Tag Archives: Robert H. Jackson

Jackson List: Respecting the Mother of a Man Killed in Auschwitz (1946)

When the international trial of the Nazi arch-criminals began in Nuremberg in November 1945, Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Höss (in English, Hoess) was known to have been the commandant of the Nazi concentration camp near Oświęcim in what had been, before September 1939, Poland.  During World War II, the Nazi invaders and occupiers had renamed that town Auschwitz.  Hoess had, people were alleging, gassed millions, mostly Jews, at Auschwitz.  But as the Nuremberg trial began, Hoess was missing, at least a fugitive, perhaps dead.

Almost four months later, in March 1946, soldiers in the United Kingdom zone of occupation captured Hoess near what had been Germany’s border with Denmark.  They interrogated him.  He confessed that he had, as Auschwitz commandant, on orders from Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler (who had killed himself in May 1945), gassed two million people.

Hoess then was transported to Nuremberg for further interrogation.  The four Allied  nations had by that time concluded presenting their prosecution cases against the defendants, but Hoess’s evidence was potentially relevant to their cross-examinations and rebuttals that still lie ahead, and perhaps to future trials.  He was interrogated, thoroughly and repeatedly, by U.S. personnel.  He continued to confess, in expanding detail, what he and his personnel had done at Auschwitz.  His confession was put in affidavit form, which he and United States assistant trial counsel Lieutenant Colonel Smith W. Brookhardt, Jr. (IGD), each signed on April 5, 1946.

Hoess’s capture and his presence in Nuremberg were made known to defense counsel.  On April 6, British prosecutor David Maxwell Fyfe applied to the International Military Tribunal (IMT), on behalf of defendant Ernst Kaltenbrunner, for a new “witness called Hoess, who was former Commander of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp.  My Lord, there is no objection on the part of the Prosecution to that.”  The IMT, determining that other defense counsel either concurred or did not object, granted permission.

On April 15, Kaltenbrunner’s lawyer called Hoess as a witness.  He testified that he had been commandant of Auschwitz for its first three years, and that he had reported to and received his instructions directly from Himmler’s subordinate Adolf Eichmann (who then was believed to be dead).  Hoess’s key testimony, from the defendant’s perspective:

Defense counsel Dr. Kurt Kauffmann:  Did the Defendant Kaltenbrunner ever inspect the [Auschwitz] camp?

 Hoess:  No.

 Dr. Kauffmann:  Did you ever talk with Kaltenbrunner with reference to your task?

 Hoess:  No, never.

U.S. Army Colonel John Harlan Amen, a senior member of U.S. Chief of Counsel Robert H. Jackson’s staff, then cross-examined Hoess.  The examination tracked his horrific affidavit to Brookhart.  It confessed publicly, without remorse, the enormous, deliberate, exterminationist evil of Auschwitz.

*          *          *

On the day of Hoess’s trial testimony, Justice Jackson was in Allied-occupied Vienna for diplomatic, military liaison, and other coordination meetings.

The next day, an Austrian woman, Helene Zacchiri, hurriedly typed a letter in quite-rough German and managed to get it delivered to Justice Jackson.  She obviously knew that he was in the city, that he was the chief prosecutor in Nuremberg, and that Hoess had just testified there.  She had been told years earlier that her son had died in Auschwitz.  She had tried to learn more about his fate but had failed.  Now she was asking Jackson for help.

Jackson, who did not read or speak German, had an interpreter with him in Vienna.  The interpreter shared with Jackson these words from Mrs. Zacchiri:

16 4 46

            [April 16, 1946]

Herrn Vorsitzenden Dr Robert H Jakson

[Mr. Chairman Robert H. Jackson]

Ich habe in der Zeitung gelesen das die Verhandlung gegen Kommandaten Hosch demnachst in Nurnberg stattfindet[.] Daher ersuche herrn Vorsitzden in engelegenheit meines Sohnes denselben einzuvernehmen[.]

[I have read in the newspaper that the hearing against Commandant Hosch [Rudolf Hoess] is taking place in Nuremberg. Therefore, I ask you to please question him about the fate of my son.]

Mein son Demeter Odnega geb Wien am 10 Juni 1901[.]  Maschinen techniker wurde von der Gestappo Wien am 29 Mai 1941 nach Auschwitz uberstellt[.]  Am 10 December hat mir der Kommandant eine Todeserklahrung geschikt[.]  Nun bin ich nach Berlin gefahren und habe dort erfahren dass main Son nur Tod erklahrt wurde[.]  Nachdem hier unde in Auschwitz alle akte verbrant sind kann ich uber das schiksal meines Sohnes Nicht erfahren[.]

[My son Demeter Odnega, born in Vienna on 10 June 1901, is a mechanic.  The Gestapo in Vienna sent him to Auschwitz on 29 May 1941.  On 10 December [1941?], the Commandant sent me a death certificate.  I went to Berlin and all that I could learn there is that my son is declared dead.  Because all the files in Auschwitz were destroyed, I cannot learn about the fate of my son.]

