persons registered in the U.S. Zone, and of these nearly four million were found to be ‘chargeable’, that is, subject to classification in categories I through IV.
Trial tribunals (Spruchkammern) were set up in all urban and rural districts. Appellate tribunals were established for the review of decisions. Public prosecutors and assistants were assigned to each tribunal. Spruchkammern personnel were required to be persons who knew their locality and were known to be active opponents of National Socialism. It was the task of the tribunal to evaluate the evidence presented by the public prosecutor, and the defense offered by the defendant and his attorney, to find for or against the defendant and to assess the sanctions prescribed by the law for each of the five established categories. Some penalties were made mandatory under the law, others were optional with the tribunals.
Shortly after the law went into operation it became apparent that there would be such an immense number of persons chargeable (that is, found subject to the law by the prosecutor) that the German Courts would not be able to try all of the cases within a reasonable time. The law, by making chargeable all members of the Nazi party as well as its formations, affected over 27 per cent of the adult population of the U.S. Zone (3,669,239 persons). It was realized that among them were large numbers of persons who had not been active in furthering Nazi ideology. Consequently in August 1946, the Military Governor announced the Youth Amnesty which provided that all persons born after January 1st, 1919, would not be tried by a denazification tribunal unless they were incriminated and chargeable as major