Tereska, draws a picture of “home” while living in a residence for disturbed children; Poland, 1948.
Life Magazine: “Tereska Draws Her Home”, photo by David Seymour, Vol. 25, No. 26, December 27, 1948, p. 16.
The original caption reads as follows:
Children’s wounds are not all outward. Those made in the mind by years of sorrow will take years to heal. In Warsaw, at an institute which cares for some of Europe’s thousands of “disturbed” children, a Polish girl named Tereska was asked to make a picture of her home. These terrible scratches are what she drew. (p. 17)
This photograph was taken by Chim (David Seymour) in a home for emotionally disturbed children (Warsaw, 1948). It’s generally agreed upon that the subject, Tereska, was a victim of the Holocaust.
This was part of a series on Europe’s postwar children commissioned by UNICEF.
Tereska’s family had no idea that her photo is famous around the world and used by psychologists to research what war does to children’s mind.
It turns out that Tereska – “Niuńka” as the family called her – has never been to concentration camp. Her drawing may show war, of course, but as children were ask to draw “home” it may show rubble. Tereska’s house was ruined during Warsaw uprising seconds after she and her older sister managed to run away. We don’t know exactly what she experienced since there are no living family members who were there with her, but it happened during Wola massacre so we can just imagine. During bombing a fragment of brick hit Niuńka. Her central nervous system was harmed and ever since she had physical and mental problems.
Tereska died tragically in 1978 in a mental hospital nearby Warsaw.
• More Info (in Polish)
Rudolph Hoss, the Commandant of Auschwitz, trying to avoid the noose, before being hanged on the grounds of Auschwitz; April 16, 1947
Höss introduced pesticide Zyklon B containing hydrogen cyanide to the killing process, thereby allowing soldiers at Auschwitz to murder 2,000 people every hour. He created the largest installation for the continuous annihilation of human beings ever known.
A little Russian girl touches her dead mother just after the liberation of the Ozarichi concentration camp in Belarus; ca. March 1944
Information on the liberation of the Ozarichi death camps.
Hungarian Jewish children and an elderly woman on the way to the death barracks of Auschwitz-Birkenau, ca. May 1944
“From the chimneys of the Vatican, white smoke rises,
a sign the Cardinals have chosen themselves a Pope.
From the crematoria of Auschwitz, black smoke rises,
a sign the conclave of Gods hasn’t yet chosen,
the Chosen People.
After Auschwitz, no theology:
the inmates of extermination bear on their forearms
the telephone numbers of God,
numbers that do not answer
and now are disconnected, one by one.
After Auschwitz, a new theology:
the Jews who died in the Shoah
have now come to be like their God,
who has no likeness of a body and has no body.
They have no likeness of a body and they have no body.”
– Smoke by Jacob Glatstein
Russian slave laborer among prisoners liberated by 3rd Armored Division points out former Nazi guard who brutally beat prisoners, Germany; May 14, 1945.
Geronimo and his warriors. One of the only known photos of Indian combatants still in the field who had not yet surrendered to the United States; ca. March 1886
Polish concentration camp survivor weeping near charred corpse of a friend, in Leipzig, Germany; ca. 1945
This photo was taken by Margaret Bourke-White (who was the first female war correspondent in WWII. Also she’s also the photographer of the iconic Kentucky Flood photo.) She was a badass with a robotic heart. I could have never done what she did and maintained her love of life and compassionate nature.
Otto Frank, Anne Frank’s father and only surviving family member, revisiting the attic; May 3rd, 1960.
August 1, 1944 was the date of Anne Frank’s last diary entry; the last paragraph reads:
Believe me, I’d like to listen, but it doesn’t work, because if I’m quiet and serious, everyone thinks I’m putting on a new act and I have to save myself with a joke, and then I’m not even talking about my own family, who assume I must be ill, stuff me with aspirins and sedatives, feel my neck and forehead to see if I have a temperature, ask about my bowel movements and berate me for being in a bad mood, until I just can’t keep it up any more, because when everybody starts hovering over me, I get cross, then sad, and finally end up turning my heart inside out, the bad part on the outside and the good part on the inside, and keep trying to find a way to become what I’d like to be and what I could be if . . . if only there were no other people in the world.
