Tag Archives: Nuremberg

Study *Actual* Nazi “Medical Tyranny”

Numerous schools, like the one where I teach, require teachers and students to wear masks to prevent COVID transmission.  Well done—it’s a minimal hassle, it’s based in scientific knowledge, and it works.

But not all know or accept this.  Some people oppose school mask mandates.  Some of them are, I’ve read, protesting, sometimes very disruptively, at their local school board meetings.

And here it comes (the Nazi reference):  In New Hampshire, a founder of a group that opposes any COVID-related restriction recently cited Nazi war crimes as an example of what he called the dangers of “medical tyranny.”

I assume that this man was referring to the U.S. prosecution in Nuremberg following World War II of Nazi doctors.

Their crimes were horrific acts of bodily torture and killing.

It is absurd to draw any analogy between that conduct and the policies and the gentle measures that officials are employing today to protect us from COVID.

To learn about Nazi medical crimes, as prosecuted at the Nuremberg “Doctors Trial,” read here:

https://www.ushmm.org/information/exhibitions/online-exhibitions/special-focus/doctors-trial

 

Update re The Jackson List

As you might know, I write about Robert H. Jackson (1892-1954), United States Supreme Court Justice and Nuremberg chief prosecutor of Nazi war criminals following World War II.  Jackson is one of the most enduringly significant lives of the 20th century.  Among other things, I am a Jackson biographer, discoverer and editor of his acclaimed book That Man on President Franklin D. Roosevelt (which also is a Jackson autobiography), author of many articles on Jackson, a regular lecturer across the U.S. and internationally on Jackson and related topics, and a fellow and board member at the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown, New York.

An outgrowth of all that is that I email a few notes each month, on Justice Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg, and/or related topics, to “The Jackson List.”  It is a one-way, private email list that reaches many thousands of direct subscribers—teachers, students, scholars, lawyers, Judges, and other learners—and, through their forwarding, reposting, blogging, etc., many others around the world.

In the past, I have used this blog site to post items as they are sent to The Jackson List.  But it has migrated to a new platform and better technology.  (Thank you, IT aces!)  So from now on, new Jackson List posts will go by email to The Jackson List and, simultaneously, be posted on its archive site—

https://thejacksonlist.com/

To subscribe to The Jackson List, sign up there, or send me an email.

Thanks very much for your interest, and for spreading the word.

Invoking “Nuremberg”—Calling “Nazi,” Really—Too Flippantly in Chicago

During Chicago’s recent mayoral campaign, the Chicago Tribune published an article on the career of candidate Lori Lightfoot, a lawyer.

The article recounted, among other details, an incident when Lightfoot, serving in 1999 as an Assistant United States Attorney, allegedly misled a federal judge.  This resulted in her later reprimand by another federal judge, U.S. Circuit Court Judge Richard Posner.

In her defense, Lightfoot explained that the incident occurred when she was “a junior lawyer following the advice of people who were much more experienced than me [sic],” and that a U.S. Department of Justice inquiry had determined that she had not “engaged in professional misconduct or exercised poor judgment.”

In response to the Tribune’s article, Scott Cisek, a senior aide to Lightfoot’s opponent Toni Preckwinkle, posted on Facebook a photograph of nine former Nazis sitting in the dock as defendants before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg during 1945-46.  The photo had a top caption ” ‘JUST FOLLOWING ORDERS’ ” and, at bottom, “HISTORICALLY THAT EXCUSE HASN’T WORKED OUT SO WELL.”

Cisek soon deleted his post and apologized.

Preckwinkle fired Cisek from her campaign.

Lightfoot, in the end, defeated Preckwinkle.

The enormous crimes of true Nazis, as proven and adjudicated in the Nuremberg trials, are matters to study, learn, and teach, with accuracy and a sense of proportion.

RIP, Dr. Walter V. Powell (1929-2019)

I write once, twice, or a few times a month to The Jackson List, a private, now very large and ever-growing email list, about U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson and related topics.

One result, unexpected at first and now a great pleasure, is that people respond to Jackson List posts by emailing back to me.  Sometimes they just send thanks.  Other notes are more substantive, sometimes very personal and erudite.

Through these notes, which I try to read and at least to acknowledge (although the volume can be daunting), I’ve made a lot of special “friends”—not in-person friends, but the electronic version of what once were pen pals.

Earlier this week, an email bounce message alerted me that the email address of Walter V. Powell, long a Jackson List subscriber and one who wrote back to me regularly, was no longer functional.  By Googling, I learned that Walt Powell, professor emeritus of political science at Slippery Rock University in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, age 90, died on February 27, 2019.

Dr. Powell lived a long and accomplished life.  Some of it, including his family life, his World War II military service, his education, his teaching, and his community commitments, is chronicled in this obituary.

In his emails to me, Walt Powell always sent thanks for Jackson List posts and expressed his particular interests.  One was the World War II—his—generation, including particularly people who had served on Justice Jackson’s staff prosecuting Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg in 1945-46.

