by NORA WALN
LATE on Monday afternoon, the day before the opening of the trial of war criminals by the International Military Tribunal, I went through the ruins of Nürnberg into the Old Town to give help from the Kappa Kappa Gamma Fund for relief in Europe. The recipients were a grandmother and three children — a boy aged nine and two girls of eleven and twelve — who live underground near the statue of Nürnberg’s most famous citizen, Albrecht Dürer. The statue stands miraculously unhurt, while all around are heaps of rubble.
On the streetcar and through the ruins, each time I turned my head I saw behind me a woman in a dark coat.
When I reached my destination the three children were above ground. They were busy building, with stones and an iron grid which they had collected, a better fireplace for cooking meals out in the open. The boy went down to tell his grandmother that I had come to visit her.
As I waited, the woman in the dark coat drew near. She came close and put her hand on mine. “It’s seven years, said she. “You remember me?”
“I saw you leave the Hall of Justice and I followed you because I seek your aid. You know Colonel Andrus, who keeps the prisoners. Will you ask him a favor for me?”
“No,” I replied, and drew away from her. “Colonel Andrus has the hardest of tasks. I will not bother him with requests. You must go through the regular channels for anything you want.”
She began to sob. “You cannot understand. You Americans are different from us. We live in two different worlds.”
Compassion is sometimes dried up in me these days. I felt no impulse to comfort her. The memory of my friends dead or maimed in cruel ways is between me and the wives, mistresses, and mothers of Nazi men. On this Monday afternoon I longed to be quickly free of the woman in the dark coat but she lingered.
“My man did no wrong,” she remarked. “He merely followed orders, and that is not a crime.”
“It is a crime,” said the grandmother, who had come up from underground. “The abdication of moral responsibility is a crime.”
The twelve-year-old girl took her attention from the fireplace and looked long at the woman, then spoke. “ I recognize you. You used to come to NUrnberg to the Nazi Party celebrations. I never saw you, but my cousin Ann Marie has made a scrapbook of pictures clipped from the papers. You were often photographed. You wore fine clothes.”
The woman’s manner changed. The strain went from her face. She smiled tenderly at the slender girl. She had a dreamy look and there was music in her voice as she said, “It’s all a terrible nightmare. It’s impossible to accept the present as real. One feels that one must wake up some morning and find everything as it was.”
The three children were all on their feet in an instant, standing close together, side by side. She bent toward them, speaking in her poetic voice: “Don’t be bitter, darlings. Don’t blame us. We did our best to save civilization. I am sorry that your home was destroyed. And if you have lost your parents, I am indeed sorry.”
“Our parents are not lost. They live in us,” the boy replied. “Our grandmother has told us of them every day. They were taken when I was a baby one year old. My mother was taken first. Then my father. Taken to Dachau.”
The grandmother said nothing. She let the children talk. The younger girl was best. “Nürnberg was not just a historic town, nor was it just a place for Nazi party rallies. It was a place where workers lived. We belong to the laboring class. Our parents did not live in this part of town. Granny brought us here because the cellar is good and not too crowded. Our parents were good, they were intelligent. They could both earn a living.”
There was a brief silence, broken by the elder girl: ‘Until the Americans came, one often heard this prayer in Nürnberg: —
Dass ich nicht nach Dachau komm’.
(Dear God, make me dumb,
So that I shall not go to Dachau.)”
The woman in the dark coat went swiftly from us.
THE night was lightening into a dim, gray morning when the door of the room I shared with young Lois Sager, correspondent for the Dallas Morning News, in the women’s villa of the International Military Tribunal Press Camp, opened noiselessly and a tall, angular maid aged about sixty came in carrying an earthen jar with a clean towel folded over it. Tacked up in a position for all to see was a sign which said that no room service was permitted, but it was in English and perhaps she couldn’t read it. Ever since I arrived she had been looking after me as carefully as if assigned to the task.
“Good morning,” she said in the low, polite voice of one who has always been in service and likes her vocation. “I have brought your hot water in here because, as usual, the bathroom is crowded. At least six are in there.”
