The crazy responses of Nazi criminals before being hanged by an alcoholic executioner

Manuel P. VillatoroManuel P. Villatoro



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With the "cold stoicism»Which shows that who, after much thought, concludes that he cannot do anything to save his life. As published by the ABC newspaper, so they went to the gallows, the October 16, 1946, ten of the Nazi hierarchs sentenced to death in the Nuremberg Trials. The executions put an end to an international process with which the Allies wanted to set an example to the world and demonstrate that, after the barbarities that had been perpetrated in the World War II, justice worked even for losers. The passage through the gallows was a moment that society longed to see. However, only a small number of media were allowed to attend to avoid spreading the sophlamas that the damned were going to spit before leaving this world.

It was, in part, a wise decision. And, the executed shouted messages in favor of Adolf Hitler, threatened those present or insisted on their innocence and ignorance of the mass murders. All in all, as true as this is that so many of the leaders who went by hanging that day urged Europe to make the disaster of the Second World War do not repeat again or called for reconciliation of both sides. After that declaration, the life of all of them was extinguished with the help of the executioner John Clarence Woods, the alcoholic soldier, psychopath and degenerate chosen to undertake the task.

One of many

He November 20, 1945 the Nuremberg Trials. A series of processes in which international justice charged against the barbarities perpetrated by the Germans. To this day, we tend to think that the only defendants were Hitler's hierarchies charged in the so-called «Main Judgment». However, and despite the fact that it was the most prominent, in this world event the guilt of up to six hundred more Nazis was also settled (among them, the doctors and nurse practitioners of the dreaded euthanasia program and human experimentation).

Session of the main trial, in 1945 "width =" 220 "height =" 220
Session of the main trial, in 1945

The role, however, was for the "Main Judgment." The process in which about twenty mandamases were accused of conspiracy, crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The list of Nazi beasts that passed, from November 20 to August 1, through the Room 600 of the Nuremberg Court It’s creepy. The sentences were made public on October 1, 1946. All of this, after 218 sessions were held and a verdict of more than 100,000 words. The result was a dozen sentences to die by hanging, as ABC explained: "The Nuremberg court has issued twelve death sentences, three life sentences, four ten to twenty years and three acquittals."

However, two of the death sentences could not be carried out: Martin Bormann (Hitler's right hand, convicted in absentia because he had died a few months earlier in Berlin) and that of Hermann Goering The case of the chief fund of the Luftwaffe He was the most prominent. And, he committed suicide just two hours before the execution. And not because of fear, but because he didn't want to die by hanging. “The only thing Goering wanted to protect above all was his honor as a military. He affirmed several times that he would have no problem being taken to the street and shot right there, like a soldier. The problem was that he considered that the worst thing that could be done to a military man was to hang him, ”explained the corporal. Harold burson, responsible for making a summary of the day to day in Nuremberg.

Previous moments

The executions began on October 16, at dawn. At about one o'clock the parade of the damned began towards the three scaffolds installed in the gymnasium of Nuremberg Palace of Justice. All of them were made with black-painted wood, a dreary picture for the Nazi leaders who were waiting, with a mixture of tension and fear of death, the fate that lay ahead. The system that was proposed in principle was simple: each of the executed would travel the path from his cell to the gallows accompanied by two guards and without ties. However, as the Allies did not want another suicide to occur like the one he had starred in Hermann goering just a few hours before, in the end they decided to handcuff them.

In each of the executions a new rope would be used to avoid setbacks. In addition, the executioner would only use two of the scaffolds. The third would be reserved as if the others failed. «When the rope was released, the victim disappeared from sight and fell inside the scaffold. The inner part was covered with wood on three sides and one dark cloth curtain it protected the fourth angle, preventing anyone from seeing the death spasms of those men while swinging with a broken neck, ”explained the journalist Kingsbury Smith, of the International News Service.

Goering, during one of the trial sessions
Goering, during one of the trial sessions

In Spain, however, it had come that entry to the media would not be allowed so that (as published by ABC) "the inmates had no chance to advertise in the last minutes of their lives." There would only be, in the words of this newspaper, "eight correspondents and a photographer." The atmosphere was calm, although it was located «a armored car at each door »and a machine gun in all corners to avoid "any attempt to save" prisoners.

Shortly before leaving their cells, the prisoners had occasion to take the last supper, which was also collected by the ABC newspaper: «The last meal of those sentenced to death, according to prison officials, was more abundant than usual, and consisted of potato salad, cold sausages, black bread and tea. This newspaper also collected that "four Catholic inmates" received "Holy Communion from the hands of Chaplain O'Connor." “Of all the others – protesters – the only one who has not received spiritual assistance of any kind is Rosemberg, who, on the other hand – according to a prison official – is the one who is most resigned to his fate, ”the editor completed.