Yours, Anne M. Frank
Her family was captured 3 days later. Of the 7 people hiding in the Secret Annex, only her father survived the holocaust, and he had her diary published.
A virtual tour of the secret annex, for anyone interested.
Nazi General Anton Dostler is tied to a stake before his execution by a firing squad, Italy; ca. 1945.
General Dostler ordered and oversaw the unlawful execution of fifteen captured US Soldiers. The soldiers were sent behind the German lines with orders to demolish a tunnel that was being used by the German army as a supply route to the front lines. They were captured and upon learning of their mission, Dostler ordered their execution without trial. The US soldiers were wearing proper military uniforms and carried no civilian or enemy clothing and were in compliance with Hague Convention to be considered non-combatants after their surrender. Under the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare, it was legal to execute “spies and saboteurs” disguised in civilian clothes or enemy uniforms but excluded those who were captured in proper uniforms. Since fifteen U.S. soldiers were properly dressed in U.S. uniforms behind enemy lines and not disguised in civilian clothes or enemy uniforms, they were not to be treated as spies but prisoners of war, which Dostler violated. They shot the Americans and buried them in a ditch by their field headquarters.
The general was convicted and sentenced to death by an American Military Tribunal. The trial found General Dostler guilty of war crimes, rejecting the defense of superior orders. He was sentenced to death and shot by a firing squad on December 1, 1945 in Aversa. The execution was photographed on black and white still and movie cameras.
*You can see this photo being taken at 1:22 here:
4 year old Joseph Schleifstein, who survived the Holocaust by being kept hidden by his father, from Nazi officials inside Buchenwald concentration camp, is seen here shortly after his liberation; ca. April 1945
“For a time, Schleifstein was hidden by his father with the help of two anti-fascist German prisoners, but he was eventually discovered. The SS guards took a liking to him and came to treat him as a “camp mascot”, having a small camp uniform made for him and having him take part in morning appells, where he would salute the guard and report, “All prisoners accounted for.”
SA (Sturm Abteilung or “Brownshirts”) call for the boycott of Jewish shops in Friedrichstraße, Berlin; April 1, 1933.
The sign says: “Germans, Attention! This shop is owned by Jews. Jews damage the German economy and pay their German employees starvation wages. The main owner is the Jew Nathan Schmidt.”
57,000 German POWs are marched through Moscow to display the Red Army’s dominance; July 17, 1944.
In June 1944, the Red Army captured the German Army Group Center. This was called Operation Bagration. 185 Soviet divisions with 2.3 million soldiers surrounded and captured or killed the 800,000 members of Army Group Center.
A month later some of the German POWs were transported to Moscow to display to the Soviet people.
Here is a Soviet film of the parade:
The parade was followed by trucks ceremoniously washing the German filth from the streets. The POWs were then transported off to work camps.
Photo of sentencing from the Nuremburg trials. The name of the offender and their punishment next to them, Hess is hidden because Goering was standing up, he received life imprisonment; Oct 1st 1946.
Pretty much all of them served their sentences, and a couple were apparently repentant.
Sentenced to hang:
- Hermann Goering: Committed suicide on the 15/10/46, the day before his execution. (He took a potassium cyanide pill the night before his execution was to take place. He had requested a firing squad like a soldier would receive instead of hanging like a commoner and was denied.)
- Fritz Sauckel: Hanged on the 16/10/46.
- Alfred Jodl: Hanged on the 16/10/46. (One of the three French judges later declared that Jodl should not have been found guilty and hanged. In 1953, the denazification courts in Germany reversed the verdict and returned all of his confiscated property to his widow.)
- Arthur Seyss-Inquart: Hanged on the 16/10/46. (Interesting point, his reaction to the sentence was “Death by hanging… well, in view of the whole situation, I never expected anything different. It’s all right.” He was the last to be hanged and remarked: “I hope that this execution is the last act of the tragedy of the Second World War and that the lesson taken from this world war will be that peace and understanding should exist between peoples. I believe in Germany.”)
- Joachim von Ribbentrop: Hanged on the 16/10/46.
- Wilhelm Keitel: Hanged on the 16/10/46. (Last words “I call on God Almighty to have mercy on the German people. More than 2 million German soldiers went to their death for the fatherland before me. I follow now my sons – all for Germany.”)
- Ernst Kaltenbrunner: Hanged on 16/10/46.