Ich ersuche daher hoflichst Hosch einzuvernnehmen ob mein Sohn getodet wurde in Auschwitz oder verschikt[.]  Ich war drei mal in Auschwitz Herr Vorsitzender[.]  und habe im Ort erfahren wie diese armen Menschen dort auf Befehl des Kommandanten als auf Auftrag des Schirach dort mishandelt wurden und getodet[.]  Ersuche mich schriftlich von der Einvernahme zu verstandigen denn es ist fur eine Mutter furchbar nicht zu wissen funf Jahre wo mein Sohn ist[.]

[Therefore please ask Hosch [Hoess] whether my son was killed in Auschwitz or transferred to some other place.  I was in Auschwitz three times, Mr. Chairman.  I learned how the poor people there were mistreated on the orders of the Commandant, on behalf of Schirach.  Please write back to me what you learn through interrogation.  It is awful for a mother not to know for five years where her son is.]

Hochachtunsvoll

Helene Zacchiri

Wien 4 Muhlgasse 20 12

            [Sincerely

            Helene Zacchiri

            Vienna [Austria] 4 Muhlgasse 20 12]

*          *          *

In Jackson’s position—he was the important chief of a very large, high profile, high stakes project, asked by an unimportant person to seek information that almost surely would not exist—many people would do little or nothing.

Jackson brought Mrs. Zacchiri’s letter back from Vienna to Nuremberg.  He gave it to his secretary Elsie Douglas.  He told her what it said, and that it likely was a futile request.  But he told her to send it to Col. Amen.

Mrs. Douglas sent the Zacchiri letter to Amen, with a cover note that was less than an order from Jackson to do something but not discouraging of action.

Amen passed the letter along to Sender Jaari, one of his Interrogation Division personnel who had been involved in interrogating Hoess.

Jaari asked the imprisoned Hoess about Mrs. Zacchiri’s son’s fate.  Hoess replied that he had no information.  Jaari reported that back to Mrs. Douglas.

Mrs. Douglas reported to Jackson what Hoess had said.

Jackson then sent a letter back to “My dear Mrs. Zacchiri” in Vienna:

As requested in your letter of April 16, which was delivered to me during my brief stay in Vienna, the witness Hoesch [sic] has been interrogated as to some possible clue on your son’s whereabouts.  I regret to advise you that Hoesch states that he does not know anything about him and therefore can give you no helpful information.  I am very sorry we have been unable to help you.

We know, as Mrs. Zacchiri was told in December 1941 and continued to believe, crushingly, in 1946, that her son Demeter Odnega was a Holocaust victim, murdered in Auschwitz—click here for his record in the International Tracing Service database.

I hope that she received Justice Jackson’s letter, and that she felt its humanity.

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This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private, one-way (me to you), entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world.  I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

Jackson List: Barnette Day

Today, June 14, 2019, marks the 76th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, embodied in Justice Robert H. Jackson’s opinion for the Court, in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette.

Barnette, decided amid the commendable patriotism of the U.S. home front during the dark middle period of World War II, invalidated a West Virginia board of education resolution requiring all public school teachers and students to participate in a salute to the American flag and a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

The case was brought on behalf of students who were Jehovah’s Witnesses.  In deference to their belief that the Bible forbade them to bow down to graven images, they refused to salute the flag.  For that refusal, they were expelled from school.  Expulsion had the effect of making the children unlawfully absent, which subjected them to delinquency proceedings and their parents to criminal prosecution.

In Barnette, the Supreme Court held, 6-3, that the flag salute and pledge requirements violated the children’s constitutional rights, which exist to strengthen “individual freedom of mind in preference to officially disciplined uniformity…”

Although Jackson’s full opinion in Barnette bears close reading (and regular rereading), some words to consider particularly closely are his summary paragraphs:

The case is made difficult not because the principles of its decision are obscure but because the flag involved is our own.  Nevertheless, we apply the limitations of the Constitution with no fear that freedom to be intellectually and spiritually diverse or even contrary will disintegrate the social organization.  To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous instead of a compulsory routine is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds.  We can have intellectual individualism and the rich cultural diversities that we owe to exceptional minds only at the price of occasional eccentricity and abnormal attitudes. When they are so harmless to others or to the State as those we deal with here, the price is not too great.  But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much.  That would be a mere shadow of freedom.  The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.  If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.

We think the action of the local authorities in compelling the flag salute and pledge transcends constitutional limitations on their power and invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution to reserve from all official control.

**Please also note** the FIU Law Review’s recent publication of a rich symposium on Barnette.  It includes my article “Justice Jackson in the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Cases,”  based on my keynote address at FIU’s excellent Barnette 75th anniversary conference.  Click here to get to the symposium articles.

