- Historic Sites
Nuremberg, Time And Memory
JUSTICE SERVED NEARLY FIFTY YEARS AGO IN A WRECKED GERMAN CITY STILL CASTS ITS EIGHT AND SHADOW OVER MUCH OF THE WORLD
July/August 1994 | Volume 45, Issue 4
A SENSATION OF PARALLEL TIME. of one eye fixed on the present and the other focused on the past, of one ear hearing the moment and the other distant echoes, was there from the beginning of the project. Nuremberg 1945, San Miguel de Allende 1991. The two places might as well have been on different planets. The old colonial town clinging to Mexico’s Sierra Madre Occidental is something of a demiparadise, if the country remains reasonably stable. The other, in 1945, was the city as cemetery, with rubble for monuments and the stench of death in the air. What could link these two places and eras?
I was spending the winter in San Miguel, an artist’s colony a hundred and fifty miles northwest of Mexico City, at the time I signed a contract with Viking Penguin to write a book on the Nuremberg war-crimes trial, the prosecution of twenty-two leading Nazis conducted by an international tribunal of American, British, French, and Soviet justices in 1945–46. Why one is drawn to a particular theme can be a mystery, even to the writer. In this case I had carried in my memory since the age of fifteen a wire-service photo of Hermann Goering, face contorted in death, just after he had cheated the Nuremberg hangman by committing suicide. To one too young to have fought in World War II, but old enough to have been shaped by growing up during that conflict, the trial and execution of the leading Nazis were deeply satisfying. Nuremberg seemed to say that good must eventually triumph over evil, a perception stronger in a teen-age boy than in a man now in his sixties. Over the intervening years I wrote other books. But the image of the dead Goering persisted, and finally I decided to write about Nuremberg. I had no intention, however, of telling the story as legal history, for that had already been done often and well. I wanted to capture the human drama it had to have been.
At a San Miguel cocktail party a friend asked what I was currently working on. I explained about Nuremberg and said that I would soon have to leave to start the new project. She pointed to our hostess, an erect, stately Scot, Katherine Walch. “Katy was at Nuremberg, you know,” she said.
The historian’s silent partner is serendipity. Katy Walch had indeed worked as a researcher in the prosecution’s Defense Rebuttal Section, gathering evidence to puncture the predicted defenses of the Nazis. She apparently never threw anything away and for more than forty years had carried halfway around the world large portions of the trial transcript, which she placed at my disposal.
THE TRIAL TURNED OUT TO HAVE BEEN LARGELY A YOUNG PERSON’S GAME, AND A GRATIFYING NUMBER OF PROSECUTORS, RESEARCHERS, AND CLERKS WERE STILL ALIVE.
Instead of leaving, I found myself working in the garden of a Mexican villa, absorbed in old, flaking mimeographed pages and interviewing an eyewitness to history. Katy Walch had gone to Germany in the thirties to work as an au pair in the home of the Donasch-Lovittens, a wealthy family that supported Adolf Hitler as a bulwark against communism. She was told one day that a distinguished guest would be arriving, Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS. After lunch, Herr Donasch-Lovitten proposed a croquet match, and Himmler chose Katy as his partner. “He cheated,” she recalled, with icy Scottish disdain more than half a century later. “He nudged the ball through the wicket with his foot, and they all pretended not to notice. ‘How brilliantly the Reichsführer plays.’ That’s what they said!” After the war Katy Walch’s command of German brought her back to the country and to the Nuremberg staff.
I continued working, chickens crowing outside, peddlers hawking, oblivious of it all, transported to 1945, lost in the half-mad rambles of Rudolf Hess speaking from the Nuremberg dock or the testimony of a Buchenwald survivor describing Nazi medical experiments. I sat in the town square surrounded by frolicking, brown-skinned, coal-eyed kids, but seeing only what I had just read in the trial record of the fate of children at Auschwitz.
With the Mexican lode finally worked out, I returned to the United States to face my chief concern. What new could be said about Nuremberg? Serendipity helped again. Alumni of the trial had just held a forty-fifth anniversary reunion in Washington, D.C. and in so doing had prepared an alumni directory. I managed to obtain a copy. The trial turned out to have been largely a young person’s game, and a gratifying number of prosecutors, researchers, law clerks, interpreters, and translators were still alive; few had ever talked to an author about the trial. Former guards described to me seeming eternities spent staring through portholes into the cells of Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, Joachim von Ribbentrop, and Albert Speer, breaking the monotony by obtaining their charges’ autographs and selling them to souvenir seekers. The bodyguard of the U.S. chief prosecutor, an infantry sergeant, Moritz Fuchs, who had been wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, told me how what he heard day after day in the courtroom influenced his calling to the priesthood. The prison commandant’s secretary described the turmoil in her chief’s office the day one defendant, the Nazi labor chief, Dr. Robert Ley, managed to commit suicide. Talking to these people, I began to feel the aura of the courtroom, to sense the confines of the jail cells, and smell the bombed-out corpse of the city chosen for the trial.