She put down the heavy jar, closed the window, turned on the light in the corner she had fixed up as a washing place with a funny old-fashioned washstand, and handed me my slippers. Then she crossed the room and looked at Lois, saying, “She is good, sweet, and pretty.”
“Don’t wake her yet. Come away from her.”
“Yes, madam,” she answered, and began tidying my things as an excuse to loiter. I saw that she wanted to talk, but gave my attention to washing, glad of warm water.
“Today is the opening of the trial,” she commented, brushing my uniform.
“The trial is a mistake,” she told me. “You Americans are new in Europe. Well — not exactly new. Except for the Negroes, you are all of European blood, and this is the second time that you have come over to help straighten things out. But you are inexperienced in some things. It isn’t good to have this way of dealing with the Nazi leaders.”
“People are saying that it is sadistic. It is sadistic to doctor them, feed them, get them into a healthy condition, let them have the ablest German counsel they can secure to defend themselves, give them a court trial in which they are permitted to plead guilty or innocent when all are known to be guilty, and then hang them.”
“They may not be hanged.”
“They must be hanged or be beheaded,” she declared. “They must. They have committed unpardonable sins against humanity. They ought to have been dealt with promptly by your soldiers when captured.” She went on muttering about its being the duty of the victors now governing Germany to hang or behead the Nazi leaders quickly. She wanted it done in public with everybody allowed to attend. Her voice was low and intense, her face pale.
I asked, “Why didn’t you Germans deal with those of you who rose up to be Nazi leaders?”
“We couldn’t,” she answered. “You Americans don’t understand how we couldn’t. We were caught in an evil thrall. We shouted and cheered and obeyed. It was too dangerous not to follow. We had to follow blindly, hopefully.”
“If they were free again and in power over the world, what would you do?” I queried, using the familiar personal pronoun which in the German language left no doubt that I meant her.
“Me?” she responded in surprise. “What could I do except obey? Those who didn’t, disappeared. I am an unimportant person. I would have to do as I was told.” Tears came into her eyes. “Please hang them quickly.” She began to gather up some of my clothes to launder. I told her to tidy the washing place and fetch more warm water for Miss Sager. The tenseness immediately left her face and she began at once to do my bidding.
I turned to Lois and found her still asleep. She had come to Nürnberg the previous day from a long journey and we all sleep deeply after the cold roughness of travel over here these days. The jeep is an open wagon and the winter has set in. Lois had asked me to wake her before I left, and I did.
Then I went to the room of my friend Kathleen McLaughlin of the New York Times. Kathleen has come to Germany intending to spend at least four years trying to understand and interpret the German people to people at home. Hers is a real mission of heart and mind. The Germans are difficult for us to comprehend and help.
Kathleen and I had agreed to breakfast early and she was ready. We went across the garden to the hideous castle of Faber, the pencil king, and there breakfasted on American rations in company with more than two hundred writers and broadcasters. Afterwards we got Kathleen’s car from the garage and drove the six miles in from the press camp at Stein to the Hall of Justice, a building in the old Germanic style, with high-pitched roof, which still stands upright and the wreckage of Nürnberg.
The weather was chill and damp, the sky leaden. Along the way in from Stein, and in Nürnberg itself, we saw Germans working at rebuilding their homes and shops, and long queues of German housewives waiting patiently at food-shop doors. There was no curious crowd gathered near the Hall of Justice. Many thousands live in the city, crowded into the usable rooms of broken houses, into cellars beneath the rubble, into the air-raid shelters, but few adults were in the streets. We seldom saw any smoke come from house chimneys. More often we saw little fires made with a few sticks or other material gathered from the ruins and placed at the entrance to some underground habitation. There a woman, usually old, warmed food for those gathered about her. Children were plentiful and active, running here and there, frequently in a small gang led by a boy or a girl with qualities for leadership.
