Thanksgiving at Nuremberg

Some of us, perhaps most of us, have much to give thanks for this November 27, 2014. It is very much worth remembering as we enjoy our good fortune that nearly 70 years ago Justice Robert Jackson celebrated Thanksgiving in an unusual manner while in the midst of the Nazi war crimes trials.

Indeed, I assert that Jackson’s Thanksgiving in 1945 ranks second only to that first one celebrated by the Pilgrims. It commemorated and gave thanks for the triumph of law over the greatest evil that civilization has ever known.

With deep appreciation and great thanks to John Q. Barrett, Professor of Law, St. John’s University, and Elizabeth S. Lenna, Fellow, Robert H. Jackson Center, I invite you to read next about Justice Jackson’s Thanksgiving all those many years ago.

For the Jackson List:

In the autumn of 1945, Thursday, November 22, marked the first day of trial evidence at Nuremberg.

In that city, located in the United States military occupation sector of the defeated, surrendered former Germany, the international trial of accused Nazi war criminals had commenced two days earlier in Courtroom 600 in the Palace of Justice.

On November 20, the trial opened with Allied prosecutors reading the indictment against twenty-two individual defendants and six defendant Nazi organizations.  Prosecutors from the U.S., the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and the French Republic took turns reading the lengthy document to the International Military Tribunal and the 20 of 22 individual defendants who were present in court.  The process was serious and, as it filled the full day, soporific—reporters and spectators who had obtained courtroom tickets with difficulty began to leave early.

On the next morning, Wednesday, November 21, each defendant stood in turn and entered a plea of not guilty.

The president of the Tribunal then called on Justice Robert H. Jackson, the United States Chief of Counsel, to deliver his opening statement.

“The privilege of opening the first trial in history for crimes against the peace of the world imposes a grave responsibility,” Jackson began.  “The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant and so devastating that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored because it cannot survive their being repeated.”

Photo credit: Ray D'Addario and the Robert H. Jackson Center. (Justice Jackson at podium.)

Photo credit: Ray D’Addario and the Robert H. Jackson Center. (Justice Jackson at podium.)

Justice Jackson’s third sentence summarized the entire Nuremberg undertaking:  “That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that power has ever paid to reason.”

Jackson’s speech lasted more than four hours, filling the rest of that trial day.  The packed courtroom, including the defendants, recognized immediately that the speech was a masterpiece of composition, delivery and vision.  (For video excerpts, click here.)

When trial commenced the next morning, Thursday, November 22, the IMT first ruled on pending defense motions.  Defendant Julius Streicher was, the Tribunal announced, sane and fit to appear to present a defense.  Defendant Martin Bormann would be tried in absentia pursuant to the London Charter of August 8, 1945.

The Tribunal then called on the United States to begin presenting evidence on Count One, which charged defendants with engaging in a common plan and conspiracy to wage aggressive war.

Jackson’s Executive Trial Counsel, Colonel Robert G. Storey, explained that most of the evidence to come would be German documents captured by the U.S. and British armies.

Associate Trial Counsel Ralph G. Albrecht then explained the Nazi Party and government structures and offered organizational charts as evidence.

Major Frank B. Wallis, Assistant Trial Counsel, then began to offer evidence on the Nazi rise to power in Germany and pre-1939 planning for aggressive war.

*          *          *

Those trial proceedings did not conclude the courtroom activity in Nuremberg on Thursday, November 22, 1945.

In the United States, it was Thanksgiving Day.  In Nuremberg, the Allies had not taken the day off to observe the American holiday.  But they did, in that first November of peace following years of world war, gave thanks together and quite solemnly.

At Justice Jackson’s invitation, hundreds of military and civilian Allied personnel gathered in Courtroom 600 at 5:15 p.m.

Jackson spoke briefly, explaining the American history and tradition of Thanksgiving to his British, Russian and French colleagues.

Jackson then called on a member of his staff, Captain Edmund A. Walsh (U.S. Army).  In civilian life, he was Father Walsh, a Jesuit priest, the vice president of Georgetown University, the rector of its School of Foreign Service, and long a Jackson friend.  For all present, Father Walsh offered an opening prayer.

Lieutenant Commander Harold Leventhal (U.S. Coast Guard Reserve), a prosecutor on Jackson’s U.S. staff (and twenty years later a Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit), then read from the Psalms.

