Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in
The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
After Germany's defeat in World War II, the first war crime trials conducted by victors of war in modern times were held in Nuremberg, Germany -- the same city where Adolf Hitler had earlier staged huge Nazi rallies. During the first phase of the Nuremberg Trials, which lasted from 1945 to 1949, 19 Nazi leaders were convicted of crimes against humanity, among other charges. Ten were hanged. An excerpt from The Post of Oct. 16, 1946:
Nuernberg (Wednesday), Oct. 16 (AP). --
Ten condemned Nazi ringleaders died on the gallows in the Nuernberg jail early today but Herman Goering, Adolf Hitler's No. 2 man, cheated the noose by swallowing poison in his cell just before the death sentence was read to him.
Col. B.C. Andrus, security chief for the prison, made this announcement relative to Goering:
"Goering was not hanged, he committed suicide at 10:45 p.m. (4:45 p.m., EST) last night by taking cyanide of potassium." ...
Andrus announced that all the other Nazis, sentenced by the International Military Tribunal on October 1 for war crimes, crimes against the peace and crimes against humanity, were hanged. ...
Kingsbury Smith, representing the combined American press, said Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German foreign minister before and during the war, was the first man to die. While awaiting the placing of the black hood over his head, he uttered his last words, in German, in a firm, clear voice:
"God save Germany! My last wish is that Germany rediscover her unity and that an alliance be made between East and West and that peace reign on earth," he shouted a moment before he died.
Smith said most of the doomed men made brief "long live Germany" statements on the scaffold. None of them collapsed, and most of them mounted the 13 steps by the rope steadily, though with U.S. Army guards at each side.
Julius Streicher, the Jew baiter, was the only one to shout "Heil Hitler," as he was about to mount the scaffold, Smith said.
He made the most commotion, Smith continued, shouting bitterly and defiantly: "the Bolsheviks will handle you."
He was the only one to speak after the hood had been placed over his head, mentioning something about "Adele, my beloved wife," Smith added.
The executions took place under electric lights inside a small gymnasium inside the Nuernberg city jail prison yard, about 35 yards from the death block.
Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel asked for the protection of God for Germany just before he died and gave his thanks to the priest. ...
Wilhelm Frick, the Nazi "protector" for Bohemia and Moravia, was dressed in a gaudy sports jacket, the same one he wore during the 10 months of the war crimes trial in the nearby courthouse. As he got his first glimpse of the gallows he cried out: "God bless Germany always!" ...
The last to die was Arthur Seyss-Inquart, former gauleiter of the Netherlands, who went through the trap at 2:45 a.m. and was pronounced dead at 2:57 a.m. ...
After the 10 men had hanged, Goering's corpse was brought into the execution chamber to carry out the sentence at least in symbol. His face was pale in death as it was in life and his features were peaceful.