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Executions at Nuremberg

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Nazi_death1

Above clockwise: Streicher, Jodl, Sauckel, Frick, Ribbentrop; below, clockwise from topright, Keitel, Rosenberg, Seyss-Inquart, Frank, Kaltenbrunner, Goering.

Nazi_death2Although the Nuremberg Trials had been a media circus, only a selected group of reporters were allowed into the execution chambers of the Nazi war criminals. The authorities feared that the Nazi leaders would get sympathy or they would become martyrs if the executions turned into a media spectacle. Eight journalists from Big Four countries were selected by lottery, but only one photographer (and he was from U.S. Army) was allowed behind the close doors to report the last moments inside the prison.

The French judges suggested the use of a firing squad for the military condemned, but the other judges deemed undignified execution by hanging more appropriate. The hangings were carried out on 16 October 1946 by the executioner John C. Woods. Of the 12 defendants sentenced to death by hanging, two were not hanged: Hermann Göring committed suicide the night before the execution and Martin Bormann was not present when convicted. The remaining 10 defendants sentenced to death were hanged. The bodies were brought to Dachau and burned (the final use of the crematories there) with the ashes then scattered into a river.

The pictures of the executed corpses made by Edward F. McLaughlin (the U.S army photographer) were released in November (to dispel the rumors that the hangings which were conducted secretly, were bungled or never carried out), and were received by much disapproval. Many feared the criminals becoming the martyrs through these pictures. The British government voted against releasing the pictures on moral grounds, and no British publications reproduced them, honoring their government’s desires. The pictures were forbidden in the German press. LIFE magazine, above, however , reproduced them.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

July 30, 2009 at 6:06 am

Nuremberg Prison

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nuremberg-prison.jpg

Above is the photo of the main call block in the Nuremberg prison where the defendants before the International Military Tribunal were incarcerated. It was one of the few photos of the Nuremberg Proceedings that Life Magazine had printed. Accompanying the photo was a short description Life editors wrote: “In the rickety old jail in Nurnberg, Germany last month, 20 of the war’s top Nazi criminals passed their gloomiest Christmas. They got no special Christmans foods, no special Christmas favors from anyone during the trial’s holiday recess. In each six-by-eight cell was a small wodden table and chair, a sprindling iron bunk with straw-filled mattress and an ancient toilet without a seat. Three times a day, they ate plain food out of dented GI mess kits and twice a day, spaced 30 feeet apart, went for 20 minute walts in the tiny prison courtyard spattered with dirth snow. They spent their time reading, smoking and just staring at the bare walls of their dingy cells. At night, they slept without sheets under rough GI blankets. Still they were better off for food and shelter than most of the Europeans out of jail.”

A month earlier, on November 20, 1945, the Nuremberg trials had began. At 6 a.m. the defendants are awakened, fed oatmeal and coffee, shaved, and issued court clothing — uniforms without insignias for soldiers and suits and ties for civilians. At 9 a.m. they are brought through a covered walkway from the prison to an elevator that opens onto the prisoners’ dock in the courtroom, where they take their places on wooden benches in the order listed on the indictment. At 9:30 a.m. the courtroom doors open to 250 journalists. A half hour later, the eight judges enter and the I.M.T. convenes for the first time.

To prevent more suicides like that of Dr. Robert Ley, Germany’s ex-masters were inspected every 30 seconds. Plexiglas repleaced ordinary window glass and cells are searched daily. On entering cells, prisoners are stripped of ties, belts and shoelaces.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

July 7, 2009 at 11:14 pm

Posted in Politics, War

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