*          *          *

Additional links—

  • West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943)—click here;
  • a 2006 roundtable discussion featuring sisters Gathie and Marie Barnett (whose surname got misspelled at some point in the litigation) and related commentary—click here;
  • a 2012 Jackson List post, “Arguing Barnette”—click here; and
  • a 2010 Jackson List post, “The Newest Barnette Sister”—click here.

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This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private, one-way (me to you), entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world.  I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

Jackson List: Donald Verrilli’s Jackson Lecture, Chautauqua Institution, July 1st

I am very pleased to report that Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., former Solicitor General of the United States (2011-2016), will give Chautauqua Institution’s 15th annual Robert H. Jackson Lecture on the Supreme Court of the United States, on Monday, July 1, 2019, at 4:00 p.m. in Chautauqua’s Hall of Philosophy.

Don Verrilli, a graduate of Yale College and Columbia Law School and a former law clerk to U.S. Circuit Judge J. Skelly Wright (D.C. Cir.) and U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., is an acclaimed American lawyer and courtroom advocate, including arguing fifty cases in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Following two decades in private law practice, Mr. Verrilli served in the Obama Administration, first as Associate Deputy Attorney General, then as Deputy White House Counsel, and then as Solicitor General of the U.S.

As Solicitor General, Mr. Verrilli, among other highlights, successfully defended the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act and the constitutional protection of marriage equality.

Since 2016, Mr. Verrilli has been a partner in Munger, Tolles & Olson, handling matters before the Supreme Court and the U.S. Courts of Appeals and representing and counseling clients on litigation, regulatory, and public policy problems—for his law firm page, click here.

The Jackson Lecture will bring Mr. Verrilli to Chautauqua Institution, a special venue of arts, education, and recreation in western New York State.  Chautauqua was a very significant part of Robert H. Jackson’s life, his broad and self-directed education, his public speaking training and experiences, and his thinking.  For an earlier Jackson List post on Chautauqua Institution, click here.  To view a 2011 documentary, “An American Narrative,” on Chautauqua, click here.  And click here for its website.

The Jackson Lecture at Chautauqua Institution is a leading annual consideration of the Supreme Court of the United States, on which Justice Jackson served from 1941-1954, in the weeks following the completion of the Supreme Court’s annual Term.

This year, with the Supreme Court scheduled to begin its summer recess late this month and a number of momentous decisions expected before then, Mr. Verrilli’s Jackson Lecture will be especially well-timed.

In past years, Chautauqua’s Jackson Lecturers have been:

  • 2005:  Geoffrey R. Stone, University of Chicago professor;
  • 2006:  Linda Greenhouse, New York Times writer and Yale Law School professor;
  • 2007:  Seth P. Waxman, WilmerHale partner and former Solicitor General of the United States;
  • 2008:  Jeffrey Toobin, staff writer at The New Yorker and CNN senior legal analyst;
  • 2009:  Paul D. Clement, Kirkland & Ellis LLP partner and former Solicitor General of the United States;
  • 2010:  Jeff Shesol, historian, communications strategist, and former White House speechwriter;
  • 2011:  Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor at Slate and Amicus podcast host;
  • 2012:  Pamela Karlan, Stanford University professor;
  • 2013:  Charles Fried, Harvard University professor and former Solicitor General of the United States;
  • 2014:  Akhil Reed Amar, Yale University professor;
  • 2015:  Laurence H. Tribe, Harvard University professor;
  • 2016:  Tracey L. Meares, Yale University professor;
  • 2017:  Judge Jon O. Newman, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit; and
  • 2018:  Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella, of the Supreme Court of Canada.

For a video library of some past Jackson Lectures, and also video of interviews with lecturers during their visits to Chautauqua Institution, click here.

For further information on Don Verrilli’s upcoming lecture, click here.

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This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

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.

Jackson List: The Federal Prosecutor (1940)

On this date in 1940, Robert H. Jackson—age forty-eight, three months into his service as Attorney General of the United States—gave one of his most important, famous, enduring speeches:  The Federal Prosecutor.  He spoke on that Monday to the chief federal prosecutors of his day, the U.S. Attorneys then serving in each Federal Judicial District across the country.  They were assembled in the Great Hall at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., for the Second Annual Conference of U.S. Attorneys.

Attorney General Jackson had moved up to that position from having been Solicitor General of the U.S., then DOJ’s number two position.  As a new AG in 1940, he was leading a Department that had been misdirected and, as a result, badly demoralized.  This speech was part of Jackson’s work to clean up DOJ.  The speech offered his vision of proper, ethical conduct by federal prosecutors.  It was, you will note, the antithesis of an April Fool’s Day message.

Jackson’s speech is quoted often.  I recall first reading of it in Justice Scalia’s dissenting opinion in Morrison v. Olson (1988), which quotes from it liberally, and then getting and reading the whole Jackson speech to get a better understanding of it in full, in context.  I have read it many times since then—it was, for example, handed out as assigned reading to many attorneys by a senior DOJ official when I worked in there in the 1990s, and I completed the assignment.  I have heard or read most Attorneys General, Deputy Attorneys General, and other senior DOJ officials, including recently, quote from Jackson’s speech in their own speeches, other public remarks, and written work.

