On today’s date, October 16, in 1946 at eleven minutes past 1:00 a.m. ten men, all of them convicted of war crimes by the (above, l to r, front, Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess, Joachim von Ribbentrop, back, Karl Doenitz, and Baldur von Schirach) International Tribunal at Nuremburg and sentenced to die by the hangman, each mounted the gallows at Spandau prison in Nuremburg, Germany. and were all hung. They had all been convicted of crimes against humanity, crimes against peace and various war crimes. In a trial which had been the first of its kind in history and which had lasted ten months, before judges from the Allied Powers, the United States, Great Britain, France and Russia, they had all had defense counsel, and they all had lost.
“A drab assortment of mediocrities…”
William L. Shirer (above), who had spent much time in Germany as a journalist before the war, and was now covering their trial, couldn’t help notice the change in these men. Where once they had been the arrogant, strutting wielders of absolute power over millions, now they looked small, pitiful, and frightened:
“There had been quite a metamorphosis. Attired in rather shabby clothes, slumped in their seats fidgeting nervously, they no longer resembled the arrogant leaders of old. They seemed to be a drab assortment of mediocrities. It seemed difficult to grasp that such men, when last you had seen them, had wielded such monstrous power, that such as they could conquer a great nation, and most of Europe.
Rudolf Hess, who had been the number three man… his face now emaciated, his deep set eyes staring vacantly into space.. Ribbentrop (Hitler’s Foreign Minister), at last shorn of his arrogance and pompousness looking pale, bent and beaten. Julius Streicher
(Propagandist – above, top), the Jew-baiter of Nuremburg was there. This sadist and pornographer, whom I had once seen striding through the old town brandishing a whip, seemed to have wilted. A bald, decrepit-looking old man, he sat perspiring profusely, glaring at the judges… There was Fritz Sauckel (above, bottom), the boss of slave labor in the Third Reich, his narrow little slit eyes giving him a porcine (piggish) appearance…”
Hess went to jail for the rest of his life in Spandau Prison in which he committed suicide in August of 1987 at age 93. But the rest of this crew of murderers and liars including Ribbentrop, Streicher, and Sauckel, as well as seven others went to the gallows on today’s date.
And Then There Was Fat Hermann…
Fat Hermann Goering, the depraved, drug-addicted, and corrupt accomplice to Hitler in everything from statecraft, to war-making, to murder of Jews and political opponents managed to cheat the hangman. Proud to have his place as the number one man even in this brigade of scum, he would have been the first to hang, but ceded that position to Ribbentrop when he committed suicide just hours before his date with the hangman, by swallowing a poison pill which had been smuggled to him. Goering was described by British lawyer Airey Neave:
“Goering was a mixture of bluff and moral cowardice. He refused to meet my eyes, but I could see that his were small and greedy. His voice was that of a middle-aged, crooked sybarite (a person devoted to pleasure and luxury). The fat man in endless screenplays who leads the gang of killers from his expensive dinner table is Goering, but he was far more shrewd and dangerous than any celluloid character.”
But in the end, the fat man wound up on a slab having his picture taken along with the rest of these murderers and criminals. Their bodies were then cremated, and their ashes dumped in secret in an un-named river.
“The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” by William L. Shirer, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1960
“Nuremburg” by Airey Naive, Grafton Books, London, 1978