As we walked to the Hall of Justice, we spoke of the fact that less than a year ago the Nazis controlled justice in this historic town and in much of Europe. We were both deeply conscious that our men had won the right to help legislate here by force of arms, at terrible cost; and we realized that we were privileged to witness an event in our nation’s history: the attempt of our United States to join successfully with three other nations in the making of world law.
THERE was no display of military might either outside or inside the Hall of Justice. No beat of drums announced the event. There was no flutter of banners, no sound of trumpets.
We showed our orange passes at the entrance to the Hall of Justice and again on our way up to the courtroom on the second floor. Two German women were scrubbing the stairs. We were early, as we intended. We had a look into the courtroom. Then, for no purpose other than friendship, we went to call at the offices of the British, the French, and the Russians to greet people of our acquaintance.
During recent months we had been coming to Niirnberg, from where we happened to be, whenever Justice Robert H. Jackson called a press conference; and when doing this, we had felt a need to know people of the three nations with whom our nation is associated on an adventure in joint lawmaking. Our British, French, and Russian acquaintances greeted us as if glad to see us. Like ourselves, they were waiting for the trial to begin. Everyone longed to have it over.
Coming back to the passage near the courtroom door, we found a crowd of journalists gathering there. Every nation in the world seemed to have sent a reporter to the trial. I talked with a Chinese and found him keenly interested in the functioning of a courtconstructed of such diverse elements. He called my attention to the fact that here, under observation, the world had a union of Anglo-Saxon jurists used to presuming prisoners innocent until proved guilty, French jurists accustomed to the old Roman method of procedure, and Soviet jurists trained to Spartan methods.
Then a Norwegian came to greet me. He had been spending recent months reporting trials from Oslo to Prague, attending courts large and small in the various zones of Germany as well as in other lands that had been ruled for a time under the banner of the black cross.
“Mark my words,” said he, “despite the documentary evidence, signed with their own hands, which these Nazi leaders all know that the victors will have found, every one of these men up at this trial will plead, ‘Not guilty.’ That is because they do not feel guilty of any crime. Their whole system of what is right and what is wrong is at war with ours. They laugh at truth and consider it intelligent to use the lie to baffle and betray; and they can destroy human life so wantonly because they do not accept the idea which the rest of us have concerning the value of the individual.
“I am appalled at what is coming out at these trials. I see clearly that if the Nazis had won the war and held Europe in control for ten more years, they could have stamped out all opposition to their theories. They possessed the will and the necessary scientists.”
Near-by, a group of Americans who had not known Germany before the war were talking about the legal difficulties attendant on the coming trial, excitedly bringing up details which might cause the trial to turn into a farce, dwelling on the fact that the International Military Tribunal had no ready-made law to use but must venture out into the dark.
Other Americans, long resident in Germany, who had seen the rise of Nazism, were silent. Like myself, many of these journalists cannot forget their German friends done to death for ideas contrary to Nazism, some in torture chambers, some in scientific experiments. We are drained of all sympathy. Writing of these things is an agony to us. I did not feel revengeful. I was bred a Quaker and I know what Christ’s Commandments require of those who would be His followers. Too frequently I fail in Christian love. None welled in my heart now. I dreaded to have to see the Nazi leaders; I was faint when I thought of them.
I tried to hide this weakness — particularly from Europeans. They have suffered more than I and yet are able to be more rational. When a young Polish correspondent, of whom I have grown very fond since meeting her at the Third Army Press Camp near Munich, came up to me with shining eyes and began to tell me what she had just heard about the Nazi prisoners, from an American soldier, I did not turn away from her recital.
“They are dressed and will soon come up,” she related. “They will leave the jail in threes, walk the covered way, and then be brought into the courtroom by the elevators. They are coming in the order named in their indictment and will sit in the dock in that order. I have heard about their dressing. Keitel and Jodl were up promptly, dressed quickly as soon as they had their clothes, and sat down to wait. They are wearing field uniform without insignia or decorations. Dönitz is wearing a conservative civilian suit and a dark tie. He decided not to wear the red necktie for which he had asked, although it was provided for him.