Attorney General Jackson’s speech bears rereading in full.

Jackson’s speech then bears what he hoped in 1940 that it would accomplish:  absorption and implementation by every “gentleman,” and today also every gentlewoman, who wields federal prosecutorial power.

 

*              *              *

 The Federal Prosecutor

By Robert H. Jackson

Attorney General of the United States

April 1, 1940

            It would probably be within the range of that exaggeration permitted in Washington to say that assembled in this room is one of the most powerful peace-time forces known to our country.  The prosecutor has more control over life, liberty, and reputation than any other person in America.  His discretion is tremendous.  He can have citizens investigated and, if he is that kind of person, he can have this done to the tune of public statements and veiled or unveiled intimations.  Or the prosecutor may choose a more subtle course and simply have a citizen’s friends interviewed.  The prosecutor can order arrests, present cases to the grand jury in secret session, and on the basis of his one-sided presentation of the facts, can cause the citizen to be indicted and held for trial.  He may dismiss the case before trial, in which case the defense never has a chance to be heard.  Or he may go on with a public trial.  If he obtains a conviction, the prosecutor can still make recommendations as to sentence, as to whether the prisoner should get probation or a suspended sentence, and after he is put away, as to whether he is a fit subject for parole.  While the prosecutor at his best is one of the most beneficent forces in our society, when he acts from malice or other base motives, he is one of the worst.

These powers have been granted to our law-enforcement agencies because it seems necessary that such a power to prosecute be lodged somewhere.  This authority has been granted by people who really wanted the right thing done—wanted crime eliminated—but also wanted the best in our American traditions preserved.

Because of this immense power to strike at citizens, not with mere individual strength, but with all the force of government itself, the post of Federal District Attorney from the very beginning has been safeguard by presidential appointment, requiring confirmation of the Senate of the United States.  You are thus required to win an expression of confidence in your character by both the legislative and the executive branches of the government before assuming the responsibilities of a federal prosecutor.

Your responsibility in your several districts for law enforcement and for its methods cannot be wholly surrendered to Washington, and ought not to be assumed by a centralized Department of Justice.  It is an unusual and rare instance in which the local District Attorney should be superseded in the handling of litigation, except where he requests help of Washington.  It is also clear that with his knowledge of local sentiment and opinion, his contact with and intimate knowledge of the views of the court, and his acquaintance with the feelings of the group from which jurors are drawn, it is an unusual case in which his judgment should be overruled.

Experience, however, has demonstrated that some measure of centralized control is necessary.  In the absence of it different district attorneys were striving for different interpretations or applications of an Act, or were pursuing different conceptions of policy.  Also, to put it mildly, there were differences in the degree of diligence and zeal in different districts.  To promote uniformity of policy and action, to establish some standards of performance, and to make available specialized help, some degree of centralized administration was found necessary.

Our problem, of course, is to balance these opposing considerations.  I desire to avoid any lessening of the prestige and influence of the district attorneys in their districts.  At the same time we must proceed in all districts with that uniformity of policy which is necessary to the prestige of federal law.

Nothing better can come out of this meeting of law enforcement officers than a rededication to the spirit of fair play and decency that should animate the federal prosecutor.  Your positions are of such independence and importance that while you are being diligent, strict, and vigorous in law enforcement you can also afford to be just.  Although the government technically loses its case, it has really won if justice has been done.  The lawyer in public office is justified in seeking to leave behind him a good record.  But he must remember that his most alert and severe, but just, judges will be the members of his own profession, and that lawyers rest their good opinion of each other not merely on results accomplished but on the quality of the performance.  Reputation has been called “the shadow cast by one’s daily life.”  Any prosecutor who risks his day-to-day professional name for fair dealing to build up statistics of success has a perverted sense of practical values, as well as defects of character.  Whether one seeks promotion to a judgeship, as many prosecutors rightly do, or whether he returns to private practice, he can have no better asset than to have his profession recognize that his attitude toward those who feel his power has been dispassionate, reasonable and just.

The federal prosecutor has now been prohibited from engaging in political activities.  I am convinced that a good-faith acceptance of the spirit and letter of that doctrine will relieve many district attorneys from the embarrassment of what have heretofore been regarded as legitimate expectations of political service.  There can also be no doubt that to be closely identified with the intrigue, the money raising, and the machinery of a particular party or faction may present a prosecuting officer with embarrassing alignments and associations.  I think the Hatch Act should be utilized by federal prosecutors as a protection against demands on their time and their prestige to participate in the operation of the machinery of practical politics.