- Alfred Rosenberg: Hanged on 16/10/46. (He was asked if he had any last words and replied “No”.)
- Hans Frank: Hanged on 16/10/46. (He was reportedly very calm and quiet, viewed his sentence as atonement for his sins and gave the last words: “I am thankful for the kind treatment during my captivity and I ask God to accept me with mercy.”)
- Wilhelm Frick: Hanged on 16/10/46. (He was the most afraid and unsteady, and his last words were “Long live eternal Germany”)
- Julius Streicher: Hanged on 16/10/46. (He was entirely unrepentant, and gave 4 last statements: “Heil Hitler” at the foot of the gallows, a mocking reference to the Jewish festival Purim as the noose was secured, “The Bolsheviks will hang you one day!” as the bag was put on his head and “Adele, meine liebe Frau!” as he was dropped.)
Sentenced to life
- Erich Raeder: Freed on 26/9/55 after nearly 9 years due to ill health. Died 6/11/60.
- Rudolf Hess: Committed suicide by hanging on 17/08/87, aged 93. (He spent his last 41 years in prison, presumably well. He lived a long time, after all. And then one day, after four decades of confinement, he finally just said, “Whelp, this is it,” and did himself in at 93.)
- Walther Funk: Freed 16/5/57 after 10 years due to ill health. (Died of diabetes three years later.)
Sentenced to 10-20 years
- Karl Doenitz: Served his 10 year sentence, (and died 24 years later.)
- Baldur von Schirach: Served his 20 year sentence, (retired alone due to his wife divorcing him in prison, and died 8 years later.)
- Albert Speer: Served his 20 year sentence. (He chose not to return to architecture, but instead became an author. He personally accepted responsibility for the Nazis crimes, and anonymously donated most of his book royalties to Jewish charities (Up to 80%). Died of a stroke in 1981 while visiting London to appear on the BBC. *He is quite an interesting character. He’s known by some as “The Nazi Who Said Sorry” because he seemed to genuinely regret being involved with the whole thing. His testimony at the Nuremberg Trials is a fascinating read, if you’ve got the time.)
- Konstantin von Neurath: Released 7 years early from his 15 year sentence due to ill health. (He returned to his family home and died of a heart attack 2 years later.)
The German survivors of Stalingrad in Russian captivity.
The field marshals and generals captured at Stalingrad were treated relatively well, with their own quarters near Moscow, but the rest of the army prisoners were marched to Prison camps on the Steppes and the Ural mountains near Siberia as well. The prisoners were often made to walk through the plains and snow by the Russians, and those that were too slow and weak were often shot. If they were unfortunate enough to pass by a hostile village, they were usually beaten and robbed by angry mobs on the way.
The German Sixth Army was eventually scattered to more than twenty camps from the Arctic Circle to the Southern Deserts. Some were marched, others were herded into trains. One train carried thousands of Germans from the Volga to Uzbekistan. They basically crammed the prisoners inside with little food or water, and they would often resort to killing each other for scraps of food. Another train that was destined for the Pamir mountains had almost half its passengers dead on arrival.
A few Germans remained in Stalingrad to reconstruct the city, but they were hardly cared for either. Typhus killed many and it was recorded that the Russians buried forty thousand corpses in a mass grave in Beketovka by March.
As you can imagine, having starving men crammed into these prison camps was a recipe for disaster. It was estimated that from the three month period of February to April 1943, over four hundred thousand prisoners (German, romanian, Hungarian, Italian) had died. The Russians simply let many of them starve to death. Camps would receive food trucks every third day, and by that time the inmates were beating each other to death to eat. There were instances of cannibalism amongst the soldiers. It became so bad that anti-cannibal squads of Captive officers were actually armed with crowbars to hunt them down.
Others were more creative with their survival methods. A group of italian soldiers who were locked in Ice Cold Rooms actually propped dead corpses up in chairs and pretended to engage in conversation with them. The guards made a daily count of the ‘prisoners’ in the cell, and the still-living prisoners ate well from the extra rations.
The treatment of prisoners started getting better by May 1943. Nurses and Doctors were sent to the camps to care for the survivors, and political agitators also sent in to indoctrinate the prisoners against Fascism and to become pro-communist. In most cases, those who turned against Hitler had a specific goal in mind. Cooperation meant extra food.
