January 17th, 1946 marked the thirty-sixth day of the Nürnberg trials. The next few days would belong to the French, as François de Methon and Edgar Faure present their country’s case in front of the Court. De Methon began with an explosive opening statement, “The conscience of the peoples, who only yesterday were enslaved and tortured both in soul and body, calls upon you to judge and to condemn the most monstrous attempt at domination and barbarism of all times, both in the persons of some of those who bear the chief responsibility and in the collective groups and organizations which were the essential instruments of their crimes” [http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/01-17-46.asp accessed 1/05/2016]. The French team appealed to the sense of justice of the nations present in the room. This was a task, not just for one country, but the world as a whole; a demonstration of a desire for peace and willingness to work in unison. “The craving for justice of the tortured peoples is the basic foundation of France’s appearance before Your High Tribunal. It is not the only one, nor perhaps the most important one. More than toward the past, our eyes are turned toward the future. We believe that there can be no lasting peace and no certain progress for humanity, which still today is torn asunder, suffering, and anguished, except through the co-operation of an peoples and through the progressive establishment of a real international society” [http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/01-17-46.asp accessed 1/05/2016]. This remarkable statement alone would be hard to follow, although Faure was most impressive as he transitioned promptly into describing the two pieces of the French case. The two cases involved forced labor and economic looting. To conclude these two litigations was Jacques Herzog who spoke regarding the forced labor in France. He began speaking on the 18th and concluded the next day. He aided himself with the use of many photostatic documents exemplifying the German’s control over labor in many different countries. He further supported his argument by sharing with the room a photostatic copy of a German newspaper clipping of Nazi propaganda exploiting the French people and culture.
With only one more case to discuss at the time for France, Charles Gerthoffer returned to present the case concerning economic pillage in France. He had begun the case on actions in Western Europe on the 20thand resumed by illustrating the pain and suffering endured by his people when they were forced to give up their possessions to the invading German forces. He depicted the ravaging of personal possessions. “As I have had the honor of pointing out to you, in the Armistice Conventions the principle of the maintenance of occupation troops is succinctly worded, with no stipulation as to the amount and the method of collection. The Germans took advantage of this to distort and amplify this commitment of France, which became nothing more than a pretext for the imposition of exorbitant tribute” [http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/01-22-46.asp#gerthoffer accessed 1/05/2016].
A film of the French opening statements can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkANDhUIf54.
–Owen Doremus and Betsy Pittman
[Owen Doremus, a junior at Edwin O. Smith High School, is supporting this blog series with research and writing as part of an independent study.]
The majority of the letters from Tom Dodd to his wife Grace have been published and can be found in Letters from Nuremberg, My father’s narrative of a quest for justice. Senator Christopher J. Dodd with Lary Bloom. New York: Crown Publishing, 2007.
Images available in Thomas J. Dodd Papers.