Walt Powell greatly admired one of them, Whitney R. Harris.  Indeed, Walt got to know Whitney through hosting him as the keynote speaker at a Slippery Rock University conference on the Nuremberg trial.  Later, Walt lamented Whitney’s failing health, then his death, and Walt remembered Whitney always.  Walt also wrote to me when “Nurembergers” Richard Sonnenfeldt, Peter Calvocoressi, Arno Hamburger, and Ernest Michel each passed away.  Walt reported to that he had used some of my writings on Nuremberg when he lectured in a class on war crimes, and that he had visited the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown, New York.

Walt also, every holiday season, sent his greetings, thanks, and good wishes.

This post, in a small way, reciprocates that sentiment.  I am grateful that we were, in our historical studies, biographical interests, and priorities, truly colleagues.

President Reagan Against Political Gerrymandering

I received yesterday the new memoir by Harold Burson, The Business of Persuasion.  Now in his tenth decade, Harold is a giant in the field of public relations, co-founder of the global firm Burson-Marsteller, formerly an Armed Forces Radio Network reporter during 1945-46 at the international Nuremberg trial of the principal Nazi war criminals, a truly wise man, and, I’m very lucky to say, my friend.

I have only begun to read the book. So far it’s smooth and smart, filled with great stories and clear, profound life-lessons.  Harold calls these his “Takeaways,” and he very helpfully itemizes these keys to success at the end of each chapter.

When I finish reading Harold’s book—which will be soon, because, as he writes in a first chapter Takeway, daily reading of good material is both a pleasure and wise—I plan to write more about it.

I’m writing now about a Chapter One nugget because it’s striking and timely.

As Harold Burson recounts, he was an important adviser and friend to President Ronald Reagan, especially in his post-presidency years.

October 10, 1984:  Hugh Downs, Harold Burson, Jack Anderson, and President Reagan, at the White House launch of the Young Astronauts program

In 1989, Harold advised President Reagan, newly-retired and beginning to give talks to various audiences, to include in his speeches some bipartisan messages.

Reagan liked the advice.  He then described two issues that had concerned him for a long time.

One was the Twenty-Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Since the 1950s, it has limited presidents to two terms.  Reagan, having been there, thought it was terrible that the Constitution makes every reelected president a lame duck.  He preferred to trust the possibility of third terms to presidents’ sound personal decision making, and also to voters.  He noted that he was glad that President Franklin Roosevelt had been able to run for a third term in 1940.  (Reagan voted for him then, as he had in 1932 and 1936 and would again in 1944—F.D.R. was one of Reagan’s great heroes.)

The second concern that President Reagan voiced to Harold Burson was about the politicized methods that State legislative majorities use to draw the boundaries of Congressional districts.  Reagan said, in substance—Burson is careful to note that he puts in quotation marks the substance, reconstructed from documents and memory, of what a person said, not his verbatim words—that

“[r]ather than leaving it to the politics of whichever party controls a state’s legislature, each state should have an independent nonpartisan commission whose sole responsibility is redistricting based on census results.”  [Reagan] condemned gerrymandering; there should be geographic integrity in setting the boundaries of congressional districts. (p. 22)

Harold Burson agreed with the logic of President Reagan’s bipartisan—which is to say, really, his nonpartisan—position, and obviously I do too.

The U.S. Supreme Court currently is deciding the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering in state legislative districts.  The case, Gill v. Whitford, was argued last week, and the Court’s decision is expected in coming months.  For information on the case, including briefs and a link to oral argument audio, visit this SCOTUSblog page:

Gill v. Whitford

The issue that concerned President Reagan, partisan gerrymandering of Congressional districts, is formally different from Gill v. Whitford’s focus on partisan gerrymandering of state legislative districts.  But the issues raise substantively the same question—the district line-drawers are one and the same state legislators, holding majority power, legislating boundaries so as to maximize their party’s advantage beyond its candidates’ abilities to win votes at the polls.

As the Supreme Court considers Gill v. Whitford, I hope that it will heed President Reagan’s wisdom—if it’s not too late to “file” another “amicus brief” in the case, maybe this can count as his.

I’m grateful to Harold Burson for bringing it to our attention.

And you should buy and read his book!

Professor Joseph A. Calamari (1919-2016)

I’m sad to report that my St. John’s University School of Law faculty colleague Joe Calamari died on December 2, 2016, at age 97.

February 27, 2007:  Celebrating Joe’s 88th birthday.

When we became colleagues in 1995, Joe was already retired from full time teaching… except for the fact that he taught actively every semester, was a leading authority on admiralty law, was hugely respected and involved in the admiralty bar in New York City, and was very connected to students and lawyers across their lives and careers.

I learned that Joe was a World War II and a Korean War veteran.

When I began to write about the Nuremberg trials, he stopped by my office to talk about them, smartly.  After a while, he said, gently, “I was there for a day—it was the day Keitel took the stand.”  His claim was true and typically modest.  We pinned down the date:  April 3, 1946.

When Joe finally, really, retired from teaching in 2011, St. John’s admiralty law society honored him at a special dinner, and the society took his name.

April 7, 2011:  Marie & Joe Calamari (and a earlier Joe photo behind them).

It was a great privilege to know him.