As for the period of internment, someone else with closer sources can confirm, but it seems like the prisoners were released gradually over the years, the first trickle of prisoners started being released after the Berlin Airlift in 1948. It was to such an extent that by 1955, there were only 9,626 prisoners left in the camps that were directly connected to Stalingrad (with 2,000 having actually fought there)
For these prisoners, it was West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer who got the process started. He flew to Moscow to meet with the leaders of the Soviet Union in 1955 to plead with them to release the prisoners.
Moscow’s stance throughout this period was that they no longer held German Prisoners of War in the Soviet Union, only war criminals of Hitler’s armies, ‘convicted’ by Soviet Courts for crimes against the Russian People in General. But after negotiations with Bulganin and Khrushchev, Adenauer was eventually able to secure the release of the last of the Stalingrad prisoners by September 18th 1955, who began their final journey home.
[Source: Enemy at the Gates : William Craig]
Whatever happened to Oskar Dirlewanger?
Oskar Dirlewanger had a long career as a soldier, fighting in World War One, fighting with the freikorps against communist insurrectionists in Weimar Germany, fighting with the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War. He also had a long ‘career’ as a sexual sadist and convicted child rapist. Undoubtedly this all made him very qualified to head the SS convict division, tasked with anti-partisan operations on the eastern front. The division went on to commit some of the most heinous crimes of the war (some of which are loosely depicted in the Russian movie Come and See. Sealing up hundreds of civilians in a barn, setting it on fire and spraying with machine guns was a trademark. Gang rape, mutilation and wholesale slaughter of civilians and enemy combatants was the modus operandi of these brave SS men. Redirected to Warsaw in time to fight in the uprising of 1944, the division took part in the Wola massacre of as many as 40,000 Polish civilians.
Fast forward to the end of the war, Dirlewanger wound up in Althausen prison in the French occupation zone. Official reports state that he died of natural causes while in prison. Later on, there were unsubstantiated rumors had it that he escaped and joined the French Foreign Legion to fight in Indochina, and then the Egyptian Army.
One report had it different. In an act worthy of a Tarantino revenge/vindication story arc, he was found by three Poles serving in the French military, who proceeded to mercilessly beat him to death in his cell.
Why did Hitler so grossly underestimate the Soviet Union’s war capability?
There were a number of reasons why Hitler and the Oberkommando of the Wehrmacht had underestimated Soviet troop strength and capabilities before the 22nd of June in 1941. First of all were the failures of intelligence to accurately produce a realistic estimate of enemy troop strength and their ability to recover said losses. The Germans were aware of the size of the red army in general terms and that they would in theory be outnumbered, but they had a lack of respect for the capabilities of Soviet troops. Finally the Germans did not account for the soviets relocating major factories and centers of industry from central and southern Russia to the East of the Urals – beyond the range of both ground forces and the Luftwaffe.
Intelligence reports before the start of Operation Barbarossa in June of 1941 failed to account for the size and scale of the massive rearmament process and military reforms that had been ordered following the debacle of the Winter War with the Finns in 1939 and 1940. Even though the Soviets were eventually able to prevail over the Finns, the conflict showed serious flaws in Red Army training and tactics. Intelligence failed to account for large tank formations and the emergence of newer tank models like the KV2 and T34’s that were just beginning to come off production lines around that time period. These newer tanks models were a cut far above older T-26 lighter tanks that at that point were prone to malfunctions and obsolete to German tank models. Even with close to 28,000 tanks at the start of the invasion – many of these would be destroyed, disabled, or captured by the end of the year. Seeming to confirm that the German commanders and intel officers were correct in their assumption of Soviet Tank capability – disregarding the tremendous difficulty with which German units were having in knocking out T34 models and KV2’s that lighter german tanks and anti tanks guns couldn’t hope to penetrate. The Soviet tankers nicknamed the lighter German anti tanks guns like the Pak 36 “The Door knocker” due to its poor performance against their tanks. Soviet aircraft production was heavy but the were heavily reliant on obsolete or inferior aircraft like the Il16 and LaGG 3 (nicknamed the Guaranteed Varnished Coffin by its pilots due to its acronym, wooden construction, and poor performance), Soviet aircraft production would eventually see great examples of design and performance like the Yak 3, 7, and 9 – along with the Lavochkin La5, Ilyushin Il2 Sturmovik, and other mass produced designs. The soviets lost up to 97% of their air strength after the end of 1941 and had to completely retrain their newer batches of pilots on brand new machines that had little testing. Soviet pilots would not be able to rival the skill, tactics, or competence of German pilots until very late in the war when they began to have more confidence in their ability – along with the introduction of comparable fighter aircraft. This was also not accounted for as the Germans did not consider the ability with which the Soviets would have to produce the massive amounts of aircraft the were able to muster over the war. Germany also did not account for Lend-Lease American aircraft like the Bell P39 Airocobra, A20 Boston, P62 Kingcobra, P40 Hawk, B25 Mitchell and others. Lend lease would also provide tens of thousands of quality trucks and Willy’s Jeeps that gave the Russians much greater mobility and reliability in their mobile forces. Even though intelligence had dropped the ball early on German commanders were confident that they could over come the superior number of obsolete and unreliable soviet tanks that they were knocking out and capturing by the thousands in 1941.
