Extraordinary Exile (A Reporter at Large)


There rushes up toward the plane the astonishing face of the world’s enemy: pine woods on little hills, gray-green, glossy lakes too small to be anything but smooth, gardens tall with red-tongued beans, fields striped with red-gold wheat, russet-roofed villages with high gables, and pumpkin-steepled churches that no architect over seven could have designed. Another minute and the plane drops to the heart of the world’s enemy: Nuremberg. In not many more minutes, one is in the courtroom where the world’s enemy is being tried for his sins, and immediately one forgets those sins in wonder at a conflict going on in that court which has nothing to do with the indictments it is considering. The trial is now in its tenth month, and the courtroom is a citadel of boredom. Every person attending it is in the grip of extreme tedium. This is not to say that the work at hand is being performed in a languid or perfunctory way. An iron discipline meets that tedium head on and does not yield an inch to it. But all the same, the most spectacular process in the court today is a certain tug of war concerning time. Some of those present are fiercely desiring that the tedium should come to an end at the first possible moment, and the others are as fiercely desiring that it should last forever.

The people in court who want the tedium to endure eternally are the twenty-one defendants in the dock, who disconcert the spectator by presenting the blatant appearance that historical characters, particularly in distress, assume in bad paintings. They really do look what they are, even as Belisarius sitting by his beggar’s cup or Napoleon brooding on St. Helena. They are crudely wreathed in suggestions of death. Not only are they in peril of the death sentence, but there is constant talk about millions of dead and arguments whether they died because of these men or not, and there now emanates from them a sense of corruption hardly less tangible than the smell which, as one walks through the old town of Nuremberg, sometimes rises from the rubble where one of the thirty thousand missing Nurembergers has not fully reacted to time and the disinfectant spray. Knowing so very well what death is like, these men prefer the tedium of the trial to its cessation. So they cling to the procedure through their lawyers and stretch it to the limits of its texture, and by the suggestions they make as to the handling of the witnesses they put the brakes on the proceedings, thus arousing in the rest of the court, the living people who have a prospect of leaving Nuremberg and going back to life, a savage impatience. This impatience is checked by the iron discipline which the court has imposed itself, but it makes the air more tense.

It does, indeed, seem ridiculous for the defendants to try to stave off the end, for they admit by their appearance that nothing is to go well with them again on this earth. These Nazi leaders, dedicated to the breaking of all rules, break last of all the rule that the verdict of a court must not be anticipated. Their appearance announces what they believe. The death penalty has been asked for all of them; it is obvious that the defendants think that the prosecutors are going to get their wish. Believing that they’re to lose everything, they hold on to nothing. Not the slightest trace of their power or their glory remains. None of them looks as if he could ever have exercised any valid authority. Göring uses imperial gestures, but they are so vulgar that it is as if there had always been quotation marks around the adjective—as if people said, “You know, he was the one they used to call ‘the Emperor.’ ” But now the defendants are losing what is more fundamental than manner or gestures—the accustomed color and texture of their skins, and the molding of their features. Except for Schacht, who is white-haired, and Speer, who is swarthy, they are neither dark nor fair, and there is among them no leanness that does not sag and no plumpness that seems more than inflation by some thin gas. So completely obscure are their personalities that it is hard to keep in mind which is which, even after one has sat and looked at them for days, and such as stand out define themselves by oddity rather than by character.

At one end of the front row in the dock sits Schacht, twisted in his seat so that the back of his tall body, stiff as a plank, is propped against the panel which ought to be at his side. Thus he sits at right angles to his fellow-defendants and looks past them and over their heads; it was always his argument that he was far superior to Hitler’s gang. Thus, too, he sits at right angles to the judges on the bench before him; he is a leading international banker, a most respectable man, and no court on earth can have a moral right to try him. He is petrified by rage at the indignities practiced on him. He might be a corpse frozen by rigor mortis into an attitude which would make it difficult to fit him into his coffin. Schirach, the Youth Leader, startles because he is like a woman. It is as if a neat and mousy governess sat there, not pretty but with never a hair out of place, and always to be trusted not to intrude when there are visitors—as if he were Jane Eyre. Streicher is pitiable, because it is plainly the community and not he who was guilty of his sins. He is a dirty old man of the sort that gives trouble in parks, and a sane Germany would have sent him to an asylum long ago. Speer, the architect, is the one defendant for whom the court has some liking and respect. He seems to have worked with the Nazis simply because he was a social creator and had to use whatever government was in power to get control of his medium. There is something baboonish about his sharp, dark face that explains how he came to forget that an artist, like anybody else, has to have some fastidiousness.