Lieutenant Henry F. Gerecke (U.S. Army Chaplain Corps) gave the closing benediction.  Pastor Gerecke was the newly-appointed chief Protestant chaplain at the Nuremberg prison, assigned to minister to the defendants and other prisoners there.  (For Gerecke’s story, see Tim Townsend’s 2014 book Mission at Nuremberg:  An American Army Chaplain and the Trial of the Nazis—click here.)

Throughout this service, most of those present, including the senior Soviet prosecutors and the not-particularly-religious Justice Jackson, folded their hands and bowed their heads.

*          *          *

[O]n every Thanksgiving, I wish for all of us—religious and not, American and not—that Nuremberg spirit of gratitude, peace, human alliance and the pursuit of justice.

And thank you for your interest and friendship.

Sincerely,

John

________________

RGK

The candid lawyer, Robert H. Jackson

The American lawyer, even one who is a partisan, is frequently the only one in the room who is candid. Keep that idea in mind as you read the following piece from the always fascinating Jackson List.

In 1880, Mr. Velona Walter Haughwout of Fall River, Massachusetts, married Helen J. Preston in her hometown, Jamestown, New York. They settled in Fall River but retained ties, through her family, to Jamestown.

Decades later, Mr. Haughwout read Jamestown newspaper stories—some and maybe all sent by his sister-in-law, who continued to reside there—about the activities, including public speeches, of a Jamestown attorney, Robert Houghwout Jackson. [Later to become Justice Jackson.] Perhaps Haughwout and Jackson had met. They definitely were connected by Jackson’s middle name, which was his mother’s maiden name. Haughwout concluded, it seems correctly, that he and Jackson were related descendants of an early Dutch settler in New Netherlands (North America, and later the United States).

In June 1928, Mr. Haughwout wrote his compliments to Jackson:

Robert H. Jackson, Esq.

My dear cousin:

I read with great profit and inflated sense of pleasure your screed upon Russia.

My inflation was due to the astonishment that our family name was sustained by a man of real consequence. I had supposed Haughwoutian oratory to be an extinct art. I salute you sir and am proud to subscribe myself your kinsman.

V.W. Haughwout

That Fall, Haughwout wrote again to Jackson. Haughwout’s sister-in-law had sent him a story on a recent Jackson speech supporting the Democratic Party’s nominee for president, New York Governor Al Smith. “[W]hile I cannot subscribe to your conclusion that Smith should be elevated to the White House,” Haughwout wrote,

I must say that the speech was by far the most satisfying one I have read during this filthy campaign, barring none. It is so superior that I am passing it on to a prominent Boston friend of mine as a specimen of fearless, lucid reasoning. I hope it does not carry him over into the Smith column, but I am for frankness whatever the result. … It would clarify the air if both candidates [Al Smith and Republican nominee Herbert Hoover] were to imitate your candor.

On October 24, 1928, Jackson dictated and sent a letter back to Haughwout. Jackson expressed some agreement about the Smith-Hoover race and then mentioned the candidacy that he found more promising:

I appreciate very much your kind words about my speech but I really think that it only shines by reason of the dismal campaign background which is the worst in my recollection. We have, however, in Franklin D. Roosevelt, a splendid candidate for Governor of New York whom I hope to see elected.

* * *

Robert Jackson met Franklin Roosevelt in 1911 and then had episodic contacts with him over the next seventeen years. Roosevelt was elected Governor of New York in 1928, and thereafter, and even more so after his reelection in 1930, Jackson was in contact with him and involved in state policymaking and politics.

In 1932, the Democratic Party nominated F.D.R. to be its presidential candidate. Jackson became a prominent campaign lawyer and spokesman.

On October 24, 1932, James A. Farley of New York, the Democratic Party’s national chairman, held a press conference at his headquarters, the Biltmore Hotel in Manhattan. Farley announced that he was forming a state-wide lawyers committee to protect Democratic Party interests before the election and at the polls. The committee’s first task, he said, would be to investigate the reported Republican campaign to intimidate workers from voting Democratic. Farley announced that Robert H. Jackson of Jamestown had agreed to chair this committee, and that Jackson would appoint chairmen of district committees to assist him.

Jackson worked quickly. Two days later, he announced that he had appointed Democratic lawyers’ committee representatives in judicial districts and counties across New York State, and that they were investigating dozens of complaints of factory owners and managers attempting to intimidate workers into not voting Democratic.

Late the next week, Jackson reported back to Farley, and publicly, on his investigation of alleged employer intimidation of prospective voters. Jackson and his committee members had found that: (1) only a small proportion of employers had used such methods; (2) the similarity of their methods and “advice” to workers indicated a common origin; (3) such efforts “boomerang,” causing more resentment than intimidation; and (4) federal and state legislation should be enacted to punish “every such attempt.”