German commanders and Hitler personally going into Barbarossa had a clear contempt for the average Soviet soldier in regards to his fighting ability and morale. They believed – with some credence – that the normal Red Army soldier and the entire command structure (Hitler famously remarked that “one need only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure would come crumbling down”) would collapse under the onslaught of the assembled invasion force of close to 2 and a half million men – the largest ever deployed in the history of warfare. After the Red army’s abysmal performance in the winter war against the Finns, this seemed to confirm to the Germans that this was indeed the case – the Red Army was in such a perilous state of affairs that they could not hope to stand to the might of a Blitzkrieg attack on their motherland. They did not count on the fact that major reforms to increase military effectiveness and a willingness of Stalin to reinstate former disgraced military commanders like Konstantin Rokossovsky, among others, after the purges of 1937 and 1938 when events transpired against him. Formerly taboo tactics of Deep Battle and driving penetrations by newly formed Tank armies would form the basis of a reinvigorated Red Army with competent and motivated commanders. Stalin lacked the ideological shame Hitler had in his actions and was willing to listen to the advice of his commanders or reinstate those that had previously fallen out of favor. Red Army soldiers put up tremendous resistance to German advances and attacks that caused ever increasing amounts of casualties that the Germans could not adequately replace. The Germans did not count on the specialty the Soviets had in defending against attack, “every village into a fortress” as was remarked. Dug in emplacements underneath houses, earthen bunkers, determined fighters that would fight on long past the point at which other European armies would have surrendered all typified German underestimation of Red Army skill and resolve – no matter the amount of prisoners they took or divisions they destroyed. This resolve became the most famous at Stalingrad, in which the 62nd Army under Chuikov was able to pin down and survive the onslaught of the 6th Army under Friedrich Paulus long enough to allow massive reserves to cut off and surround them, thus turning the tide of the entire Eastern Front.
Finally the Germans thought once they captured the Soviet industrial and agricultural heartland of Ukraine that the industrial capacity to make war would cease for the Soviet Union. What the Germans did not count on was the ruthlessness with which Stalin relocated thousands of factories from their original locations to beyond the Ural mountains – along with most of their workers. Even though these facilities had to endure terrible conditions early on, some production lines were brought online even before the roofs had been built, with snowflakes falling on fully operational tank production lines. Even with the Germans capturing the Ukraine early on in the war after the resounding successes at Kiev, Odessa, and the Crimea – with Erich Von Manstein pulling off some of the most impressive tactical feats of the 20th century – the industrial capacity of the Soviet Union would endure. By 1943 Soviet tank, aircraft, and gun production had surpassed or even doubled anything the Germans could even hope to muster from their own economy; from factories and industrial facilities beyond the range of their bombers. Soviet war production was able to far surpass the limits of German industrial might by their relocation of factories – something that was never accounted for in the German invasion of the Soviet Union.
