The Meaning of the Gallows
On the night of October 16, the ultimate act of justice was carried out on the German war criminals.
Ribbentrop and Keitel, Rosenberg and Kaltenbunner, Frank and Frick, Streicher and Sauckel, Jodl and Seyss-Inquart,2 one by one ascended the steps of the gallows, by their infamous deaths settling accounts with a world they caused such grief through their crimes. Göring, second only to Hitler in the Third Reich, was able to escape punishment at Themis'3 hands by choosing suicide. The bodies of the hanged criminals and Göring's corpse were burned.
The execution at Nuremberg will go down in history as a symbol of a nascent international legal consciousness, as the nucleus of future international cooperation in combating crimes against humanity, as a warning to all those who are pushing the world to crime, to a new war. Carrying out the verdict of Nuremberg is finally the last, most powerful chord of the lesson the Nuremberg Trial was meant to be for the German nation, which, in the name of an insane theory of world domination, became the faithful and obedient executor of plans born in the criminal minds of Nuremberg's 11 condemned.
The criminals were hanged at Nuremberg, but it was the crime itself that was judged and on trial. The verdict of the international Areopagus4 was a condemnation of the greatest crime in human history—unleashing a war of aggression, breaking international agreements, systematically violating the laws of war, overexploiting the occupied countries, and the greatest of crimes, the crime of genocide. The people hanged on the gallows performed their criminal activity for long years, bringing it to diabolic perfection. Their deaths cannot be considered a punishment. The death of one man, even Frank, is no punishment for Poles' suffering, for the villages burned and demolished Warsaw. Hanging Streicher and his comrades is insufficient punishment for the crimes committed against the Jewish nation. Notions of crime and punishment are completely insufficient here. Their death on the gallows is merely an external symbol meant to help the German people to fathom and comprehend their guilt.
Can Germany grasp, in the face of the Nuremberg gallows, the depth of the downfall in which they find themselves? Can they summon from within themselves outrage at the Nazis' crimes, not because in the final calculus they proved pointless, but because they undermine the principles of human co-existence and bring misery and tears to humanity and the German nation? Will they, in the face of the verdict of the Tribunal of Nations, renounce Nazism, not because this is the logic of a war lost and circumstances changed, but because it leads individuals and nations to crime.
One element of the battle for the character of the new European post-war order is the Nuremberg gallows, built as a result of a painstaking trial and an imperfect judicial verdict. The cremated remains of the 11 condemned, whose deaths did not atone for the enormity of their crimes, have been cast to the four corners of the earth. This prevents a dangerous myth of heroism and martyrdom arising around their deaths. At this moment there is no threat of that danger whatsoever. Encouraged by word and deed of their Anglo-Saxon patrons, the Germans are applying the tactic of completely renouncing their wartime leaders. Protests against a lenient sentence in Nuremberg, a widely manifested desire to bring Papen, Schacht, and Fritzsche5 to justice under their own authority" for crimes committed against the German nation, these are external symptoms of a stance, honest in some and artificial in others, of emphasizing the gap between a criminal handful of leaders and the German nation. "They, Hitler and his confidants, are to blame—the German nation will not accept responsibility for the crimes of 12 years of Nazi rule and 6 years of war."
If instead of de-Nazification Germany sees the rehabilitation of the SA6 as an organization, if instead of a years-long military occupation, Germany is promised a sovereign state with a central government, and instead of complete economic demobilization it is offered the rebuilding of the German economy—this means that in some states of the anti-German coalition, the meaning of the Nuremberg gallows is narrowing to an act of individual justice. That would mean the Nuremberg verdict and the Nuremberg gallows playing a role exactly contrary to the one they were assigned: they will not be the condemnation of the German people, but a means for their rehabilitation, with all that that entails.
In this case the saying: "Hitlers come and go, but the German nation remains," could be read in reverse: "The German nation remains, and Hitlers go… and come." The struggle to consolidate democratic regimes in post-war Europe, the struggle for cooperation between nations, for social equality, to trim the claws of those preparing a new war, is a struggle for the true meaning of the Nuremberg gallows. On these gallows were hanged not individual criminals, but representatives of a nation of many millions, which for the third time in 70 years has unleashed a bloody slaughter.
In the shadow of the Nuremberg gallows, the battle continues for the victory of the principles in whose name Germany was tried before the International Nuremberg Tribunal, the battle continues to ensure Hitlers never again threaten humanity.