Today the bulk of Nuremberg documents is housed in the National Archives in Washington, maintained by the Center for Captured German Records. I liked that name. It transported me to still-smoking battlefields or a Wehrmacht Hauptquartier seized yesterday, not half a century ago. Archives officials led me past 1,171 Nuremberg file boxes, each somewhat larger than the Manhattan phone book, stored on steel shelves and spread over two floors of the building. What did all this represent? Fields plowed to the point of depletion? Plots still able to yield a respectable harvest of history? With luck, some unworked virgin patches?
Files marked “Miscellaneous” should never be bypassed. In one I found a typed, single-spaced twelve-page report. Three names leaped from it, men then young, later to become well-known figures in America: John Kenneth Galbraith, George Ball, and Paul Nitze. In 1945 they were involved in the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, trying to assess the impact of the air offensive against the Third Reich. They had interviewed a prize witness, Reich minister for armaments and war production, Albert Speer, at a point before Speer knew that he would become a Nuremberg defendant. The German people, the patrician Speer explained, had been cheated of victory by leaders largely of humble origins, men unaccustomed to power and luxury and temperamentally ill equipped to handle either. God, displeased by this wayward lot, therefore took sides, Speer told the Americans. The deity inflicted an unusually harsh winter on the Russian front in 1941–42, fogged in Stalingrad to prevent air resupply of the encircled German armies in 1943, and cleared the skies over the Ardennes in 1944 so that Allied air power could blunt the German offensive in the Battle of the Bulge. This document helped me decipher Speer and presaged the defense strategy he would employ at Nuremberg. It displayed his gift for saying what people wanted to hear and for making it all sound sincere, as this technocrat turned himself into a moralist, largely, I came to suspect, to save his skin.
The research path led me to Columbia University’s oral history collection. There, in Butler Library, I pored over the reminiscences of Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court associate justice, America’s chief prosecutor at the trial. As I left the campus, I passed by students, Walkmans plugged into their ears, listening to God knows what. In my ears the almost nineteenth-century cadences of Jackson’s language were still ringing, as he described how he went about writing his opening address to the tribunal, a masterpiece of courtroom oratory: “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.”
From documents at the Franklin Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, I could listen in as FDR’s confidant and speechwriter Samuel Rosenman tried to persuade the President that a trial was preferable to Roosevelt’s early inclination to shoot war criminals out of hand. Rosenman had been in England arguing the same point with Winston Churchill, who also favored drumhead justice, when FDR died suddenly on April 12, 1945.
I had come to Hyde Park particularly to research the papers of James Rowe, one of Roosevelt’s determinedly anonymous White House aides, who later became a key adviser to the American judge on the Nuremberg court, Francis Biddle. I felt a shiver of foreboding while reading Rowe’s memos to his chief recommending death for certain defendants. Of Albert Speer, Rowe wrote that he had shown “complete ruthlessness and unfeeling efficiency in the application of a program which took five million into slave labor and countless numbers to their death.” Biddle had apparently been swayed by the argument. On the first ballot he voted to hang Speer, deadlocking the count at 2–2. Even with the outcome known, the suspense was undiminished. What would Biddle do on the next ballot? We learn that he later changed his vote, and Speer was spared death, though given a twenty-year sentence.
I came to know Francis Biddle better in the scholarly silence of the Syracuse University library’s special-collections room. Thus far, to me, Biddle had been only a remote Main Line Philadelphian and former U.S. Attorney General. But as I held in my hands the letters he wrote his wife from Nuremberg, his vanities and vulnerabilities rose from the pages. He might not be the de jure president of the Nuremberg court, Biddie told her, but he was certainly its leader de facto, far more influential than the Britisher, Lord Geoffrey Lawrence, who held the formal post. (“I really do run this show and have won on every point.” And writing on another occasion: “Lawrence never has a thought of his own … though he does make an admirable presiding officer.”) On the train home from Syracuse, I rode with Francis Biddle, recalling his voice, by turns proud, humorous, malicious, always human.
