The Nuremberg Tribunals
This was my ID card to get into the cell block at the Palace of Justice in Nuremburg. When I first got there, you didn’t need a card to get in. Then, the FBI had a detachment there and they came out with this ID card. We were supposed to turn them in when we left the war trials, but I hung onto mine just for the heck of it.
I was guarding one of the criminals. I don’t recall who it was at that time, but on the right side the first cell was Göring, the second one I believe was Hess, and then Jodl, and so on Ribbentrop, and so on down the line.
[Rudolph] Hess for some reason or other, every morning they took him out to a little courtyard between the prison and courthouse. It was like a garden some grass and trees. When they took him out, Hess had to be handcuffed to someone. Why, I don’t know, maybe afraid the others would try and kill him. So whenever I was on guard that time of a day, I ended up being handcuffed to him and had to walk around the yard for an hour, hour and a half with him.
Actually, I was 19 years old, the war was over, we were anxious to get home, it was just another job really. But as we got older, those of us that were pulled guard there, it had a different meaning, it was part of history. We pulled guard for two hours on, we stood in front of the cell during the day, we could look in - there was a cut out in the door [gestures], you could look into the cell if they were there. They always had to be visible to you. They had a toilet there, a bed and a table with one chair. They used the toilet, and that was the only time they could be out of your vision, for how long it took.
There was one window in the back of the cell. All these criminals, mostly Germans, were fresh air [fanatics]. In the spring and the summer it wasn’t too bad, but in the winter it was hot in the cell block where we were standing. It was freezing outside, the windows were wide open because they were fresh air fans, and you had to stare at them continuously to make sure they didn’t try and commit suicide. That cold air would flow in your face and it was a rough job trying to stay awake. Two hours on, two hours off, and they had one room, which used to be a gymnasium, they had cots set up where we could lay down, rest, some of the fellas played cards or read. That same room was the room they cleaned out and they built the scaffolds to hang them.
[In the photograph] on the left side, I’m the third one, right there. It was in Life Magazine in January of ’46. I think I put the date on it … I didn’t know anything about it, it happened my wife, well, a friend of mine, went to the dentist and sitting in the waiting room she’s reading through Life Magazine and found it.
They kept the most important ones on the first tier, that’s the ground floor, like Julius Streicher, Jodl, Ribbentrop, I believe 20 or 21 most important ones. The second tier, there was a catwalk, and the flooring was like a piece of tin. Every time you would walk it would bounce up and down. They had four or five cells to watch. The less important criminals were kept there. The third tier held witnesses and some of the criminals.
One of the ones on the top floor was Ilse-something [Ilse Koch]. She was a notorious guard at one of the camps. She would take the skin off the prisoners when they were killed, if they had a tattoo or something, she would make lampshades out of them and all kinds of decorative ornaments. When you were on the third tier, which she was on, you had to watch them the same way by making sure they didn’t kill themselves. She was a cute one, when she heard the guard coming she would take all her clothes off and stand there naked. You had to look into the cells, so what happened – you had to look, she would write a letter to the commanding colonel or commanding officer of the prison. First thing you know, you were on the carpet for looking at her. After a while I guess they got used to it, and that was the same with a few others.
At night, there is a grate with a light on the side of each cell. The light went over the cut out of the door and that light shone into the cell continuously. I pulled that kind of guard for three or four months and one day we got back to our barracks and we fell out. The First Sergeant read off the day’s schedule and he wanted a volunteer; he needed a radio man, so nobody raised their hands. Nobody volunteered for anything. He came over to me and asked what I knew about a radio. I said, “I know how to turn it on and off.” He said, “good, get cleaned up get a jeep, get down to the police station.” The police station was adjoining the prison, so I go down there and I had to see some lieutenant and he asked me the same questions so I gave him the same answer. So he said, “good, you’ll be the radio man here.” While patrolling Nuremberg, they had anywhere from 20 to 30 jeeps patrolling the town between day and night. So I became a radio operator for about 4 months. That was real easy, then I went back to guarding the prisoners for about a week and after that I became, they called them an escort guard. I wore a white helmet and a white belt and I would take them up to the summary court, they had lawyers from Russia, France and different countries and they would interrogate some of these prisoners. It was amazing some of the stories you heard, one of them was how they provoked Poland into a situation. They sent over German troops dressed as civilians and they fired back across the border at German troops over there, and that’s how they started the incidence that started the war. It was things like that that were very interesting.
Finally in June, beginning of June of ’46, they came around with a deal that if you wanted to sign up for six months to stay at the war trials, they’d fly you back to the States for thirty days, then you’d have to go back. The reason for that was that fellas that had decorations and combat badges were being shipped home and they wanted to put on a show for the other countries, so they wanted their combat troops to pull guard. But it didn’t work, most of us went home.
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