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The Editor-in-Chief of Die Zeit on the Nuremberg Trials (January 22, 1948) and the American Response (February 12, 1948)

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II. On February 12, 1948, Die Zeit published the following letter to the editor in response to this article – the sender: the U.S. Office of Chief of Council for War Crimes.

To the Editor-in-Chief

Dear Sir,

It was with great interest that I read Mr. Tüngel’s article “Nuremberg Law” in your issue of January 22, 1948. I appreciate the fact that one occasionally finds in the German press a journalist who has an opinion of his own and also voices it. I appreciate it even more when that opinion is based on fact.

Your “we accuse” would have resounded in my ears had I not been roused to joviality by the man’s facts and the pathos-laden tone of his article, which reminded me so much of the Völkischer Beobachter. As a democrat by conviction I also fought as a soldier on the front lines in eleven campaigns in order that a German democrat might finally have the right to open his mouth and voice his opinion. To be honest, I do not know – at least nothing in your article indicates it – whether you are one of the democrats for whom I fought.

[ . . . ] I do not know the length of the detention in the witness wing of our court that enabled you to write such a lovely and touching description of our interrogation methods. Intimidation, threats, attempts to have false records of proceedings signed – you cold have copied all of this from an old report on the Gestapo, if I didn’t know that you could never have published this article. [ . . . ] But the witnesses we have here were detained because they were charged by the courts of their own country, namely Germany.

[ . . . ] And now suddenly you can keep silent no longer because Achenbach and six Krupp lawyers have been arrested. Why could you keep silent when Achenbach committed the crimes for which the German authorities arrested him? [ . . . ] Achenbach stated here under oath that he not only had nothing to do with war crimes committed in France, including the murder of hostages, but that he didn’t even know about them. A few days after his statement under oath we received documents from Paris that bear his signature and prove what we believed we knew. Nevertheless, we allowed him to take on the defense, because we believe that a Nazi can defend another Nazi with greater conviction than is possible for a man who is a democrat and is horrified by the accused.

[ . . . ] I will skip over the next paragraph of your article, the one in which you describe the facts in such a distorted manner that I would feel bad about the paper I would waste and about my secretary’s fingers, which I would overtax in my response. Just go and read any German agency report about the true proceedings.

[ . . . ] You can criticize the Nuremberg Trials all you want; nevertheless, they remain an institution in which one can participate with pride. Once you have understood what democracy is, you will also understand this.

Sincerely yours,
George S. Martin
Deputy Public Relations Officer

Source: Die Zeit, February 12, 1948.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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