Though one has read surprising news of Göring for years, he still surprises. He is, above all things, soft. He wears either a German air-force uniform or a light beach suit in the worst of playful taste, and both hang loosely on him, giving him an air of pregnancy. He has thick brown young hair, the coarse, bright skin of an actor who has used grease paint for decades, and the preternaturally deep wrinkles of the drug addict; it adds up to something like the head of a ventriloquist’s dummy. His appearance makes a pointed but obscure reference to sex. It is a matter of history that Göring’s love affairs with women played a decisive part in the development of the Nazi Party at various stages, but he looks as one who would never lift a hand to a woman save in something much more peculiar than kindness. Nevertheless, he does not look like any recognized type of homosexual. Sometimes, particularly when his humor is good, he recalls the madam of a brothel. His like are to be seen in the late morning in doorways along the steep streets of Marseilles, the professional mask of geniality still had on their faces, though they stand relaxed in leisure, their fat cats rubbing against their spread skirts. At other times, particularly when he is talking to his friends in the intervals, his gestures recall a tout in a Paris café offering some tourists a chance to see a Black Mass. Whatever was his field of experience, it seems certain that it lacked the element of consummation. There is a sense of desert thirst about him. No matter what superb aqueduct he built to bring water to his encampment among the sands, some perversity in the architecture let it run out and spill before it reached him. Yet even now his wide and woodenish lips sometimes smack together in smiling appetite. If he were given the chance, he would walk out of the Palace of Justice, take over Germany again, and turn it into a stage for the enactment of his governing fantasy, which is so strong that it fills the air around him with its images, so madly private that those images are beyond the power of those who see them to interpret them.

But now, after these many months, even these men are giving up the effort of being themselves and are more and more cohering into a common pattern which reiterates the plea of Not Guilty. All the time they make quite unidiosyncratic gestures, expressive of innocence and outraged common sense, and in the intervals they stand up and chat among themselves, forming little protesting groups which, painted in a mural, could be recognized as the men who would have saved the world if it had let them. But all this they do more weakly every day. They are visibly receding from the field of existence and are perhaps no longer conscious of the recession. It is possible that they never think directly of death or even of imprisonment, and that there is nothing positive in them at all except their desire to hold time still. For they are praying with their sharpest nerves, “Let this trial never finish, let it go on forever and ever, without end.”

The nerves of all others present in the Palace of Justice are sending out a counter-prayer: the eight judges on the bench, who are plainly dragging the proceedings over the threshold of their consciousness by sheer force of will; the lawyers and the secretaries, who sit, sagging in their seats because they have been there so long, at the tables in the well of the court; the interpreters, twittering like sleepy birds in their glass boxes; the guards, who stand with their arms gripping their white truncheons behind their backs, as still and as hard as metal, except for their childish faces, which are puffy with boredom. All want to leave Nuremberg as urgently as a dental patient enduring the drill wants to get up and leave the chair; and they would have difficulty in explaining the cause of that urgency. These people at Nuremberg are all well fed, well clothed, well housed, and well cared for by their guardian organizations lucky enough among the sons of men, as things go at present. They are merely fretted to the limits of endurance by isolation in a small area, cut off from normal life by the barbed wire of army regulations; by perpetual confrontation with the dreary details of a fatuous chapter in history which is over and which everyone wants to forget; by continued enslavement to the war machine.