* * *

On the following Tuesday, November 8th, Governor Roosevelt defeated President Hoover. In New York State’s race for governor, Lieutenant Governor Herbert Lehman defeated the Republican candidate, attorney William J. Donovan.

Through the following year, Robert Jackson continued to practice law in Jamestown, and to assist the Democratic Party and its candidates.

Mr. Haughwout died in February 1934, two weeks after the U.S. Senate had confirmed his kinsman Jackson’s appointment to his first New Deal office, a senior position in the Treasury Department. In a few more years, his speeches, reports and other writings, and his candor, would come to national and then international attention.

* * *

John Q. Barrett

Professor of Law, St. John’s University, New York, NY

Elizabeth S. Lenna Fellow, Robert H. Jackson Center, Jamestown, NY

Justice Jackson and Memorial (Decoration) Day 1909

I have a tendency to take cheap shots at legal academics. I know that is unfair, but it is so easy and so much fun. Obviously, there are a lot of fine legal academics who enrich the lives of the practicing bar and the judiciary.  With the The Jackson List, Justice Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics, John Q. Barrett, a Professor of Law at St. John’s University in New York City, certainly enriches my life.  (I encourage others to sign up to receive the list. “To join the Jackson List, which keeps recipient identities and email addresses confidential, send a ‘subscribe’ note to barrettj@stjohns.edu”) Noting that he encourages sharing, Professor Barrett’s latest contribution is reprinted below.

Reading about Justice Jackson as a student, listening to a man speak that Memorial Day in 1909 about the civil war, peace and justice, when the speaker would later become the Justice’s law partner, brought to mind the bonds lawyers develop with each other as time passes. That the Justice is buried at the same cemetery where he heard his partner-to-be’s speech solidified my perception (hope?) that there is a timeless connection between brothers and sisters at the bar.

With thanks to Professor Barrett, I encourage the reader to take a moment and read the following:

In the United States in 1909, the Memorial Day national holiday, also known as Decoration Day, fell on Monday, May 31st.

The President of the United States, William Howard Taft, delivered an address on the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

In New York City, over 100,000 people lined Riverside Drive, cheered 15,000 parading veterans of the Civil War and the Spanish War, and attended exercises at the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument. The Governor of New York, Charles Evans Hughes, delivered an address at Grant’s Tomb. Governor Hughes earlier had reviewed a large parade in Brooklyn. The Bronx also hosted comparable exercises—its largest parade ever.

Memorial Day commemorations involving smaller crowds and less prominent speakers also occurred in cities and towns across the United States.

In the village of Frewsburg in southwestern New York State, Memorial Day exercises began with a parade. A column of people marched from Main Street to a wooden structure, Frewsburg’s Union Free School. With seven classrooms and a library, the Union School offered an elementary course. It also offered, as it had since 1896, a high school course. The high school met in a large room on the top floor. The School’s total enrollment was about 200 students. The high school senior class numbered less than 20.

On that Memorial Day in Frewsburg, Union School pupils and teachers joined the parade. It wound from the village to its cemetery, where a program was held. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and an honor roll of soldiers were read to the crowd.

A leading attorney, Walter Henry Edson of nearby Falconer, New York, delivered the principal speech. Edson spoke about the Civil War, and about peace movements. He emphasized that universal peace cannot occur until there is universal justice.

Robert Houghwout Jackson, then age 17, was one of the student marchers and listeners. A few weeks later, he graduated as Frewsburg High School’s valedictorian. Four years later, he became Edson’s colleague at the bar. They later became law practice partners.

In time, including on the Memorial Day in 1946 that Justice Robert H. Jackson spent in Europe as chief U.S. prosecutor of Nazi war criminals, he made his contributions to universal justice and, he hoped, to peace.

Today, Justice Jackson’s remains rest in that same Frewsburg cemetery, the Maple Grove Cemetery.

It currently is adorned with many United States flags honoring men and women who died while serving in U.S. armed forces, and also honoring U.S. military veterans.

Thank you for your interest, and please share with others who might be interested too.

* * *

As always, thank you for your interest and please share this with others.

Sincerely,

John

Professor John Q. Barrett

Professor of Law, St. John’s University, New York, NY

Elizabeth S. Lenna Fellow, Robert H. Jackson Center, Jamestown, NY

RGK

 

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