“Göring has on pearl-gray. It looks like a hotel doorman’s outfit but it really is a suit he designed to wear at his work as Commander-in-Chief of the German Air Force. There was a rumpus about his shoes. He thought that they were not brought soon enough and bellowed for them. Hess refused to dress or shave. He is dressed but not shaved and he is being allowed to bring into court a Bavarian novel with a happy ending so that he can read if he prefers to give his attention to romance rather than to the practical proceedings which will go on about him. Rosenberg, with his usual bad taste, is wearing a brown suit and blue shirt. Hans Frank —” Her voice broke. “Hans Frank,” she went on stoutly, “one-time governor of Poland, is wearing dark gray. The others — They are ready to enter the dock.”
All of us began to drift into the press section of the court. As the Atlantic Monthly correspondent, I sat in seat 26 in the front row. I was glad to find myself placed beside John Dos Passos, a man both wise and kind.
The courtroom is small. The judges’ raised bench faces the prisoners’ dock across the narrow room. The walls are paneled in dark wood, and two old German decorations in bronze had been left on two of the courtroom doors — one giving the Laws of Moses, the other showing a winged hourglass. The only windows giving light from the sun are the large windows behind the judges, draped with sage-green velvet that makes a background for flags of the four nations joined in this International Military Tribunal. The flags of the Soviet Union, Great Britain, France, and our United States are on staffs of equal height.
The prisoners came in to their seats. Their lawyers came in, wearing flowing black robes; some wore small round hats as well, and there was one in a robe of bright purple, a university professor. The lawyers of our four nations came in, wearing business suits. Stenographers took their places at a long table; cameramen appeared at the apertures constructed for their use high up in the walls. The national teams of interpreters filled the chairs behind glass panels in a corner above the dock and began to test their microphones.
In the press seats was a crowd outnumbering all the rest of the people in the room. They had the duty of reporting these happenings to the world. Soldiers assigned to the task stood ready to rush copy to the telegraph wires, as there was a rule that correspondents could not go in and out during court sessions. A small company of soldiers was on guard around the prisoners’ dock. They looked young and smart , their uniforms very neat and their steel helmets well whitened. Colonel Andrus was close by.
A red-haired sailor, his head uncovered, went about helping those who needed instructions as to how to use the earphones provided for everyone in the court. There was a device on the arm of one’s seat by which one could tune in to hear what was said in German, English, French, or Russian. I fixed mine so that I had the Russian translation, as I feel I must learn that language and have begun. Leaving one ear uncovered while English was used in the court, I could hear what was spoken and then an instant later get it in Russian.
The judges came in. The doors were closed. The court, unique in the history of world jurisprudence, began its work without delay. Within a few seconds of the sitting down of the judges the reading of the massive indictment, forty-three pages long, had started. The reading, which took all day, was mostly done by young men. All read in clear, firm voices, each in the language of his native land. We had a brief recess in midmorning, a break for lunch in the Hall of Justice cafeteria, and a brief recess in midafternoon.
Daylight was turning to dusk when the last reader sat down. He was a tall young Russian, well-built and blond, handsome in his plain beige tunic. He did not raise his voice above a conversational tone and used no oratory, but read with a tone of absolute sincerity, directing his words to the Nazis in the dock, who had set out to conquer his world.
ON THAT first day the United States of America, the French Republic, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics accused the prisoners in the dock of crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and a common plan of conspiracy to commit these crimes, naming the men indicted, and also brought the further charge that the following groups or organizations to which they had belonged should be declared criminal by reason of their aims and the means used in accomplishing their aims: the Reich Cabinet; the leadership corps of the Nazi Party; the group commonly known as the SS; the secret state police, commonly called the Gestapo; the organization commonly known as the SA; and the General Staff and High Command of the German armed forces.
