Nuremburg Trials haunt reporter
by Ioannis Michaletos
She fears young students today are hearing and reading little about the first- ever War Crimes Trials which held the Nazis accountable for their unspeakable torture and killings during WWII.
This 87- year- old English woman has made it her mission to travel, speak and write about what she saw and heard in Nuremberg, Germany immediately after the end of World War II. She drove to West Columbia from her home in Ft. Walton Beach, Fla. to address the residents of Still Hopes Retirement Community about her reminiscences.
"When I mention taking shorthand, today's young people ask, 'What's Shorthand?'" she said. As a servicewoman in England's Women's Territorial Army, because of her proficiency in that field, she won the plum assignment of recording the pre- trial interrogations, which preceded the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, and was selected to cover the first session of the trial of the 22 foremost Nazis.
Nancy Kenaston paints vivid word- pictures of Nuremberg and the infamous men who were tried there. "Nuremberg was chosen principally by Churchill to be the site of the world's first international war crimes tribunal, for several reasons: It had been a core headquarters for much of the Nazi reign of terror, the courthouse was large enough for such an important event, and the building had been spared the destruction that took place around it. Because of its significance, the Allied flyers made it a point not to target the historic center of Nuremberg while everything around it was decimated.
"When I arrived for the trials, I saw streets filled with piles of debris three stories high. Included in this building detritus were as many as 45,000 bodies of war casualties."
She said the pre- trial interrogations were where the real information was gathered. "Of course, every person on trial was just 'taking orders.' Nobody admitted any guilt. Not one ever expressed any regret for what was done. In fact, for many of them the air was jovial, even laughable. They derided the stories of concentration camps and the mass murder of Jews, claiming it was just propaganda. Every Nazi was convinced that no matter what took place in Nuremberg, he would be executed, so it did not matter what he said or did."
One little- known fact she learned is every Nazi officer had a small vial of poison implanted under his skin inside his thigh. If captured, he could commit instant suicide by pressing upon the vial to release the poison into his body. When the Allied captors discovered this, they immediately instituted a procedure to check for such an implantation and remove it. Life magazine covered the trials extensively and in their full- page spreads included a courtroom scene that showed Nancy Kenaston on the job. Her mother wrote to Life asking for a copy of the picture, explaining that her daughter was featured in it, and the magazine responded by sending the original to her mother. It remains in the family today.