There is a most important reason why the prosecutor should have, as nearly as possible, a detached and impartial view of all groups in his community.  Law enforcement is not automatic.  It isn’t blind.  One of the greatest difficulties of the position of prosecutor is that he must pick his cases, because no prosecutor can even investigate all of the cases in which he receives complaints.  If the Department of Justice were to make even a pretense of reaching every probable violation of federal law, ten times its present staff would be inadequate.  We know that no local police force can strictly enforce the traffic laws, or it would arrest half the driving population on any given morning.  What every prosecutor is practically required to do it to select the cases for prosecution and to select those in which the offense is the most flagrant, the public harm the greatest, and the proof the most certain.

If the prosecutor is obliged to choose his cases, it follows that he can choose his defendants.  Therein is the most dangerous power of the prosecutor:  that he will pick people that he thinks he should get, rather than pick cases that need to be prosecuted.  With the law books filled with a great assortment of crimes, a prosecutor stands a fair chance of finding at least a technical violation of some act on the part of almost anyone.  In such a case, it is not a question of discovering the commission of a crime and then looking for the man who has committed it, it is a question of picking the man and then searching the law books, or putting investigators to work, to pin some offense on him.  It is in this realm—in which the prosecutor picks some person whom he dislikes or desires to embarrass, or selects some group of unpopular persons and then looks for an offense, that the greatest danger of abuse of prosecuting power lies.  It is here that law enforcement becomes personal, and the real crime becomes that of being unpopular with the predominant or governing group, being attached to the wrong political views, or being personally obnoxious to or in the way of the prosecutor himself.

In times of fear or hysteria political, racial, religious, social, and economic groups, often from the best of motives, cry for the scalps of individuals or groups because they do not like their views.  Particularly do we need to be dispassionate and courageous in those cases which deal with so-called “subversive activities.”  They are dangerous to civil liberty because the prosecutor has no definite standards to determine what constitutes a “subversive activity,” such as we have for murder or larceny.  Activities which seem benevolent and helpful to wage earners, persons on relief, or those who are disadvantaged in the struggle for existence may be regarded as “subversive” by those whose property interests might be burdened or affected thereby.  Those who are in office are apt to regard as “subversive” the activities of any of those who would bring about a change of administration.  Some of our soundest constitutional doctrines were once punished as subversive.  We must not forget that it was not so long ago that both the term “Republican” and the term “Democrat” were epithets with sinister meaning to denote persons of radical tendencies that were “subversive” of the order of things then dominant.

In the enforcement of laws which protect our national integrity and existence, we should prosecute any and every act of violation, but only overt acts, not the expression of opinion, or activities such as the holding of meetings, petitioning of Congress, or dissemination of news or opinions.  Only by extreme care can we protect the spirit as well as the letter of our civil liberties, and to do so is a responsibility of the federal prosecutor.

Another delicate task is to distinguish between the federal and the local in law-enforcement activities.  We must bear in mind that we are concerned only with the prosecution of acts which the Congress has made federal offenses.  Those acts we should prosecute regardless of local sentiment, regardless of whether it exposes lax local enforcement, regardless of whether it makes or breaks local politicians.

But outside of federal law each locality has the right under our system of government to fix its own standards of law enforcement and of morals.  And the moral climate of the United States is as varied as its physical climate.  For example, some states legalize and permit gambling, some states prohibit it legislatively and protect it administratively, and some try to prohibit it entirely.  The same variation of attitudes towards other law-enforcement problems exists.  The federal government could not enforce one kind of law in one place and another kind elsewhere.  It could hardly adopt strict standards for loose states or loose standards for strict states without doing violence to local sentiment.  In spite of the temptation to divert our power to local conditions where they have become offensive to our sense of decency, the only long-term policy that will save federal justice from being discredited by entanglements with local politics is that it confine itself to strict and impartial enforcement of federal law, letting the chips fall in the community where they may.  Just as there should be no permitting of local considerations to stop federal enforcement, so there should be no striving to enlarge our power over local affairs and no use of federal prosecutions to exert an indirect influence that would be unlawful if exerted directly.

The qualities of a good prosecutor are as elusive and as impossible to define as those which mark a gentleman.  And those who need to be told would not understand it anyway.  A sensitiveness to fair play and sportsmanship is perhaps the best protection against the abuse of power, and the citizen’s safety lies in the prosecutor who tempers zeal with human kindness, who seeks truth and not victims, who serves the law and not factional purposes, and who approaches his task with humility.

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This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

Jackson List: On British Opinion on Nuremberg (1949)

In late October 1946, Justice Robert H. Jackson, just back to the United States from his year-plus away serving as U.S. Chief of Counsel prosecuting Nazi war criminals before the International Military Tribunal (IMT) at Nuremberg, happened to meet, briefly, lawyer Eugene C. Gerhart, age thirty-four.  Gerhart was a former pre-World War II secretary to a judge of the Permanent Court of International Justice in Switzerland, a graduate of Harvard Law School, a veteran of U.S. Navy service during the war, a practicing lawyer in Jackson’s upstate New York homeland, and a man with interests in history and writing.  Not surprisingly, Jackson was impressed by Gerhart.