The next day Hermann Wilhelm Göring, Rudolf Hess, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Wilhelm Keitel, Alfred Rosenberg, Hans Frank, Wilhelm Frick, Julius Streicher, Walter Funk, Hjalmar Schacht, Karl Dönitz, Erich Raeder, Baldur von Schirach, Fritz Sauckel, Alfred Jodi, Franz von Papen, Artur SeyssInquart, Albert Speer, Constantin von Neurath, and Hans Fritzsche rose, each in turn, and said that he did not feel guilty, using such answers as “I declare myself in the sense of the indictment not guilty” — “Nein” — “I have a clear conscience before God and my people” — “Before God, the world, and the German people I am guilty in no respect” — “Guilty not at all.”
When it came time for Robert H. Jackson to speak, as chief prosecuting counsel for the United States, his phrases were none the less effective because of their studied moderation. He condensed the crimes of many years into twenty thousand words. He reminded his listeners: “Civilization can afford no compromise with social forces which would regain renewed strength if we dealt ambiguously or indecisively with the men in whom these forces lived.”
He summed up their crimes by saying: “They took from the German people all those dignities and freedoms that we hold natural and inalienable rights in every human being. The people were compensated by inflaming and gratifying hatreds toward those who were marked as ‘scapegoats.’
“Against their opponents, including Jews, Catholics and free labor, the Nazis directed such a campaign of arrogance, brutality and annihilation as the world has not witnessed since the pre-Christian ages. They excited the German ambition to be a ‘master race,’which, of course, implies serfdom for others. They led their people on a mad gamble for domination. They diverted social energies and resources to the creation of what they thought to be an invincible war machine.”
Using undeniable evidence of almost incredible events, — events well known to those of us who have been near to Nazism, — he built our United States case out of the multitude of Nazi documents which have come into our soldiers’ hands since the military victory, and declared: “The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored because it cannot survive their being repeated.”
At no time when I studied them did the men in the dock have any appearance of troubled conscience. They shifted position, stared, or looked about uneasily.
The prison psychiatrist, Major Douglas M. Kelley, has concluded that their I.Q. level is not lower than that of the average man. Hjalmar Schacht, Karl Dönitz, and Hermann Göring rate far above the average; they are in the mental class of the highly intelligent. As a group of personalities, the psychiatrist has found that they complemented one another, making an effective team. They are an example of what can happen in human society when men turn away from the principles of humanity on which civilization, as we define it, has been based.
Traveling during recent months in various parts of Germany, I frequently encountered men who had found parts of the documentary evidence of which Mr. Jackson spoke. These papers and films, neatly packed and filed, were stowed away in caves in the mountains, in house cupboards, in office safes so stoutly made that they survived bomb and fire, and in other places widely scattered. I have been puzzled as to why the Nazis kept these detailed accounts. So have our soldiers, who keep discovering them.
Nothing I have learned from life has so confounded me as have these pages of cool, careful, methodical reporting done through more than a decade by Nazi industrialists, government officials, and professional militarists who have recorded in plainly written words their accomplishments, their experiments, and their intentions. It seems to me that they pridefully kept these records so that the people they allowed to survive might know what they did and celebrate them for it.
While I sat in the court at Nürnberg my thoughts sometimes went back to other courts I had attended. At Dachau, I listened while forty men rose and said, “Not guilty”; yet they did not deny the deeds done there or dispute the fact that they in the dock had done them. At the concentration camp in Dachau not only were men and women beaten and tortured and put to death for racial reasons or political opinions: they were also used — as the Himmler records show — by the thousand for medical experiments.
In the court at Wiesbaden, where Nazi men and a woman were brought to trial for killing the sick with injections, I saw a German woman in the audience crying all through an afternoon, and when the court adjourned for the day I went to speak to her. She was a nice-looking woman, dressed in a well-cut suit and wearing a good-quality green hat with a veil. She pushed up the veil, dried her eyes, and then talked with me.
“It is kind of you to ask why I cry,” she said. “No — I am not kin to any of the defendants. I cannot help crying. It’s hard. It’s hard that there are two worlds. You victors cannot understand. We belong to two different worlds of thought. The difference isn’t national. It’s in ideology.”
While I was in Germany when the Nazis were in power, they were teaching a song which has the line: “ Mit uns zieht die neue Zeit (With us comes the new day).” To many millions that day was night.