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TIME Magazine, October 28, 1946, p. 34:|
INTERNATIONAL: WAR CRIMES: Night without Dawn
9 p.m. The eleven men for whom this night held no dawn ate a last supper of potato salad, sausage, cold cuts, black bread and tea. At 9 p.m., the prison lights were dimmed. At 10:45, U.S. Army Security officer Colonel Burton C. Andrus walked across the courtyard to set the night's lethal machinery in motion. The whole prison was permeated by the thought of impending death. (The Courthouse movie announced the next day's attraction: Deadline for Murder.)
Just then Hermann Göring was crunching a phial of cyanide (no one knew where it came from). When guards and a chaplain rushed into his cell, he was dying. Meanwhile, near Nürnberg's old imperial Castle, a band of German children hung Göring in effigy. Then they burned the makeshift scaffold and silently marched around the fire, watching it scatter weird shadows among the rubble.
In the small gymnasium of the jail (its floor dusty, its walls dirty grey), three black gallows had been erected with more attention to numerology than to efficiency. The platforms were eight feet apart, stood eight feet above the ground, measured eight feet square. From each platform rose two heavy beams, supporting a heavy crosspiece with a hook for the rope in the middle. An inconspicuous lever served to open the traps. The space beneath the traps was hidden by curtains.
1:11 a.m. Two white-helmeted guards led Joachim von Ribbentrop from his cell down the corridor and across the courtyard. He walked as in a trance, his eyes half closed. The wind ruffled his sparse grey hair. Overhead, the same wind whipped clouds into bizarre patterns.
At 1:11 a.m. he entered the gymnasium, and all officers, official witnesses and correspondents rose to attention. Ribbentrop's manacles were removed and he mounted the steps (there were 13) to the gallows. With the noose around his neck, he said: "My last wish... is an understanding between East and West...." All present removed their hats. The executioner tightened the noose. A chaplain standing beside him prayed. The assistant executioner pulled the lever, the trap dropped open with a rumbling noise, and Ribbentrop's hooded figure disappeared. The rope was suddenly taut, and swung back & forth creaking audibly.
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. 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"... at 2:14 the trap swallowed him. Reported Sergeant Woods: "...he kicked a little while, but not long."
2:57 a.m. Woods and his assistants seemed to be getting impatient as they moved from one scaffold to the other, using a new rope for each man. At 2:26 it was Fritz Sauckel's turn. When summoned for his last walk, he had refused to dress, so he went to the gallows coatless. He cried: "I am dying innocent.... I pay my respects to U.S. soldiers and officers, but not to U.S. justice." (Conflicting versions claimed that he did not mention "U.S. justice" but "U.S. Jews.") Then Colonel General Alfred Jodl. Then, finally, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, who limped as he mounted the steps. He said: "I hope this execution is the last act in the tragedy of World War II...." It was 2:57 when he was pronounced dead. Said Woods: "Ten men in 103 minutes. That's fast work." He added that he was ready for a "stiff drink afterwards"...
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