It is as if all the employees of the New York Telephone Company were transported to such a town as Toledo, Ohio, which by some melancholy visitation had been deprived of its amenities, and were forced to live there for ten months—during which they all had particular reasons for wanting to do something else—under an ordinance which forbade them any intercourse with the native Toledans and insisted that they constantly show passes in the narrow avenues along which they travelled on their restricted business. Nuremberger routine is dictated by necessity; malice has no part in the making of it; but it is extraordinary how it manages to bite the exiles in the leg at every turn. It is unfortunate that either they have to be acutely bored and get some exercise or they have to be less bored and grow physically stale. The court sits from ten to five on five days a week, and often on Saturday mornings. Only people on the fringe of the case work these hours; they sit and tap their teeth with their pencils, but at least they can get off early to the swimming pool or the tennis court. Those who are more deeply involved work longer hours, which leave no time for any distraction but dinner parties, at which they meet a sprinkling of visitors, who all utter the same ecstatic cries at their view of the historic peep show, and other members of the rota of residents, who no longer utter ecstatic cries about anything in Nuremberg at all.

In fact, this corner of Europe is experiencing the disharmonies due to transplantation known till now only to British and American colonies set down in distant lands. The atmosphere of the British section recalls that timeless institution, the Indian hill station; you can read all about it in Kipling, who describes again and again the attempt, by holding fast to the formality of English social life, to dodge the danger that monotony and exasperation may create hysteria. In villas furnished with characteristic modern German furniture, every piece of which seems to have an enormous behind, one attends dinner parties that might have been given in Devonshire. The Americans’ reaction to the situation is to give larger parties, but these are overshadowed by a feeling that a bad magic is plunging them, just at a moment when they thought they were travelling along the splendid width of history, into something smaller than the smallest town they ever fled. But no small town was ever so bare of fundamental distractions as Nuremberg. For example, nothing can be bought by these visitors except at the official American store in the Palace of Justice. The constriction of rationing here amounts to suffocation. There is nothing left in Nuremberg which makes a city. It is a mystery how the people who travel in the tramcars earn a living, and it is a miracle how they house themselves. In the darkness, lights burn in rooms that balance crazily on twisted towers rising from the plains of rubble. There are no shops, except for a few that sell unattractive, and usually rationed, necessities. The acquisitive instinct that amounts to a fair part of the human will never make a killing here, never find the unexpected thing that gilds the personality.

But these shackles could be borne if it were not for the deeper disquiet. Something is happening all over the world; one reads of it constantly in the newspapers, but here in Nuremberg one can feel it. A machine is running down, a great machine, the greatest machine that has ever been created—the war machine, by which mankind, in spite of its infirmity of purpose and its frequent desire for death, has defended its life.

It was a hard machine to operate; its processes were unlovely. It is the natural desire of all who served it, save those rare creatures, the born soldiers, that it should become scrap. There is another machine, which is warming up—the peace machine, by which mankind means to live its life. Since enjoyment is less urgent than defense, it is more easily served. All over the world, people are sick with impatience because they are bound to the machine that is running down, and they want to help operate the machine that is warming up. They do not want to kill, they want to eat and drink and be merry and wise. Not only are they balked in that reasonable desire; they are teased in their daily routine. For some have succeeded in getting their desire and have made the transfer. By what trickery did they get their freedom first? How could they have deserved it more than those who were left? Those who, still enslaved, ask themselves these bitter questions grow frenzied in the asking, because those whom they envy have not only made their getaway but have left their work to be done by replacements, inexpert and themselves heartsick because they are not free to pass over to peace. The drink would be sour, in any case; there is also sand in it.

The situation would be more tolerable if these conquerors took the smallest interest in their conquest, but they do not. They are even embarrassed by it.

“Pardon my mailed glove,” they seem to murmur as they drive in the American automobiles that are all the German roads carry now, past the crowds of Germans who wait for the streetcar beside the round, black Nuremberg towers, which are now hollow, the city walls which now enclose no city; or as, on Sundays, they timidly stroll about the villages, bearing themselves like polite people who find themselves intruding on a bereaved family; or as they inform their officers, if they are G.I.s, that such-and-such a garage proprietor or doorman is a decent fellow, really he is, though he is a kraut. 