Research next took me, with my wife, Sylvia, to Europe. During the interview phase I had put a stock question to the trial alumni: “What was your immediate impression on arriving in Nuremberg?” From the mosaic of answers, I had composed a picture in my mind that was about to be tested by present reality. In 1945 the U.S. Army had found Nuremberg 90 percent destroyed and had declared it a “dead city.” Nurembergers have long since lifted the Alte Stadt , the old town, from its ruins. Gabled roofs, timbered eaves, arched doorways, and flower boxes again evoked the city center’s medieval past. But it was a veneer. Thermal windows, the newness of carpentry and masonry all made clear that we were seeing a version of what had been, “Old Europe” in an almost theme-park setting. As I gazed out our hotel window, the patina of restoration dissolved into a lunar landscape of desolation, a neo-cave world where people lived in cellars under wrecked houses and cooked outdoors over oil drums, while kerchiefed women in unraveling sweaters shoveled paths beneath the rubble and one-legged veterans of the Afrika Korps scavenged garbage cans outside former SS barracks where GIs now bunked.
We exited a street-car on Fürther-strasse before a huge Gothic edifice, gray and frowning, the “Palace of Justice,” site of the trial. This courthouse and the city’s luxury hotel, the Grand, were among a handful of buildings still standing after eleven Allied air raids had flattened Nuremberg. The Soviet judge, I. T. Nikitchenko, once jokingly remarked to Francis Biddle that sparing two such useful structures had to have been deliberate, and the Russian expressed his admiration for the pinpoint precision of Allied bombers. Today the yard before the court-house is filled with late-model BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes, and Volkswagens. But I see instead jeeps and staff cars, GIs tossing footballs, the four-nation honor guards trying to outdo one another in precision drill as Allied prosecutors and drably attired German defense lawyers nod in passing.
Dr. Klaus Kastner, vice president of the Nuremberg-Fürth District Court, greets us. Judge Kastner, a smiling, boyish mid-fifties, is natty in a three-piece suit, a floppy bow tie, and rimless glasses. “I will take you to the famous Room 600,” he announces. As we mount a marble staircase, I wonder what my reaction will be, or what it should be, on entering the courtroom that I have been living in vicariously for two years.
The room is smaller than I expected and too brightly lit to suit the somber picture in my memory (though I knew at the time that it was harshly illuminated by fluorescent lighting so that the photographers could shoot without the distraction of flashbulbs). Three black-robed judges are sitting on the bench, questioning the defendant in a drug case. My thoughts drift beyond the young blond, slack-jawed defendant. I see instead, Hermann Goering in the dock, occupying the corner seat, alternately bullying his fellow defendants or regaling them with hamhanded humor. I see the once imperious Nazi foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, now dressed as if by a ragpicker, the notorious Jew-baiter Julius Streicher chomping on PX gum, and the hulking, scar-faced Ernst Kaltenbrunner, overseer of the Gestapo and concentration camps, who cries for his family when he returns to his cell.
ZEPPELIN FIELD IS THE PERFECT SHRINE TO NAZISM, THE OVERWHELMING AND THE OVERBEARING BROUGHT LOW, VAINGLORY IN DECAY. A DEAD PLACE.
Dr. Kastner was nine years old during the trial. Over lunch I ask him if he can reconstruct that world. What did the trial mean to his family, to their neighbors? “Who cared?” he says with a dismissive wave. “We were hungry, homeless, happy if we found a piece of soap. For us, the trial was happening on the moon.”
On our last night in Nuremberg we dine at the Heilige Gleis Spital, a restaurant that manages to combine size with Gemütlichkeit . The aura of defeated Germany intrudes again. Our waitress is attractive in a brassy, hardfaced, bleached-blonde way. She could not have been born until at least a decade after the war-crimes trial ended. Yet I see in her a 1945 Nuremberg prototype, recalled from a dozen interviews, a young woman in a city essentially without its young men. Clad in a skirt made from a U.S. Army blanket with a desperate touch of red piping added, she is supporting her family through feminine wiles and PX largess garnered in GI liaisons. That person could have been this woman’s mother, or her aunt, as they struggled for daily survival after the war.
