October 16th, 2009 Headsman
Victor’s justice was never better served than this date in 1946, when the brass of Third Reich hung for crimes against humanity during the late World War II.
Apart from trailblazing international law, the trial was notable for the gut-punching film of German atrocities; this relatively novel piece of evidence is available for perusal thanks to the magic of the Internet. Caution: Strong stuff. An hour’s worth of Nazi atrocities.
The climactic hangings in the predawn hours this day in Nuremberg were conducted by an American hangman who used the American standard drop rather than the British table calibrated for efficacious neck-snapping. As a result, at least some hangings were botched strangulation jobs, a circumstance which has occasionally attracted charges of intentional barbarism.
At that instant the trap opened with a loud bang. He went down kicking. When the rope snapped taut with the body swinging wildly, groans could be heard from within the concealed interior of the scaffold. Finally, the hangman, who had descended from the gallows platform, lifted the black canvas curtain and went inside. Something happened that put a stop to the groans and brought the rope to a standstill. After it was over I was not in the mood to ask what he did, but I assume that he grabbed the swinging body of and pulled down on it. We were all of the opinion that Streicher had strangled.
There were in all 12 condemned to death at Nuremberg; all hanged this day except Martin Bormann (condemned in absentia; it was only years later that his death during the Nazi regime’s 1945 Gotterdammerung was established) and Hermann Goering (who cheated the executioner with a cyanide capsule two hours before hanging). The ten to die this day were:
Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, whose name adorns Nazi Germany’s shortlived truce with Stalin.
Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Reichskommissar of the occupied Netherlands.
Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, a career military man whose “only following orders” defense was rejected by the tribunal.
Waffen-SS General Ernst Kaltenbrunner.
Nazi intellectual Alfred Rosenberg.
Gauleiter of Poland Hans Frank, notable for his postwar conversion to Catholicism and profession that “a thousand years will pass and still Germany’s guilt will not have been erased.”
Minister of the Interior Wilhelm Frick.
Slave labor organizer Fritz Sauckel.
General Alfred Jodl, who signed the German capitulation in May 1945 and was posthumously acquitted of his war crimes charges by a German court.
Streicher, whose anti-Semitic frothing on the scaffold was the only overtly Nazi display of the night.
* Its resultant Nuremberg Principles comprise a lofty articulation of principles whose actual application, as Noam Chomsky has observed, would have meant that “every post-war American president would have been hanged.”
Also on this date
- 1946: Neville Heath, torture-killer
- 1891: William Rose
- 1675: Samuel Guile, Puritan rapist
- 1975: The Balibo Five, before the invasion of East Timor
- 1793: Marie Antoinette
Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Botched Executions,Capital Punishment,Cheated the Hangman,Crimes Against Humanity,Death Penalty,England,Execution,France,Germany,Hanged,History,Infamous,Intellectuals,Mass Executions,Notable Jurisprudence,Occupation and Colonialism,Politicians,Posthumous Exonerations,Power,Russia,Soldiers,USA,War Crimes
Tags: 1940s, 1946, alfred jodl, alfred rosenberg, arthur seyss-inquart, ernst kaltenbrunner, fritz sauckel, hans frank, hermann goering, joachim von ribbentrop, julius streicher, kingsbury smith, martin bormann, noam chomsky, nuremberg, nuremberg trials, october 16, wilhelm frick, wilhelm keitel, world war ii