The English are famed for their tendency to understatement, and of this the supreme example, to those who have been to Nuremberg, must be Milton’s opinion that peace hath her victories no less renowned than war. It is inconceivable that any of the exiles in Nuremberg could find such gusto in any phase of their relations with the country they have beaten as they foresee in the most prosaic contacts with their home towns. Their hopes are written on them visibly. Lines on a young soldier’s brow proclaim the opinion that he does not care what decoration he won in the Ardennes; he wants to go back to work where he was before Pearl Harbor and get in line for the promotion that should be coming along. 

A complexion beyond the resources of the normal blood stream, an ambient perfume amounting almost to a general anaesthetic for the passerby, indicate a state of unrest that can be allayed not by reference to a proud page in American history but only by transference to another part of the globe, where a female can buy the new things for the body which freshen the soul, and make her choice in a community where the most attractive men are not all in love with wives who are three thousand miles away. The air of the court vibrates with the need of these people for change. If a miracle were to happen and an angel were to appear and strike dead all the defendants and bid the rest do what they willed, they would run out into the streets and take off from the ground and rise on the force of their desire, and travel in a black, compact cloud across the Atlantic, back to America, back to peace, back to life. Yet when these people have at last returned to their homes, they will never forget Nuremberg; they will perhaps sometimes wish they could be there again, for in memory the pain of tension often changes to delight.

Considering this strain, the atmosphere surrounding these exiles is extraordinarily sweet. They rage against things rather than against each other. At breakfast in the Grand Hotel, they utter such cries as “Christ, am I allergic to powdered eggs with a hair in ’em!” with a passion that seems immense even for such immense provocation. But there is very little spite. The nicknames are all good-humored, and are imparted to the stranger only with that understanding. When it is divulged that one of the most gifted interpreters, a handsome young woman from Wisconsin, is known as the Passionate Haystack, care is taken to point out that it implies no reflection on her temperament but only a tribute to a remarkable hair-do. This sweetness of atmosphere is due chiefly to a kind of easy good nature—the warmer side of indifference—that we Europeans regard as typically American; and doubtless many are kept sane by certain distractions. 

Doubtless the life of the heart is lived in Nuremberg as well as anywhere else. The corridors of the Palace of Justice itself are paced by an image of Eros—a dog, marbled in black and white, its jowls quivering, its haunches swaying in time to the slow and steady pulse of its infatuation as it follows its master, a Viennese interpreter, who carries off the situation with the gay complacence of a Schnitzler hero. When the interpreter has to go into a part of the building reserved for humanity, he opens the door of the nearest office and, to the surprise of anyone who may be present, throws in the dog. It is not in the heart of man to leave another man’s dog alone, but, disregarding all wooing, it looks around wildly. When it realizes that the beloved has indeed gone, it stretches out its front legs stiff on the floor and drops its muzzle between them with a gesture of inconsolable widowhood, while its rear end lowers itself slowly and funereally. 

So it remains, insensible to caresses, till the beloved returns. It shoots up, with a whimper that informs him it thought he was dead, and lurches after him out into the corridor, repeating with its ears and tail something out of Euripides beginning, “Oh, Love, Love, thou that from thine eyes diffusest yearning and on the soul sweet grace inducest.” Others there are among the exiles that are thus insulated from their ordeal; it is the same in Nuremberg as it is in Cincinnati. But it is in the experience of all of us that such protection comes and goes. They are more secure who have as shield an idea—the idea of the law.

They are as bored as anyone else, the lawyers in court, but because of their loyalty to their idea they work against the grain of their boredom, as climbers, distressed by the lack of oxygen in the upper air, nevertheless continue to climb, because they have mastered their technique to such an extent that it can take control of them when they lose grip, and because they continue to remind themselves of the importance of their aim. On the bench sit the eight judges, with the American and the British judges in the middle. Francis Biddle looks like a highly intelligent swan, occasionally flexing down to commune with a smaller waterfowl, for Sir Geoffrey Lawrence, English president of the court, who sits beside him, is much smaller, though of a dignity that keeps the German lawyers scuttling. Sir Geoffrey’s father was a Lord Chief Justice, and he brings to legal procedure the quality that the second generation of a theatrical family brings to Shakespeare. He has the most charming voice in the world, and a silvery querulousness that can flay without drawing a single drop of blood. The alternate American judge, John J. Parker, of Charlotte, North Carolina, proves it true that a good local product can be sent the world over and do trade no harm. People living in the American countryside like an American judge to be this and that, and they have not low standards, and because those standards are set by human necessities, they are valid anywhere, and the man who satisfies them is liked better than any cosmopolitan with less defined standards. The alternate British judge, Sir William Norman Birkett, has a head of hair that tells his story. It is like a toupee made by a wigmaker, and he would have done something about it had he not been a person without vanity, happily preoccupied by intellectual things. He likes poetry and music and good food and wine, and is a fierce Liberal.