Most landmarks of shame are obliterated or given over to uses that conceal their past. The site of the former Gestapo headquarters in Berlin was, by 1991, an empty lot, a tangle of weeds, sealed off by fencing. Hitler’s Reich chancellery, designed by Albert Speer, was now the site of construction begun after the Berlin Wall came down. Zeppelin Field, just outside Nuremberg, however, remains exactly what the historian hopes for, a recognizable ruin.
We enter the stadium through a crumbling archway. Not another soul appears on a field where a quarter of a million Nazis gathered in annual Parteitag displays of chilling conformity. The massive grandstand, constructed of tiers of concrete seats, is chipped and broken. Weeds sprout in the cracks. Scars are still visible at the top of the grandstand, where American troops blasted a crowning swastika to bits. I walk out onto a small platform ringed by a rusted rail. Time dissolves. Adolf Hitler is standing on this very spot, intoxicating the party faithful with his brew of Aryan pride and racial hate. Every defendant whose life I am tracing stood with Hitler on these stone ramparts: Goering swollen in girth and ego; Hess ablaze with manic zeal; Alfred Rosenberg, the party “philosopher”; Speer, choreographer of the rallies, whose shallow genius conceived cathedrals of light thrown up against the night sky by hundreds of searchlights, billowing banners taller than three-story buildings, and thousands of torchbearers painting a hellish glow on the horizon. I hear a quarter-million voices shouting an incantation that washes in waves over the stadium, “ Ein Volk! Ein Reich! Ein Führer !” How empty and silent the stadium is now! Zeppelin Field is the perfect shrine to Nazism, the overwhelming and the overbearing brought low, vainglory in decay. A dead place.
Cracow had two purposes: to provide clues to the life of the Nuremberg defendant Hans Frank and to serve as a jumping-off point for Auschwitz, some thirty miles away. Frank has a certain perverse appeal. Among the defendants here was one whose motivations could be grasped, if not admired, in familiar terms. My first lead had surfaced in a file box I found at the National Archives labeled “Dossiers.” Among the dry data on places of birth, parents’ names, schools attended, posts held, wives, children, and party members, I discovered the English translation of notes a Polish journalist had taken during a 1945 interview with Frank’s mistress, Lilli Gau. In these yellowed pages the man materialized. Frank, just out of law school, had been denied the hand of his beloved Lilli because she was rich and aristocratic and he was the middle-class son of a disbarred shyster. Frank set as his goal to win those badges whose absence had cost him his true love—wealth, power, and respectability—but the route he chose tended to corrode as much as elevate. His climb up the slippery pole began before the Nazis came to power when Hitler made Frank the party’s lawyer, defender of Brown Shirt bullies and race-baiting zealots. When the Nazis took over, Frank became Germany’s minister of justice and president of the German Academy of Law, all by age thirty-three. He lived in sumptuous villas surrounded by servants and had his children chauffeured to exclusive schools. With the Nazi victory over Poland in 1939, Frank announced to his wife, Brigitte, that she was going to become a “queen.” Hitler had named Frank governor-general of the conquered Poles.
We are standing in the courtyard of Cracow’s Wawel Castle on a bitter-cold November morning. A few feet-stomping, ruby-faced postcard peddlers line the cobblestone approach to the castle. Except for a handful of tourists, the grounds are nearly empty. Yet I hear a Daimler-Benz touring car roar into the courtyard, staff vehicles trailing in its dust. Poland’s new ruler jumps out, uniform crisp, boots gleaming, hands clasped behind his back, neck craning as he gazes at the swastika flying from the castle’s highest turret. From this palace, once the seat of Polish kings, Frank will rule with as much power as any absolute monarch.
I WONDERED WHY MOST OF US DO NOT MAKE FAUSTIAN BARGAINS AS HANS FRANK DID. BECAUSE WE ARE SO GOOD OR BECAUSE THEY ARE NEVER OFFERED?
The richness of Wawel is almost indigestible, throne rooms, ballrooms, reception halls all covered in tooled red leather. Medieval tapestries stretch from floor to ceiling, their figures twice life-size. Our guide makes no mention of the use to which Wawel Castle was put between 1939 and 1944. Only my persistent questions lead us to the artencrusted salon that Frank used as his office and from which he earned the title Jew Butcher of Cracow.
I could feel Frank’s presence at the head of a long, carved table, surrounded by flunkies, calculating how best to steal Poland’s wheat, kidnap its workers, and exterminate its Jews. And I wondered why most of us do not make Faustian bargains as he did. Because we are so good or because they are never offered?