A year later, Eugene Gerhart wrote to Justice Jackson and proposed to write his biography.  Jackson was skeptical but agreed to cooperate, within the limits that his time and his respect for U.S. Supreme Court confidentiality imposed.

As Gerhart pursued his research, he posed various questions to Jackson.  In 1949, for instance, Gerhart asked Jackson about mid-1945 United Kingdom attitudes, before the London Conference concluded in August 1945 with the international agreement to create the IMT, about whether the Allies should prosecute their leading Nazi prisoners as criminals.  Gerhart also asked about U.K. attitudes since Nuremberg about the legal theories on which the trial was conducted.  He apparently had recently read British lawyer John Hartman Morgan’s 1948 book The Great Assize: An Examination of the Law of the Nuremberg Trials, and he (Gerhart) asked Jackson if he also had read it.

In response, Justice Jackson dictated, edited, and sent the following letter to Eugene Gerhart on March 17, 1949—seventy years ago today.  The letter was Jackson’s description, quite straightforward, candid, and on the record, of his thinking, which was at odds with U.K. policy at least initially in 1945, and which perhaps in 1949 was still at odds with some British views, about the legal underpinnings and the legitimacy of the Nuremberg trial.

Mr. Eugene C. Gerhart,

Security Mutual Building,

Binghamton, New York.

My dear Mr. Gerhart:

               I have not read [R.H.] Morgan’s The Great Assize.  Viscount [Frederic Herbert] Maugham, the former Lord Chancellor and brother of Somerset Maugham, was at Nurnberg briefly as a guest.

               Of course, the fundamental premises on which we prosecuted the Germans for offenses against international society are at war with the concept of sovereignty as an absolute right of a nation to do as it pleases.  This argument was made by German [defense] counsel.  However, as [Columbia University law] Professor [Philip] Jessup points out in his work, A Modern Law of Nations, page 2, no real international law can exist if this rule of unlimited sovereignty is to prevail.  This is simply one of those basic breaks between the modern and what I consider the medieval conception of the place of law among nations.  I am not disposed to deny that it [Nuremberg] was a substantial break with the past and may have been applied somewhat retroactively.

               As to the crimes against humanity, there is truth on both sides.  As I pointed out in the Opening Speech [I delivered to the IMT on November 21, 1945,], it is not every cruelty which a government inflicts upon its own people that becomes of international concern.  But you will notice in the definition of “crimes against humanity” that it is limited to those “in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal.”  That is to say, when extermination, enslavement and deportation are a part of the program of aggressive warfare, they do become matters of international concern.  I think our proof amply demonstrated that the campaign against the Jews was intended to remove what they [the Nazis] regarded as an obstruction to instituting war and that the extermination was a part of the objective of the war.

               It may be true that there is no generally accepted definition of “aggressive war” and that all victors tend to justify themselves.  You will find in the minutes of the [summer 1945] London Conference that I made repeated efforts to get a definition and I never had any help from the British in doing it.

               It does not seem to me that aggressive warfare is any more vague, even if not further defined, than many of the concepts with which we work in the law.  And we must not forget that the Hitler war was aggressive by any test that anybody has ever suggested, and that he boasted of it as such.  I have dealt with these matters in a speech, copy of which is enclosed.

               This must be remembered about all British comment on the trial.  The British Government under Lord Chancellor [John] Simon was opposed to trials and wanted the war criminals disposed of by executive determination.  This fact appears in the London Conference records among the very early documents.  A large segment of British opinion remains committed to that theory or is sufficiently biased on the subject to be critical of the trials.  We rather forced trials upon them, as you will see from the London minutes, and there has been some disposition among the British not perhaps to resent that fact but at least to try to make up for it by criticism of what was done.

               I trust this gives you, in general, what you want.

               With best wishes, I am

                                                               Sincerely yours,

                                                               /s/ Robert Jackson

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This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

Jackson List: 127th Birthday

Today marks the 127th anniversary of Robert Houghwout Jackson’s 1892 birth, in his family’s farmhouse in Spring Creek Township, Warren County, Pennsylvania.

For your Jackson Birthday reading, here are some previous Jackson Birthday-related posts:

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This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

Jackson List: Spandau Prisoner Rudolf Hess

Rudolf Hess was one of Adolf Hitler’s earliest friends and devoted supporters.  Imprisoned with Hitler in the 1920s, Hess assisted his writing of Mein Kampf.  Hess was at Hitler’s side as the Nazi Party gained support and then political power.  After Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, Hess became Deputy Führer.  He assisted Hitler through the rest of the decade, as Germany built up its military strength and then started World War II, coercing some countries to capitulate and attacking others.