So an underestimation of forces by German intelligence, a lack of respect or admission of Russian fighting ability and resolve, and the relocation of major industries beyond the reach of the German military all accounted for the survival of Soviet war making capacity. These failures contributed directly to the failure of operation Barbarossa, Blue, and Citadel to turn the tide against the Red Army. German war production and reserves simply couldn’t keep up with the fanatical defense that the Soviets displayed in blunting the advance of the Wehrmacht. They made grave errors in underestimating the capabilities and ideological will that drove the Russian people around Stalin rather than against him (though they didn’t have much choice to begin with)
Sources: Richard J. Evans “Third Reich at War” – Anthony Beevor “Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege”, various documentaries and textbooks
Hitler’s Pants being burnt by the allies after the war; ca 1947
The Nazis had carefully preserved the pants from the Operation Valkyrie assassination attempt and the allies inherited them after the war. They were concerned that if they put them in a museum they’d end up becoming a shrine to Hitler so they burnt them instead.
What if Hitler had survived, would the Nuremberg trials differ?
The geopolitics of the world wouldn’t really have changed course. By the end of WWII, we were already well on the path to the Cold War, which would ‘begin’ in earnest in 1946 when Churchill would make his ‘Iron Curtain’ speech. In 1947, the US would instate the Marshall plan, and announce its intention to maintain troops in Germany indefinitely. The USSR would respond first by sealing off East Germany and later Berlin. By then, Nazism would already become a footnote in the Great Game, the focus would shift to combatting communism in Europe and Asia. So really, nothing much would change.
So lets say Hitler either chickens out on suicide, or is captured before he can actually do it. He would be captured by the Soviets as they swept through Berlin. As a high-profile prisoner, indeed the high-profile prisoner, he would be immediately shipped off to Moscow, and kept in relative comfort in a Soviet political prison, perhaps Vladimir Central Prison or maybe in a basement in the Kremlin itself. Let’s assume that Stalin does not renege on the promises made in Yalta. He accepts to have Hitler tried before an international court in Nuremberg rather than a good communist court in Moscow.
By 1945, Hitler was not exactly in the best mental health. You know this already, if you have seen one of the infinite Hitler parodies on the net. He exhibited signs of
dementia Parkinson’s disease (of which dementia is a symptom). His famously sonorous voice had almost disappeared, his hands shook constantly, even simple tasks like writing, reading and eating were a huge task for him. He is no longer the charismatic Führer of the Nuremberg rallies. In a word, he had completely lost his marbles.1
Hitler’s trial is the last at Nuremberg. Everyone in the world knows what is going to happen to him. He will be sentenced to death. Even the most optimistic Nazi loyalist cannot deny that. The only question is, how will he go? Will he become a martyr? Will he plead passionately for his ideology? Will he make a final stand like Saddam Hussain did sixty years later?
The greatest criminal of all time must be tried by the greatest court of all time. Only the most respected judges and the most accomplished prosecutors will suffice. Maj. Gen. Iona Nikitchenko, Justice of the Supreme Court of the Soviet Union, Frederick M. Vinson, newly appointed Chief Justice of the US, Viscount Caldecote, Lord Chief Justice of England, and Henri Donnedieu de Vabres, eminent French jurist, are brought in to preside over the trial. Francis Biddle, Attorney-General of the US, formerly a judge at Nuremberg, takes on the role of prosecutor, along with Sir Hartley Shawcross, Attorney-General of the UK, Lt.-Gen. Roman Rudenko, Chief Prosecutor of the Soviet Union, and Auguste Champetier de Ribes, jurist and prominent leader of the Résistance.2 Hitler, in a rare moment of mental clarity, refuses counsel. It is the same brash self-confidence that sent 300,000 Germans to their deaths in Stalingrad.
The trial begins, with live radio coverage being broadcast over the world. Millions of Germans, Nazis or not, tune in to listen to trial of the man that held absolute power over them for twelve years. The charges are read out, and for the first time, the enormity of this man’s crimes are officially announced. Here is a man who was responsible for the death of tens of millions of people. Here is the man who drove uncountable masses of people, Jews, Germans, Russians, Englishmen, Americans, Frenchmen, all to their deaths. A man who not only willfully broke every single humanitarian convention in the world, but reached new depths of depravity, of inhumanity. A man who brought the world closer to hell than it has ever been before.3 Adolf Hitler, how do you plead?