Between the English-speaking spectator and the four other judges there are veils. There is a veil of misleading familiarity, of odd and false association, between us and the French judges. Because they wear the robes of French lawyers, they immediately recall the drawings of Daumier and distract one with considerations of what a superb artist Daumier was. These judges are not in the least like the sharks and alligators that Daumier drew, being sober embodiments of the French tradition of learning and civilized living, but Daumier has made so many exciting patterns out of these white jabots and black gowns that at the sight of them the grateful memory involves his work. Costume, too, makes the veil that hangs between the English-speaking spectator and the Russian judges. 

They are in military uniform, the strangest choice for officers of a tribunal set up in the hope of superseding war by law. Yet both of them are liked—one of them, General Nikitchenko, as well as almost anyone in Nuremberg. Of the judges we can understand, it can be said that all realize very well the drawback of this trial. They all know very well that it is a pity that the defeated have to be tried by the victors, that it is impracticable to have judgment delivered by a neutral court. But they are all judges who know that every trial is flawed by the same imperfection, who are aware that every accused person is suffering the injustice of being tried by people who, in the economic and social struggles which have worsted him, have come off best, to the extent of being on the bench while he is in the dock. They believe that the imperfection can be remedied by strict adherence to a code of law, which they must force themselves to apply as if they were not victors but representatives of a neutral power. One has read of such idealistic efforts in history books. It is the charm of a visit to Nuremberg that one sees the effort being made and, in listening to arguments subtle as the serpent and slow as the snail, counts the immense cost of legality and wonders at the immense fortitude of those who are paying the cost. For however much a man loved the law, he could not love so much of it as lies about at Nuremberg.

At the tables where the prosecutors sit, there is the same national division as on the bench. Most of the Russian lawyers are in uniform, and those that are and those that are not are alike in dumfounding the court by their use of legal procedure. Cross-examination is the process by which a witness’s story is checked by reference to probability and the statements of other witnesses. It is impossible to guess why a Russian lawyer should step up to the rostrum to cross-examine a witness and, squaring his shoulders as if he were going to address himself to an athletic feat, should shout words which it would be fair to quote as “Did you conspire to wage an aggressive war against the peace-loving democracies? Answer yes or no.” Or why, on receiving the inevitable answer, “No,” he should continue, “I accept your answer.” If that cannot be understood, the cross-examination for which the French lawyers are responsible can be understood too well. 

The French prosecutors are headed by M. Champetier de Ribes, whose name, when it is first seen by strangers on the official lists, creates a feeling that the proceedings may at any time take a queer turn, for the most famous obstetrician in France also bears that name. Champetier de Ribes and all his team do fine work, pressing the case against the Nazis with precision and elegance, but they are too familiar with the case; they knew about it long before there were Nazis, they foresaw all as soon as the War of 1870 happened to them. The fire of their resentment has gone out; there are only ashes on their hearthstones. The American and the British are in a fortunate position for attack. They are like the sailor who was found beating a Jew because of the Crucifixion; when he was reminded that that had been a long time ago, he said that that might be, but he had just heard about it. This freshness of wrath gives them an advantage in dealing with the defendants, who are, with the exception of the generals and admirals and diplomats, too ignorant to realize the continuity of their own policy, too egotistical to know that they are the sons of their fathers.