In May 1941, Hess became a British prisoner.  He was captured in Scotland, where he had flown from Germany on an odd, apparently solo, mission.  It seems that Hess sought to negotiate a United Kingdom-Germany peace agreement.

In 1945, following Nazi Germany’s military defeat and unconditional surrender, the Allies created the International Military Tribunal (IMT), charged Hess as a war criminal, and transported him to Nuremberg for trial (where Justice Jackson of course served as chief U.S. prosecutor).  Hess was tried there and, in Fall 1946, convicted of conspiracy and crimes against peace and sentenced to life in prison.

Hess was transported to Spandau Prison in Berlin and served his sentence there.  As the other prisoners completed their terms and were released, Hess became the only person still held in Spandau.  He died there, by suicide, in 1987, age 93.

Over the years, a story developed that the real Hess had been somehow, at some point in 1941 or later, freed, switched for a “double” who became the prisoner of Spandau.

This story, which involved neo-Nazi Hess supporters and was meaningful to them, never seemed to have much to it.

In any case, it now seems to have been disproven.  Austrian scientists, testing a preserved blood sample from the Spandau prisoner, have matched it to a DNA sample from a distant male relative of Hess.

Here are some links with further details—

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This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

Jackson List: Public Life & the Pursuit of Good Information (Thanksgiving 1937)

On the evening of Wednesday, November 24, 1937, United States Assistant Attorney General Robert H. Jackson, then heading the Antitrust Division in the U.S. Department of Justice, spoke in Washington at a private gathering of young, liberal Members of Congress.  The group included Senator Sherman Minton (D.-IN), Representative Knute Hill (D.-WA), and others.

AAG Jackson spoke to these Senators and Representatives at length and powerfully.  Jackson had, by then, become a national figure.  He was a leading voice of President Roosevelt’s New Deal.  Its policies had led the U.S. economy to optimism and recovery following the worst of the Great Depression.  President Roosevelt had been reelected overwhelmingly—he won 46 of 48 States—just one year earlier.  But now the Administration, including Jackson, was contending with mixed economic conditions.  There were signs of a renewed downturn and, as a result, some public discontent.

Robert Jackson, in this speech—which it seems that he made from notes and papers that, alas, he did not preserve—criticized some businesses for thwarting further economic recovery.  Jackson recited statistics on recent business behavior.  He discussed manufacturers’ recent price increases, which had produced high profits for companies but not led them to raise their workers’ wages.  He showed the Members a chart depicting rises in prices and industrial profits.

*          *          *

The next day, Thursday, November 25, 1937, was Thanksgiving Day.  It seems that Robert Jackson and his wife Irene spent the holiday, with their daughter Mary (a senior at National Cathedral School for Girls) and maybe also with their son Bill (a Yale College freshman), at their home in Washington.

On that Thanksgiving morning, elsewhere in Washington, one of the young Congressmen who had heard Jackson speak the previous evening dictated this letter (which then got typed up, signed, and delivered to Jackson’s DOJ office, probably the next day)—

My dear Bob:

This Thanksgiving morning, before I tie into the things which are ahead for the day, I want to tell you how much I enjoyed and profited by your speech last night.

It was certainly an inspiration to anyone feeling his way through the maze of things as they are today.  It was informative from first to last, and the best kind of a picture I have ever seen drawn of our problems and complexities in a brief space of time.

I feel that if closer relations existed between men like you and the elected representatives of the people, we should all be a lot better off.

 With all good wishes, I am,

                                                Sincerely yours

                                                /s/ Lyndon B. Johnson

*          *          *

During the next week, Representative Johnson (D.-TX), age 29, elected to Congress in a special election the previous April, continued to think about Assistant Attorney General Jackson’s November 24 speech.  Jackson apparently did not respond promptly to Johnson’s November 25 letter.  So on Wednesday, November 30, Johnson dictated and sent a second letter to Jackson:

My dear Mr. Jackson:

The more I think of your excellent address the other evening, the more I appreciate what a wealth of material and research was in it.

I wonder if you would be so kind as to steer me a little in my efforts to educate myself more fully in the lines which you followed out.  Could you, for instance, tell me where it would be possible for me to obtain the full information concerning the increase in prices of products in the major manufacturing fields during the past few years, in their relation to increases in wages and in profits?  I was most interested in that, and related phases, of your discourse.

With all good wishes, I am,

Sincerely yours

                                 /s/ Lyndon B. Johnson

Representative Johnson—LBJ, if I may, although the fact that 1937’s Johnson would become our “LBJ” would not have been apparent then—was not alone in being interested.  Two days later, Representative Hill also wrote to Jackson:

My dear Jackson:

I was very much impressed with your talk before the Liberal bloc last Wednesday night, and particularly by the chart you presented, which showed the contrast [sic?] between the rise in prices and the rise in profits in industries.

You may recall that I asked you if it would be possible to secure a copy of this chart, which you intended to have reprinted.  I sincerely hope that this will be possible, as I am anxious to study the correlation in more detail.