Writing about the trial imposed no necessity to go to Auschwitz. Every horror perpetrated there is fully documented in those 1,171 file boxes in Washington. But I needed more than the feel of old papers in a file box. I wanted to bear witness.
We pass through a grilled gate. Overhead, wrought-iron letters proclaim the familiar Nazi mockery ARBEIT MACHT FREI , (“Work will free you”). We engage an English-speaking guide and set out with a disparate band, three West Indians and two blond young men of Slavic mien, one of whom carries a bouquet of roses.
We move through a red-brick building, its walls covered with photo blowups of the victims’ arrival, followed by the separation of the healthy and employable from the old, the sick, the young—those immediately doomed. We turn a corner, and an avalanche of shoes spills forward, every size, every style. The soles are ripped open. The guards would have been looking for hidden valuables, our guide explains. I do not want to remember an anonymous pile. I fix my eyes on a single pair of women’s shoes, pink, delicate, and try to imagine them worn to a dance. A party? A wedding?
Another corridor reveals a small mountain of eyeglasses, thousands of pairs, then another of brushes: shaving brushes, toothbrushes, shoe brushes, hairbrushes. I stand before heaps of battered luggage, the leather dried and stiffened by time. Names are stenciled in white letters on many pieces. New arrivals had been told to mark their bags so that they could reclaim them later. I stare at one case: “Eva Pandor.” Was she Hungarian, Czech, Polish? Was she young? Old? Beautiful? Is it possible Eva Pandor survived?
One display, from a distance, is an unintelligible jumble. As we approach, the items come into focus: back braces, leg braces, wooden legs, mechanical hands, crutches, wheelchairs. Behind another glass pane, mounds of hair are piled, all gray. I ask the guide, Were the victims segregated by age? No, he says, the gas turned all hair gray.
Our guide takes us before a simple gallows. A plaque informs us that here, in 1947, the Poles hanged the Auschwitz commandant, Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Hoess. I have read Hoess’s cool recitation of how the assembly line of death worked in the Nuremberg trial transcript. This, the guide says, concludes the tour.
But where is the Auschwitz glimpsed in a hundred photographs, in dozens of newsreels and documentaries? The red-brick buildings, just toured, we learn, were the retail division of Commandant Hoess’s abattoir. Nearby Birkenau was the wholesale operation. I am informed at an information booth that today, being a Polish holiday, there will be no tours to Birkenau. After we have traveled these thousands of miles, the news is a blow. I find out, however, that a busload of Austrian tourists, with their own guide, is going there. When we track them down, I explain that I am writing on Nuremberg, slip the driver a fistful of zlotys, and we are allowed to stand in the aisle. A fellow passenger tells me the group are all Viennese, all Jewish, all with family lost to the Holocaust.
Birkenau comes into sight on the Polish plain. This is the Auschwitz seared into memory, guard towers spiked with machine guns, electrified barbed-wire fences, miles of weathered wooden barracks. Soon after we enter the main gate, an elderly Viennese, wearing a fedora and a plaid overcoat, asks the bus driver to stop. She sets off purposefully toward a distant barracks. The woman is going to the shed where she was liberated forty-six years ago.
We are standing in a semicircle around the guide in one of the barracks. She gestures toward scarred, stained three-tiered bunks and explains how many bodies were crowded into each. She points to a crude pit and tells us that it served the natural functions of a thousand women daily. The floor is earthen, and I can feel the cold and damp through my shoes on this raw day. I tremble in my thick, lined jacket. My wife’s face looks blue with cold. I close my eyes, and listening to our guide’s brisk, clipped German, I can imagine an SS matron spelling out the camp rules to a batch of shivering newcomers during another cold long-ago November. Those inmates wore nothing but striped cotton uniforms, thin, cheap, reused again and again. I remember one camp survivor telling me that in winter the guards enjoyed dousing the prisoners with a fire hose.
The effect of Auschwitz is to overwhelm and numb, to rob us of defining words. The silence is defeating. What can these soundless sheds, these tidied-up husks tell us? The imagination must supply the stench, the moans, the shrieking, day in and day out, that became as common as traffic noise in a city.
I have interviewed 8th Air Force veterans who bombed Germany. They spoke wryly about carrying out “instant urban renewal.” Nowhere is the effect of their labors more evident than in Berlin, my final stop abroad. What was rebuilt in West Berlin resembles nothing so much as a limitless expanse of pricey shopping plazas. The preserved ruins of the bombed-out Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial church on the Kurfiirstendamm retains more wounded grace and dignity than any of the antiseptic postwar structures that surround it. Former East Berlin, with its mile upon mile of soulless housing flats, makes West Berlin look almost quaint.
