On the Horizon: The Criminal as Public Servant
ALL through 1946, I was employed by the Department of the Army as an interpreter at the International Military Tribunal’s war crimes trials in Nuremberg. One morning I was summoned to my chief’s office and instructed to act for the next few days as an interpreter and guide for a visiting French journalist. A few minutes later, in the office of the United States Chief Prosecutor, Mr. Justice Jackson, I was introduced to the novelist Elsa Triolet, who had once been the companion of the Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky and is now the wife of the poet Louis Aragon, one of the leading personalities in the French Communist party. (It was she who inspired Aragon’s poems on Les yeux d’Elsa.)
Madame Triolet had come to Nuremberg for the French Communist press to report on the appearance as a witness of Rudolf Hoess, former commandant of the Auschwitz extermination camp. Before seeing Hoess or hearing his testimony, Madame Triolet expressed her indignation. Such a monster, she insisted, should have been executed summarily on arrest; his appearance in a court as a mere witness was a travesty of justice. I agreed with her that Hoess should be condemned and executed, but explained that he still had to face trial before a Polish court, within the frontiers of the country where he had committed his crimes. I also tried to explain the importance of Hoess’s testimony in determining who, among Heinrich Himmnler’s immediate subordinates, should now be condemned for formulating the policies which men like Hoess had implemented.
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