There are a few seconds of radio silence, as the charges are translated into German. An interminable few seconds, during which the whole world reels from the sheer, awful violence of the charges. A frail, rasping voice replies, “Nicht schuldig”. Not guilty. Exactly what the Allies wanted. Over the next few days, the twelve years of Hitler’s reign of terror are dissected. Refugees who have escaped to the four corners of the world take the stand. The survivors of concentration camps describe the inhuman misery they were subjected to. The widows of the political prisoners assassinated by the SS take the stand. For days, the courtroom resounds with the stories of brutal suffering. The archives of the Nazi party are combed through, and as the trial drags on, it becomes increasingly clear. This is the man who ordered the deaths of your Jewish friends. This is the man who sent your son to die in Russia. This is the man who had your communist brother killed.4
Hitler drifts in and out of the trial. In his moments of lucidity, he rants against the witnesses. He accuses them of destroying Germany. He gives long meandering speeches on Aryan destiny. The rest of the time, he is silent. Barely looking or listening to what is happening. Indifferent to the pain exhibited for the world to see. He slumps in his chair, muttering under his breath from time to time. He has delusions about the glorious rebirth of Nazi Germany. A few days into the trial, the Allies have shown the world exactly what they wanted to show. This is the doddering old fool that destroyed your lives.5
Hitler isn’t a charismatic martyr. He is not the Führer who would rather die than give in. He is a demented wretch, whose foolishness nearly destroyed us all. He is the crazy buffoon who ranted against those thin, helpless-looking survivors of the concentration camps. He’s the psychopath who raves about race superiority, while it is abundantly clear that what he has done could never be the work of a superior race. How could the Germans have been so blind? How could they let a madman lead them to hell? The guilt and shame of Hitler’s trial would have had a profound effect on the psyche of the world. It would have destroyed Hitler’s memory more completely than any law or decree could. It would have made Nazism a far greater taboo in the civilized world. And a part of me thinks Hitler knew this. That is why he killed himself. Hitler alive is a raving lunatic. Hitler dead is a shining symbol to the neo-nazis of today.
- Hitler: A Biography, Ian Kershaw; The Last 100 Days, John Toland; Wikipedia article
- These are not the actual judges that presided over the affair. I have taken the liberty of adding more senior judges for Hitler’s trial, considering he was the seniormost Nazi.
- Hitler would have been charged on four counts: Count 1 – CONSPIRACY to commit crimes alleged in the next three counts; Count 2 – CRIMES AGAINST PEACE including planning, preparing, starting, or waging aggressive war; Count 3 – WAR CRIMES including violations of laws or customs of war; Count 4 – CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY including murder, extermination, enslavement, persecution on political or racial grounds, involuntary deportment, and inhumane acts against civilian populations. Source. The case would revolve around proving his guilt to Count 1.
- Proving this would have been no easy task, since the Nazis were very careful about destroying a large part of their records. Here, I have assumed that since Hitler was captured before he could go through with his suicide, his staff could not get around to destroying many of their archives.
- I have exaggerated Hitler’s behavior, but only very slightly. During their interrogations, Alfred Jodl, Chief of Operations Staff of the OKW, Wilhelm Keitel, Head of the OKW and Erich Kempka, Hitler’s chauffeur, would all testify to his increasingly erratic behaviour towards the end of his life.
Adolf Hitler and his German Shepard (“Blondi”) on the balcony of The Berghof; ca. May 1942
Aww, that’s kind of cute. Maybe Hitler wasn’t so bad after all, eh? Let’s see what Wikipedia says:
“Hitler expressed doubts about the cyanide capsules he had received through Heinrich Himmler’s SS. To verify the capsules’ potency, Hitler ordered Dr. Werner Haase to test them on his dog Blondi, and the dog died as a result.”
When some proud Son of Man returns to Earth, Unknown by Glory, but upheld by Birth, The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe, And storied urns record who rests below. When all is done, upon the Tomb is seen, Not what he was, but what he should have been. But the poor Dog, in life the firmest friend, The first to welcome, foremost to defend, Whose honest heart is still his Master’s own, Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone, Unhonoured falls, unnoticed all his worth, Denied in heaven the Soul he held on earth – While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven, And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven. Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour, Debased by slavery, or corrupt by power – Who knows thee well must quit thee with disgust, Degraded mass of animated dust! Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat, Thy tongue hypocrisy, thy heart deceit! By nature vile, ennobled but by name, Each kindred brute might bid thee blush for shame. Ye, who perchance behold this simple urn, Pass on – it honors none you wish to mourn. To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise; I never knew but one – and here he lies. Lord Byron [1788-1824], Epitaph to a Dog.