The table at which the British prosecuting attorneys sit is spectacular in a manner that has offered Colonel Burton C. Andrus, the much beloved cavalry officer who is commandant of the prison and in charge of security, one of his few gratifications. Almost the whole of life strikes the Colonel as a departure from ideal military discipline, which God knows it is. He mourns over many abuses—such as the habit of calling American troops G.I.s instead of soldiers—which are unlikely to be immediately reformed. But he expresses great satisfaction at the impeccable decorum of the British prosecutors’ clothes, which is indeed remarkable. Their suits seem to have been pressed, their ties to have been knotted, not by fallible human hands but by the decree of a divine will. This heavenly neatness transcends earthly political differences. Between Sir Hartley Shawcross, the British Chief Prosecutor, who is bright-red Labour, and his second-in-command, Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, who is a Conservative Member of Parliament and in line for the leadership of his party, there is not a pin to choose in elegance, and the third-in-command, Mr. Elwyn Jones, who is a Labour M.P., is almost as grand.

Shawcross and Maxwell Fyfe produce an interesting situation. They are very different in physical type. Sir David is a dark and thickset Highland Scot who could be mistaken by strangers for a Jew; Sir Hartley is slender and rather better-looking than it pays any man to be unless he is a film star. Sir David has the temperamental advantage. When the two men were photographed on their arrival at the Nuremberg airport, Sir David looked as if he were cross-examining the camera, Sir Hartley as if it were cross-examining him. But they have much in common. Both belong to the new England, where privilege is dead. Neither was at Eton or Harrow or any of the other great public schools, neither had any private means to help him in his career, and each received his title recently, as a reward for public service. Both are good lawyers; both are pleasant people who like pleasant things. It happened that the Nuremberg Tribunal was planned during the time when the caretaker government held power in England; this was the government Winston Churchill formed from the Conservative Party to take charge of the country while the general election was fought. Hence the chief prosecuting attorney for the British was at first the Attorney General in that government, who was Sir David Maxwell Fyfe. 

When the Labour Government was formed, the new Attorney General was Sir Hartley Shawcross, who therefore automatically became the chief prosecuting attorney at Nuremberg. Sir David then volunteered to carry on as second-in-command, which meant giving up his bar practice and his political career and settling down to exile in Nuremberg and immersion in this sordid and repetitive investigation. He has done all the donkey work of the case and has had little of the glory, while Sir Hartley has had all the glory of making the opening and closing speeches for the British prosecution, besides being able to spend the time between in London and go on with his appearances in the law courts and the House of Commons. There have been many attempts to make bad blood between the two men because of this sequence of events, which does press harder on the one than on the other. But there are no two men who could handle such a situation more handsomely. They speak of each other generously, in the unmistakable accents which mean that they think generously of each other.

This British team works well with the Americans, who have their own way of being spectacular. Justice Jackson is what Europeans best love an American to be, for he is as charming as any European could be but carries with him a sense of dedication to the aim of making life in America simpler and happier than it has been in Europe. It is good that these teams work well together, for, so far as the Germans are concerned, they are the only ones that count. In the examination and cross-examination of witnesses, Sir David Maxwell Fyfe holds the honors. This gentle and heavily built man, who never exempts himself from the discipline of fairness, drives witness after witness backward, step by step, till on the edge of some moral abyss they admit the truth. But Justice Jackson’s closing speech was a masterpiece, exquisitely relevant to the indictment, for its examination of the charge of conspiracy laid against the defendants was made with the civilized good sense and beauty of form against which they had conspired. It is to be regretted that one phrase may be read by posterity as invective of a not very high order, but it has a significance to everyone who has attended the Nuremberg trial.

“Göring,” he said, “stuck a pudgy finger in every pie.” The courtroom is not small, but it is full of Göring’s fingers. His soft and spongy white hands are forever smoothing his curiously abundant hair, or covering his wide mouth (while his plotting eyes look facetiously around), or weaving impudent gestures of innocence in the air. Sir Hartley Shawcross’s closing speech was not so shapely, for it was longer and covered more ground and stopped more legal holes, but he redeemed the charges from the staleness which has fallen on them during the last ten months by his imaginative realization of what some of the mass murders meant.