Death to death

Joachim von Ribbentrop, the foreign minister of Adolf Hitler who had orchestrated (among other things) the pact with the Soviet Union in 1939 To conquer Poland together, he was the first to step on the gym. He did it, according to the chronicles, at 1:11 a.m. His total submission to the Third Reich, shadow work in favor of German expansion and his collaboration in war crimes followed him to the top of the gallows. After setting foot on the scaffold, he raised his voice and addressed those present: «God protect Germany»(In Spain, ABC translated it as«God save Germany»). He added: «My last wish is for Germany to become a single nation again and that an agreement can be reached between the east and the west. I wish the world to live in peace ».

At 1:13, the following convict left his cell: Wilhelm Keitel. The quarterback died, as ABC noted, as a true «Prussian officer». His death settled jurisprudence, since, until then, the military relied on the fulfillment of the orders to avoid the responsibilities of the crimes committed. According to this newspaper, he remained upright until the end and, when they put the rope, he spoke without hesitation. In fact, he raised his voice so that those present would hear him well: «I ask God Almighty to have mercy on the German people. Before me, more than two million German soldiers left for death to defend their homeland. It's time to meet with my children: all for Germany». Both he and his predecessor were hanged for a few minutes before the bodies were lowered.

Joachim von Ribbentrop's body
Joachim von Ribbentrop's body

As was done with all the deceased, an American doctor and a Soviet doctor confirmed the death before the executioner cut the ropes. Exactly 23 minutes later, after a short break to smoke, it was the turn of the successor of Heydrich, the bloodthirsty leader of the SS in Austria. Ernst Kaltenbrummer (whose involvement in the creation of concentration camps and in the mass murders it was revealed by the Spanish photographer Francisco Boix) he climbed the stairs and affirmed, as he had done endless times, that he had had nothing to do with the Holocaust. «I have always loved the German people and my homeland from the bottom of my heart. I have fulfilled my duty by enforcing the laws of my people and I regret that my people were guided by men who were not soldiers, and that so many crimes were committed of which I I never had knowledge». He forgot to add that he was one of those in charge of supervising Adolf Eichmann, architect of the Final solution.

After him there was one of the most curious cases, that of the governor of Poland, Hans Frank. Already when he learned of the sentence he said that "I deserved it and I expected it." Along the way he wore a broad smile. "I appreciate the kind treatment received during my captivity and I beg God to accept me in his mercy," he said. As ABC revealed, "he muttered a prayer while his feet were tied." The sixth to be hanged was Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick. His last words were simple: "Long live eternal Germany."

«Someday, the Bolsheviks will hang you»

Julius Streicher, the director of the Nazi and anti-Semitic newspaper «Der Stürmer» (in addition to one of the most fervent followers of the regime), he was more prone to Nazism. According to Smith's account, his face trembled when he went to his appointment with the gallows. Although in Spain it was explained that he had shouted "Heil Hitler!" at the time of death, the truth is that he did when asked to say his name to those present. In «Nazi Hunters», Andrew Nagorski he points out that he had to push himself towards the scaffold and that, already in front of the rope, he shouted three words: «Purim Fest, 1946». «It was a reference to the Jewish holiday commemorating the execution of Amman, who, according to the Old Testament, He planned to kill all the Jews of the Persian Empire. The sad spectacle continued and, when he was offered to say his last words, he was blunt: "Someday, the Bolsheviks will hang you." He still had time to murmur that he loved his wife.

Once he was hanged, the guards went to the cell of Fritz Sauckel (commissioner in charge of the slave labor of the Third Reich) and was escorted. «I die being innocent. The sentence is wrong. May God protect Germany and make Germany great again. Long live Germany! May God protect my family, ”he snapped. His statement is one of the few that was not included in the ABC newspaper. Alfred Jodl It was next. Whoever was the main military advisor to Adolf Hitler arrived dressed in his uniform. "He died as a Prussian officer, with his head upright and with a firm voice asked God to protect Germany," he published this newspaper. Apparently, he said goodbye to the following guide: "I greet you, my Germany."

Woods, the executioner of Nuremberg
Woods, the executioner of Nuremberg

The last of those executed was Arthur Seyss-Inquart, the leader of the Austrian Nazis and the Reich commissioner for the Netherlands (a position in which he collaborated in the deportation of Jews to concentration camps and in the murder of thousands of inmates). In Andrews' words, he arrived at the gallows limping, "dragging a clubfoot" and showed himself as a man of peace. «I hope that this execution is the last act of the tragedy that the Second World War and that the lesson we draw from all this horror is that peace and understanding must guide the relationship between peoples, ”he said.

The ABC recalled the last sentence he pronounced before leaving this world: "The last of those executed said in the scaffold that he died believing in Germany." Behind him, and more as a symbolic act, the guards also took out the body of Hermann Goering

All were recognized and, after corroborating his death, the session ended. "No photographs have been taken of the moments of the executions, and if they have only been taken from the faces of the executed, once they were taken off the gallows, and for archival purposes only," ABC explained. The newspaper also added that "the corpses were deposited in simple coffins" and that it had been decided that they would be "thrown into the sea" to prevent the same from happening with them as with the corpse of Benito Mussolini (veiled by the mob). In the end, however, they were cremated.

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