The Trials: 1946 & 2020

I have been watching the impeachment trial on some days, and listening to the news wrap up and commentary at the end of others. Today I reread my father’s letter to my mother in March 1946 after spending a day at the Nuremberg Trials. I have probably posted this before, but in light of current events, it seems apropos to repost, right down to an argument about witnesses.

The following is a quote from the April 1946 issue of the Atlantic Monthly. (You can read the article here.)

Nuremberg: A Fair Trial? A Dangerous Precedent

“If in the end there is a generally accepted view that Nuremberg was an example of high politics masquerading as law, then the trial instead of promoting may retard the coming of the day of world law.” Charles E. Wyzanski

March 6, 1946

Darling —

Yesterday I had the opportunity to do something that I’ve been wanting to do for months. Capt. Barnett told me Monday night that he had tickets for the war trials in Nurnberg. I told him how badly I’d been wanting to go. So the next morning when it turned out that one of the fellows couldn’t go, he called me up and asked if I wanted to use the ticket. The weather was bad and there was no flying, so I jumped at the chance.

It was certainly interesting and very worthwhile. They guard the place like nothing you ever saw and we had to run all over to get in.

The courtroom itself is quite unpretentious. Not nearly so elaborate as our supreme court in Washington. Of course they had to do a tremendous amount of work to make the Palace of Justice even habitable after the bombing it received. The visitors gallery is small and placed so it looks down on the courtroom. It holds possibly 100 people.

Saw all twenty-one of the Nazi big shots. At first I recognized only Goering and Hess but after I got the “program’ showing where each sits, I could recognize a few others. They all look pretty drab and very little like they did a few years ago. Most of them were interested and took in every word of the trial – except Hess. He doesn’t pay a bit of attention.

You’ve probably read how they get around the difficultly of four different languages in the trial. That in itself is worth seeing. Everybody has headphones, including the spectators. There is a little switch with a dial on it. You turn that and you can listen to the speaker or you can hear the translation into English, French, German, or Russian. The translator speaks right along with the speaker almost without pausing.

The most interesting thing to come up in this trial was the demand by the German counsel for Doenitz, the U-boat man, for Admiral Nimitz to be brought to the stand. The prosecution objected to that and there was quite a spirited discussion over it. The defense for Streicher, Funk, Schacht, and Doenitz was being prepared yesterday. Goering’s case is supposed to come up Thursday.

Well, that was a little something to write about. I hope I won’t have forgotten it all completely  before I get the chance to tell you a bit about it, too.

All my love, darling. George


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