New Bibliography on the Nuremberg Trials

Congratulations and thanks to Professor Kevin Jon Heller and his colleague Catherine E. Gascoigne for producing, just in time for the 70th anniversary of the commencement of the International Military Tribunal (IMT) proceedings at Nuremberg, a new bibliography on the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals.

Yes, that’s plural—trials.  The IMT, commencing in Fall 1945 and concluding in Fall 1946, was the one and only international Nuremberg trial.  Thereafter, the United States, with Nuremberg in the center of its military occupation zone in what had been Nazi Germany, conducted twelve additional trials there, before Nuremberg Military Tribunals (NMTs), between Fall 1946 and Spring 1949.

A great virtue of the Heller/Gascoigne bibliography is that it lists and also describes in narrative, in fifteen concise pages, leading book-length publications (i.e., books and long articles) on both the IMT and the under-studied NMTs.

The IMT adjudicated the guilt of twenty-two surviving Nazi leaders plus six organizations.  It was the four-nation trial, prosecuted and judged jointly by U.S., U.K., U.S.S.R. and French representatives.  U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson served as U.S. chief prosecutor.  The defendants included, to name one handful of the nineteen who were convicted, Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Albert Speer and Julius Streicher.

The U.S.-only NMTs, often called the “subsequent proceedings” because they followed the IMT, adjudicated the criminal guilt of 177 additional individuals.  General Telford Taylor, previously a senior member of Jackson’s U.S. team before the IMT, served as chief prosecutor.  Each case concerned persons who had worked together in an important sector of the Third Reich.  These cases came to be known by short names of either a leading defendant or the occupational sector:  The Medical Case; The Milch Case; The Justice Case; The Pohl Case; The Flick Case; The I.G. Farben Case; The Hostage Case; The Reich Main Security Office (RuSHA) Case; The Einsatzgruppen Case; The Krupp Case; The Ministries Case; and The High Command Case.

(Unlike that list, which I arranged by the numbers (1-12) that Taylor and team assigned to the cases, Heller and Gascoigne organize NMT case-specific scholarship in alphabetized case-name order.  Neither listing method fully captures the sequence and the various overlaps of the twelve trials; for that, the best book, listed modestly in the new bibliography, is Heller’s own The Nuremberg Military Tribunals and the Origins of International Criminal Law (2011).)

This new bibliography is published in the Oxford Bibliographies online series.  That means it is only a click away but, alas, it isn’t free/it is behind a paywall.  I expect that leading libraries subscribe to the Oxford series, so teachers, researchers and students should have relatively easy access.  And anyone else can buy in, of course.

Access to this bibliography, however obtained, is a good development.  It is a fine guide to important resources on cases that are permanently significant, for how they occurred and what they uncovered, and as models and lessons for our time and the future.

(Hat tip:  Kevin Heller himself, here on Opinio Juris.)

Attorney General Order: Keep a Diary

When Francis Biddle became a senior U.S. Department of Justice official (first Solicitor General, then Attorney General) in the 1940s, he “ordered” top lawyers to start keeping diaries.  He explained that diary-keeping would improve performance—having personal records would help everyone “later” when they needed to revisit topics and remember accurately, in detail, what things had happened, how and why.  (Biddle also had an artistic, literary temperament and a strong sense of history; I suspect that he advocated writing not just for its value to management, but also because engaging in the writing craft can bring pleasure to the writer, and because writing lasts.)

attorney-general-francis-biddle-working-at-his-desk_i-G-60-6052-V55D100Z cropped

Warner W. Gardner, a leading, great federal government lawyer in the 1930s and 1940s, including in Biddle’s DOJ, told me of Biddle’s edict.  In his old age, Gardner—himself a great writer of briefs, articles, and a superb memoir—lamented that he never complied very well with the order to keep a diary.  He wished he had, but he said that he just never had time and never developed the habit of making the time.  He made some notes now and then, but in hindsight he found them much too spare.

As Gardner realized, Biddle was right.  Days, moments, people, events and words fly by, and often a “later” comes, in places ranging from the workplace to private reflection, when memory is less than a person wants to have.  And of course history loses everyone in the end.  It needs—in the arresting title of Gardner’s memoir—“pebbles from the paths behind.”  (One chapter of Gardner’s memoir is here, and here is an oral history he gave to the Truman presidential library.)

This all comes to mind as I work with 1945-1946 Nuremberg trial documents and personal records.  I’m grateful for every word that “Nurembergers,” including Francis Biddle (who, after his stint as Attorney General, served as U.S. judge there) and of course Robert Jackson, made time to jot amidst their hard post-war work and living conditions.  Such words have solidity and power that memory can’t match.  They permit historians (me and many others) to do their work, and to do it better than they could otherwise.  Contemporaneous words—and specifically the ones that, on assessment, seem reliable—help me to figure out things about Nuremberg such as who really did, saw and said what, how people thought day by day about what they were doing there, and whose later memory is trustworthy and whose is faulty.

This also comes to mind as I read about newsman Brian Williams’s misstatements about what he saw and experienced as a reporter visiting Iraq and the war in 2003.

If some experience or thought might matter, and also for the pleasure, and also for history, try to make time to make some notes.