Twenty very little men are defendants in a very big trial.
Nürnberg, November 21 (by cable)
There are two Nürnbergs in this town, enshrouded in wintry mists and drizzling rain: one, all but forgotten by the world, is a stark, fearful reality to the citizens, who gaze on it with uncomprehending eyes; the other, now in the world’s limelight, means little or nothing to the people. There is more than outward significance in the fact that two miles separate the medieval walled city, reduced to a heap of rubble by Allied air attacks, from the vast, rambling courthouse on the outskirts of the town, where under the majestic flags of four victorious powers the Allied Military Tribunal now hears an overwhelming array of evidence against twenty Nazi criminals. To one who visits both, their distance apart seems not only a matter of miles but of centuries; the difference is that of two of the world’s ages. Indeed, looking down from the press gallery on Julius Streicher, square-jawed, short, bald-headed, and insignificant, resembling a suburban grocer, one finds it hard to believe that this is the man who only a short while ago ruled this town with a riding whip in his hand and a revolver in his belt and who reduced ancient and populous Jewish communities to a few pitiful souls now cared for, oddly enough, by the friendly Dr. Nurnberger. Here side by side are the beginning and the end of the story. The overcrowded tram cars which take one from the old town to the courthouse seem to rumble purposelessly through a strange, oppressive historical vacuum.
The old town lies quiet, as if it had died a hundred years ago, seemingly forgetful of its former splendor, no longer caring what flattened it to ash and rubble. I have seen most of the destroyed cities of Germany, and Nürnberg is different from all the others. I shall never forget my first view of it as I wandered through its abandoned ruins on a cold, only occasionally sunlit Sunday morning. This town breathed history while it lived, and it still manages fleetingly to suggest–in an occasional wondrous flash–the fact of its antiquity. It is perhaps a callous thing to say, but there is charm and even beauty in its ravaged face. Destroyed Nürnberg somehow isn’t hideous, like other bombed cities; one doesn’t associate its death with the war. It looks like a medieval walled town razed by a gigantic catastrophe, a great fire or an earthquake.
Against the immeasurable agony they caused, the twenty shabby men who sit on hard wooden benches in the courthouse facing the eight just men of the tribunal seem almost out of proportion. (They face also in the press gallery old “friends” like Shirer, Howard Smith, Louis Lochner, and Fred Oechsner, whom Göring and Ribbentrop recognized with an uncomfortable look.) Clearly, they do not measure up to the tremendous significance of the trial. One can’t help feeling one would have liked to see bigger men–bigger in every sense–answer for the calamity which will be unfolded by the evidence laid before the tribunal. These are very little men, and that is perhaps what makes their conspiracy the outrageous thing it was.