Unless correspondents ask us not to, this Website will post selected letters that it receives and invite open debate.
Emmanuelle LeBoutillier writes from Paris, Saturday, August 2, 2003 about the pictures of the 1946 Nuremberg hangings
Photos of the Nuremberg Condemned
I RECALL seeing photos or movie films of those sentenced to death at Nuremberg proceedings in a television documentary. Who took these gruesome images and why? (My belief is they were commissioned military photos). Was this not a violation of the Geneva Agreement which is now so precious to the American?
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David Irving replies:
YES, nothing has changed: Guantánamo! replaces the old battle cry of Jeronimo!
Like most World War Two photos the hanging pictures were taken by the US Army Signal Corps. In American eyes it would not be a violation of the Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War, as the Americans, being aware of the legal snags, purported to "discharge" the prisoners from military service before the Nuremberg trial began, and they tried them as "civilians".
In fact the Convention made provision to prevent states from playing this trick. No discharges can be effective without consent of all the parties to a conflict, and they cannot take effect immediately. The Convention also stated that such tribunals had to be conducted by panels of officers of equal or superior rank. There was a whole slew of Convention clauses which the Nuremberg trials violated.
Adolf Hitler, oddly enough, abided strictly by Geneva: he refused to contemplate launching poison gas attacks even when the going got rough (although he alone possessed the nerve gases Sarin and Tabun). Remember, of course, that the Soviet Union declined to sign the Convention before and during World War Two, in the belief that it would oblige their troops to avoid capture and fight more tenaciously, and the Soviets remained outside its provisions throughout the war.
In the private diary of Field Marshal Erhard Milch (right), he describes having told the American army officers, when they handed him his "discharge papers" in his Nuremberg cell: "You did not make me a field marshal, and you cannot discharge me either." (Field Marshals retain the rank for life, and are always "on active duty"). Nowadays the George W Bush regime (why not call it a regime, like all the other autocracies?) does not even bother with such niceties or charades. As said, Guantánamo.
One grim photographic postscript: in the official US army photographs of the later hangings at Landsberg prison, Bavaria, from about 1947 onward, while the condemned man is always seen full face, all the US army personnel except the chaplain are ordered to stand with their backs to the camera.
Photo: Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, chief of the German armed forces High Command (OKW), hanged at Nuremberg on October 16, 1946; the trapdoor smashed back into his face as he passed through.