The Berlin Documents Center is located at the end of a secluded street in a wooded residential suburb. From the outside the center looks like any large, comfortable home, its official character betrayed only by a high fence and a sign reading HALT . One can easily imagine it as the residence of a midlevel Third Reich bureaucrat, later taken over as a CIA safe house during the long, covert Cold War waged between East and West Berlin.
The center is still being run by the Americans. That situation is soon to end, we are informed by the director, David Marwell. The Germans are eager to take over this repository of World War II records, and will do so in July, forty-nine years after V-E Day, under an agreement signed last fall. Past and present again intertwine. The Center’s old Nazi membership lists are invaluable for establishing pension rights. Service in the Waffen SS, for example, the military arm of Heinrich Himmler’s dread apparatus, is pensionable in Germany.
I locate here unpublished documents describing how Allied officials worked out the plan for executing the men condemned at Nuremberg. The victors faced a dilemma. They wanted not a trace to remain of these people, not a grave, an urn, a relic, nothing that could one day become a shrine. And so they had the executed men, plus the suicide Goering, cremated and their ashes dumped secretly into an obscure stream. On the other hand, they wanted the world to know beyond a doubt that these Nazis were dead. No myths were to sprout of a Goering, a Frank, a Kaltenbrunner living on in some Alpine aerie or South American sanctuary. I was now looking at the Allies’ solution. The earthly remains were indeed obliterated. But first photographs were taken of Goering and the men just hanged, left, right, frontally, and stripped naked. Most of these pictures had never been released.
THE GERMANS ARE EAGER TO TAKE OVER THEIR WORLD WAR II RECORDS; SERVICE IN THE WAFFEN SS, FOR INSTANCE, HIMMLER’S MILITARY ARM, IS PENSIONABLE.
I am in a motel just off Interstate 25 in Colorado Springs, gazing out the window at a cloudless sky and the encroaching Rockies. The stunning view breaks a spell. I have been in this room for five days surrounded by cardboard boxes. They hold the papers of Col. Burton C. Andrus, commandant of the Nuremberg prison during the trial. They have been provided to me by his son, Burt, Jr., a retired Air Force officer now living in Colorado Springs.
The Andrus papers contain everything from a top-secret order covering up one of the three prisoner suicides that occurred at Nuremberg to the defendants’ psychological profiles. As I resume my search, the motel room recedes and the stale imprisoned air of Cellblock C envelops me. I see a POW trusty delivering books to the defendants. I know what the Nazis read from checkout slips. I know what they had for breakfast on any given day and the date of their last rectal examination. I feel the winter damp of dingy masonry walls, hear GI guards annoying the prisoners with endless choruses of “Pistol Packin’ Mama.” It is all here in dog-eared folders, old mimeographed reports, smudged third carbons.
I know that an insomniac Ribbentrop praised the medical staff for the “superior” American sleeping pills provided to him. The pills were actually placebos, baking soda packed into capsules to dupe this chronic whiner. I know that Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, with Prussian stoicism, sat up all night without sleeping rather than report an excruciating boil on his neck, that Julius Streicher complained bitterly about the guards’ idea of fun. A GI had tied a tiny noose with a piece of string. He then dangled it in front of the spotlight directed into Streicher’s cell during the night. The shadow of the noose was projected against the back wall, life-size. At that point the guard wakened Streicher, who, seeing the swaying rope, screamed hysterically.
I interviewed Burt Andrus, Jr., at length about his father, the commandant. The son was not an openly sentimental man, this West Pointer, World War II squadron leader, and SAC commander during the Cold War. But when he spoke of his father’s dying day, his voice cracked. Colonel Andrus, then eighty-five, called out from his sickbed, “Goering’s committed suicide! I have to tell the Quadripartite Commission.” His son found the old soldier struggling to pull on his pants. An hour later he was dead. The Goering suicide pictured in the wire service photo and etched in my memory for all these years had haunted this man, too, and more understandably.
I was writing about a trial that took place in Germany and that ended in 1946. But for me, shards of Nuremberg surfaced and the story took on life in a small Mexican town, in an upstate New York college library, in a Colorado motel room, and a dozen other sites far from that frowning courthouse in a once dead German city. Again and again I was reminded that history is portable and that it does indeed persist on parallel planes of time.