WAR CRIMES: Night without Dawn

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The executioner was U.S. Master Sergeant John C. Woods, 43, of San Antonio, a short, chunky man who in his 15 years as U.S. Army executioner has hanged 347 people. Said he afterwards: "I hanged those ten Nazis . . . and I am proud of it. ... I wasn't nervous. . . . A fellow can't afford to have nerves in this business. . . . I want to put in a good word for those G.I.s who helped me . . . they all did swell. . . . I am trying to get [them] a promotion. . . . The way I look at this hanging job, somebody has to do it. I got into it kind of by accident, years ago in the States "

2:14 a.m. During Nürnberg's preliminary deliberations, the British had opposed hangings: their long experience in political executions (Essex, Sir Thomas More, Charles I, Robert Emmet, Nathan Hale) had taught them that posterity remembers the victim's dramatic last appearance better than the execution cause. The condemned at Nürnberg did not fail to make the most of their chance. While the late Joachim von Ribbentrop was still swinging from the first gallows, Field Marshal General Wilhelm Keitel, in well-pressed uniform and gleaming boots, mounted the second scaffold briskly, as though it were a reviewing stand, and said: ". . . More than two million German soldiers went to their deaths for the Fatherland. I follow now my sons."

Then Ernst Kaltenbrunner: "... I have loved my German people and my Fatherland with a warm heart. . . . Germany, good luck. . . ." Then Philosopher Alfred Rosenberg, who had nothing to say. Then Hans Frank: "I am thankful for the kind treatment during my imprisonment and I ask God to accept me with mercy." Then Wilhelm Frick: "Long live eternal Germany!" Then Julius Streicher, who looked wild-eyed and yelled "Heil Hitler." When asked for his name, he roared: "You know it well." From the gallows he jeered: "Purim Festival 1946"-and: "The Bolsheviks will hang you one day." As the black hood was placed over his head, his raucous voice could be heard saying: "Adele, my dear wife." At 2:14, the trap swallowed him. Reported Sergeant Woods: ". . . He kicked a little while, but not long."

Later, it was charged that the executions had been cruelly bungled. Cecil Catling, correspondent for London's Star (a veteran crime reporter and an expert on hangings), declared that there was not enough room for the men to drop, which would mean that their necks had not been properly broken and that they must have died of slow strangulation. In addition Catling claimed that they were not properly tied, so that some hit the platform with their heads as they went down and their noses were torn off. The U.S. Army denied his story.

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