Finally, justice could have its day

first_img The trial established the offenses of crimes against peace, waging a war of aggression, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Its legacy can be seen in the cases under way or being prepared against former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and the leaders of the genocide in Rwanda. It was also a precursor to today’s international system of justice, said Johann-Georg Schaetzler, one of Hess’ defense attorneys. “It set the precedent for the establishment of the international criminal court, which was needed,” Schaetzler, 84, told The Associated Press. Prosecutors were able to rely on the Nazis’ own meticulous records for much of their case, as well as hundreds of statements – with witnesses often recounting the greatest horrors with the utmost banality, Harris recalled. He remembered interrogating Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hess for three days, taking a statement that would later be used to prosecute him for war crimes and send him to the gallows. “Hess was a very unimpressive individual,” Harris said. “He looked like a clerk at a grocery store. Hhe didn’t look like a big Nazi or murderer or anything like that, but he was responsive to my questions. “I asked Hess. ‘How many men, women and children did you murder in this camp,’ and he told me, just like this gentleman sitting next to me, 2.5 million. … I said to him, but the conditions were terrible. How many people died of starvation or disease or reasons other than the gas chambers, and he said another half million.” As a young journalist covering the trials for the German DANA news agency, Susanne von Paczensky said, she was proud to be one of the few local reporters sending stories about the Nazis’ crimes back to the German people. “The trial was the chance to take those to court who were responsible for everything,” said von Paczensky, 82, who is part Jewish and lost relatives in the Holocaust. On Oct. 1, 1946, Goering – Adolf Hitler’s air force chief and a top aide – was sentenced to death along with 11 others, including Streicher, an anti-Jewish propagandist, and Martin Bormann, Hitler’s vanished private secretary, who was tried in absentia. Hess, Hitler’s deputy, and six others drew long prison sentences. Three were acquitted. Fifteen days later, the condemned men were hanged in the courthouse’s adjacent prison. Goering committed suicide by swallowing a poison pill in his cell the night before. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! NUREMBERG, Germany – American prosecutor Whitney R. Harris gazed at the top Nazis in front of him – men like Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess, Julius Streicher – as their war crimes trial opened 60 years ago, and immediately he knew his mission. Later, he would reflect on the significance of the landmark trial at Nuremberg: the establishment of charges like “war crimes” in a new international law and the principle that individuals could be held responsible for their aggression. On Nov. 20, 1945, the 33-year-old Harris sought justice for the 21 Nazis on trial. “These were evil men, and what they did was our task to expose, and we did get the evidence and we were able to do so,” Harris said. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals Harris, now 93, returned Sunday with three witnesses to Courtroom 600 in the Nuremberg Palace of Justice, where the trials were held, to mark the anniversary. Arno Hamburger, 82, recalled seeing many of the defendants at the Nazis’ annual rallies in Nuremberg before he fled the country because he was Jewish. “It was a very depressing feeling that the people in the dock considered themselves innocent and upright citizens who had only been in secondary positions,” said Hamburger, who sat in on some of the trial before joining the court as a simultaneous interpreter for follow-up trials of more than 100 Nazis over the next three years. When it ended, however, Hamburger said his “feeling was that, finally, in spite of all the atrocities, justice won over.” Over 218 trial days, the high-ranking Nazis faced a panel of judges that represented the victorious Allies – the United States, Soviet Union, Britain and France. last_img

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