Justice Jackson, Sir David, and Sir Hartley alone got under the skin of the defendants. The Nazis seem not to care when a Russian lawyer cross-examines them, because they see he does not know how to do it; they seem not to care when a French lawyer cross-examines them, because they think he is working on a scheme more formal and subtilized than they can respect. But they are ashamed when Sir David proves them liars. At the end of Justice Jackson’s speech, he pointed a forefinger at each of the defendants and denounced his specific share in the Nazi crime; almost all of them wilted. One exception was old Streicher, who munched and mumbled away in some private and probably extremely objectionable dream. The commonplace killer Kaltenbrunner, who was in charge of all the concentration camps, exchanged giggles with Rosenberg. Schacht became stiffer than ever, stiff as an iron stag in the garden of an old house. All the rest looked naïve in shame, and when Shawcross ended his speech in the same way the next afternoon, they were ashamed again. 

The feminine Schirach achieved a gesture that was almost touching; he listened attentively to what Shawcross had to say of his activities as Youth Leader, and when he heard him go on to speak of his responsibility for the deportation of forty to fifty thousand Soviet children, he put up his delicate hand and lifted off the circlet of his headphones, laying it down very quietly on the ledge before him. It seemed possible that he had indeed the soul of a governess, that he was indeed Jane Eyre and had been perverted by a Mr. Rochester who, disappearing in to self-kindled flames, had left him disenchanted and the prey of prim but inextinguishable remorse. All these people hardly troubled to listen to the Russian and the French speeches for the prosecution.

So it appears in the Palace of Justice that it is only the Americans and the British who can hold up a mirror to Germany and help her to solve her own perplexing mystery—that mystery which, in Nuremberg and the countryside around it, is set out in flowers, flowers which disconcert by being not only lovely but beloved. All the little cottages which begin where the rubble ends have phlox in their gardens, white and clear pink, shining as if seen through water. In the windows of the steep-gabled houses, the pink and purple petunias are delicate containers of ardent light. In the villages, the clematis trained in great purple knots over low posts, so that its beauty does not go straying up the walls but lies under the eye. It is difficult not to conclude that a people who so love flowers must love all beautiful and simple things. 

The further landscape continues this protestation of innocence, this artless seduction. Where the pine trees rise from the soft, reddish bed of scented pine needles, and dragonflies draw patterns of iridescence above the cloudy green trout stream, and the miller’s little blond son plays with the gray kitten among the meadowsweet by the edge of the millpond, there can surely be no harm. There is, of course, evidence to the contrary. “The people where I live now send me in my breakfast tray strewn with pansies,” says the French doctor who is custodian of the relics of atrocities at the Palace of Justice (the lampshade made of human skin, the shrunken head of the Polish Jew). “Beautiful pansies, arranged with the most exquisite taste. I have to remind myself that they supplied me with my exhibits, that they are of the same race that tortured me at Mauthausen.” Not long ago, in London, a treachery case was tried by court-martial—British prisoners of war who were induced by a combination of threats and bribes to become informers against their fellow-prisoners. They were taken out of their camps and to a house not far from these pine woods, this trout stream, only a mile or two from this mill. The German authorities supplied them with girls, who were not prostitutes brought from the town but the daughters of peasants in the district, who apparently obeyed the summons without reluctance and probably were extremely fond of flowers.

Unquestionably, there is a German mystery, and certainly it needs to be solved, and a continued critical relationship with the American and the British people, such as has begun at Nuremberg, would help toward a solution. Such a relationship, however, needs the sanction of force. Before one of the eight judges could take his seat on the bench, some millions had to come to Europe. But now everybody wants to go home. The most significant sight in Nuremberg can be seen by those who find their way into one of the offices in the Palace of Justice that overlook the exercise ground of the jail behind it. There, at certain hours, can be seen the Nazi prisoners, padding up and down, sullen and puffy, young men or wrinkled old men, with a look of fierceness, as if they were missing the opportunities for cruelty as much as they miss the company of women or whatever their fancy is. They are watched by military guards, who stand, their young chins dropped, their hands joined behind them, slowly switching their white truncheons backward and forward in the very rhythm of boredom itself. If an apple falls from a tree beside them, they do not bend to pick it up; nothing that happens here can interest them. It would not be easy to tell that these guards were not the prisoners, so much do they want to go home.

Rebecca West
August 23, 1946