                                    Sincerely yours

                                    /s/ Knute Hill

*          *          *

At the Department of Justice, Jackson’s staff moved to get him to answer the Congressmen’s queries.  Someone put a printed pink slip, reading “SPECIAL,” on Johnson’s second letter.  Jackson’s secretary Grace Stewart added a typed note:  “Is the information available?  Senator Minton also inquired.”

In mid-December, Jackson responded by dictating letters that were typed and sent back to the Congressmen.  His letter to Representative Hill, age 61 and just reelected to his third term in the House, was direct:

My dear Mr. Hill:

I have not had a chance to get the figures which I used the other night completed with sufficient accuracy so they would be suitable for being publicly used.  I understand that [Roosevelt economic adviser] Leon Henderson has some studies which are dependable, and I would suggest that you rely on his for the present.

Sincerely yours,

/s/ Robert H. Jackson

To Johnson, Jackson sent basically the same letter, calling his “figures … hastily assembled and pretty rough for public use.”

And it seems that Jackson responded to Senator Minton—who a dozen years hence would become his U.S. Supreme Court colleague—by telephone.

*          *          *

As Thanksgiving Day dawns tomorrow, I hope that you wake up thinking of important topics and great people, and that you can make contact with them and get good responses.

I hope that you will “tie into” many good things throughout the day and always.

I hope that your representatives in government pursue good information diligently.

And I thank you for your interest in the Jackson List.

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This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.

Jackson List: Video of Barnette 75th anniversary symposium, Florida International University

I had the opportunity to participate last Friday in an excellent symposium, “Barnette at 75: The Past, Present, and Future of the ‘Fixed Star in Our Constitutional Constellation,’” at Florida International University College of Law in Miami.

The symposium considered, from many angles, the United States Supreme Court’s 1943 decision, West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, including its historical context, meanings, flaws, and legacies.

In Barnette, the Supreme Court invalidated a state requirement that public school teachers and students participate in a salute to the American flag and recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.  The Court held, 6-3, that these requirements violated the constitutional rights of Jehovah’s Witnesses schoolchildren.  In his opinion for the Court, Justice Robert H. Jackson wrote that “[i]f there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

Video of the symposium proceedings is online here:

https://lawmediasite.fiu.edu/Mediasite/Play/27a74d007718451491014865286f52e21d.

To view any (or every) speaker, here are the respective video time-counter readings:

0:20:26

Welcome and Introduction, Prof. Howard Wasserman, Faculty Symposium Organizer

0:25:00

Welcome remarks, Dean Antony Page, Florida International University College of Law

First Panel: Barnette in Historical Context

0:32:13

Ronald K. L. Collins, Harold S. Shefelman Scholar, University of Washington School of Law

  • Thoughts on Hayden C. Covington and the Paucity of Litigation Scholarship

0:57:07

John Inazu, Sally D. Danforth Distinguished Professor of Law & Religion, Washington University School of Law

  • Barnette and the Four Freedoms

1:13:20

Genevieve Lakier, Professor of Law, University of Chicago School of Law

  • Barnette, Compelled Speech, and the Regulatory State

1:32:00

Brad Snyder, Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center

  • Frankfurter and the Flag Salute Cases

Second Panel: Reading Barnette

2:39:15

Aaron Saiger, Professor of Law, Fordham University School of Law

  • The Pedagogy of Barnette

3:00:49

Steven Smith, Warren Distinguished Professor of Law, University of San Diego School of Law

  • “Fixed Star” or “Twin Star”? The Ambiguity of Barnette

3:20:58

Paul Horwitz, Gordon Rosen Professor of Law, University of Alabama School of Law

  • Barnette: A Close Reading (for Vince Blasi)

Keynote Address

4:31:55

John Q. Barrett, Professor of Law, St. John’s University School of Law

  • Justice Jackson & Jehovah’s Witnesses: Barnette in its Context, and in Jackson’s Life and Work

Third Panel:  Barnette in Modern Context

5:30:05

Erica Goldberg, Professor of Law, University of Dayton School of Law

  • “Good Orthodoxy” and the Legacy of Barnette

5:52:12

Abner S. Greene, Leonard F. Manning Professor of Law, Fordham University School of Law

  • Barnette and Masterpiece Cakeshop: Some Unanswered Questions

6:12:19

Leslie Kendrick, Vice Dean and David H. Ibbeken ’71 Research Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law

  • A Fixed Star in New Skies: The Evolution of Barnette

 

Articles based on these lectures will be published in a symposium issue of the FIU Law Review.

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This post was emailed to the Jackson List, a private but entirely non-selective email list that reaches many thousands of subscribers around the world. I write to it periodically about Justice Robert H. Jackson, the Supreme Court, Nuremberg and related topics. The Jackson List archive site is http://thejacksonlist.com/.  To subscribe, email me at barrettj@stjohns.edu. Thank you for your interest, and for spreading the word.