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Nuremberg – The Trial of the Nazi war criminals. Podcast Radio 4 BBC

Jonathan Myerson wrote and directed this podcast, assuring us it was based on real events and testimonies.

I could find no errors other than the emphasis on the role of certain women which may have been the influence of BBC diversity and gender compliance.

So whole episodes were narrated by the Honourable Diana Ravenscourt (Kate Philllips) p/a to Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, the British prosecutor and a French journalist but the reality is that the male jurists did the difficult job of not just convening a tribunal from the 4 then allies but a jurisprudence of war crimes and genocide in the face and opposition of Winston Churchill and Stalin who thought the Nazi perpetrators  merited no trial or a show trial with a forced guilty plea.

It was the American secretary of war Henry Stimson who argued successfully that if they were condemned without proper process than history would treat the Allies as no better than the Nazi regime.

In the podcast the perception of the judges was that they were buffers and duffers.

A podcast is an unusual drama vehicle for me but it does mean I could follow the 16 episodes at my own leisure and in my  my own time.

The cast was strong with Henry Goodman particularly good as the Russian prosecutor Nitchenko.  Many of the other and lesser roles were played by one actor.

The 16 episodes began with the hunt of the Nazis , then followed with the constitution of the tribunal, the legal difficulties  in framing the indictment, its service by Airey Neave, the suicide of Ley and later Goering, the trial and execution.

I would have liked to have seen a final episode of Nuremberg’s legacy.

It was sad that – because of Russian withdrawal and the ‘Iron Curtain’ speech of Churchill – the tribunal did not survive as an enduring court to judge war crimes.

Nonetheless it was a fine achievement, not least as the legal systems of the Allies were not compatible.

The American and French system did not recognise cross examination but it was the masterly cross examination of Goering by Sir David Maxwell Fyfe that did for the Reichsfuhrer.

Before that Goering’s insistence on translation frustrated the principal prosecutor American Robert Jackson.

For the German legacy,  their women known as the “TrummelFrauen”  (rubble women) rebuilt Germany, now divided, with their bare hands from the bombed rubble that was their country.

By 1954 West Germany had won the World Cup and by the 60s become a major economic power with the likes of Volkswagen, BMW and Siemens global corporations.

One of the most interesting conversations of my life was at the American Bar Association in Chicago.

I left a reception  in the company of two lawyers and shared a taxi.

One of them was Henry King who as young lawyer was part of the American team of 500. We invited him and his colleague to our hotel I listened in awe to his account of Nuremberg.

I therefore had a different perception to this podcast. Philippe Sands’ East West Street, the film Judgement at  Nuremberg and the documentaries on PBS provide a more reliable account.


About Henry Elkins

A keen researcher of family ancestors, Henry will be reporting on the centenary of World War One. More Posts

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