Photo Credit: Saul Jay Singer

Because of Nuremberg’s relevance to the Holy Roman Empire and its geographic position at the center of Germany, the Nazi party chose the city as the site of its huge conventions, which became known as the “Nuremberg rallies,” the first of which was held in 1927 and then, after Hitler seized power, annually from 1933 to 1938. The 1934 rally was filmed by Leni Riefenstahl and made into one of the greatest propaganda films of all time, Triumph of the Will, and Hitler specifically ordered the enactment of the infamous Nuremberg Laws at the 1935 rally. During World War II, the city served as an important site for producing Nazi aircraft, submarines and tank engines, and a subcamp of the Flossburg concentration camp was established there to provide slave labor to support the Nazi war effort.

Photo of the photographer originally signed “Ray D’Addario at Nuremberg IMT” (International Military Trial).

It is therefore most fitting that Nuremberg was selected as the site for the historic trials of Nazi war criminals. Twenty-one Nazi leaders were brought to trial and, for the first time in history, an international tribunal composed of the Allied countries and representatives of Nazi-occupied countries applied international criminal law to bring to justice the leaders of a government and its military who were responsible for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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One of the very few people to participate in all thirteen trials that began on November 21, 1945, when 21 senior Nazi officials took their seats as defendants in Courtroom 600 in the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg, was American photographer Raymond D’Addario (1920-2011), who became renowned for his singular images of the Nazi leaders during the trial. Consistent with the aphorism that “a photograph is worth a thousand words,” he played a leading role in putting a face on the perpetrators of Nazi atrocities and on the international tribunal that meted out justice to the defendants and to their victims.

Classic photo originally inscribed “21 Defendants at Nuremberg 1945 International Military Tribunal Official Photographer Ray D’Addario.

D’Addario’s best-known photograph, which depicted all the defendants in the dock guarded by white-helmeted U.S. military guards standing erect, was transmitted around the world. Because no flash photography was permitted in the courtroom (except for ten minutes before the day’s proceedings commenced) and he had to use very slow film by contemporary standards, he had to take over 21 photographs to get the singular iconic image that has come to represent the Nuremberg trials in the public mind.

Notwithstanding the tribunal’s strict imposition of restrictions on taking photographs, including prohibitions against using a flash and against any conversation in the courtroom, D’Addario proved to be incredibly prolific, as he took many thousands of amazingly sharp photographs in both monochrome and color. He obtained color film for his groundbreaking and extremely rare color shots from his parents back in Massachusetts, who obtained the very difficult to acquire Kodachrome from a friend who owned a local camera shop. His darkroom was on an upper floor in the Place of Justice, where all the trials were held, but his color photographs were sent to London for processing. When he received his experimental color photographs back from the English lab, he was at once shocked and pleased at their high quality, and one of his color photographs became the first such image of Nuremberg published in the world press.

One of D’Addario’s renowned color photographs. From top to bottom: Hermann Göring (in sunglasses); Rudolf Hess (taking notes); Joachim von Ribbentrop (listening with earphones).

D’Addario, who did not speak or understand German, was not permitted to speak with the defendants or to photograph them in their prison cells. As he describes it, the photographers never discussed the trial because “it was just another day; business as usual.” This attitude may be attributable in part to the fact that, although he did have earphones with which to listen to the English translation of the proceedings, they interfered with his concentration and his ability to take photographs, so he never knew what was being said at the trial.

Although most of D’Addario’s images, which were distributed free of charge and regularly published worldwide by the international press, focused on the Nazis on trial, he also captured the faces of their counsel; the tribunal’s judges, notably including close-ups of the chief American prosecutor, Robert H. Jackson, a favorite subject, cross-examining and delivering closing arguments (see discussion of Jackson below); and various court workers and observers. Although it was not part of his assignment, he also took it upon himself to photograph the city of Nuremberg, which had been devastated by allied bombings during the war; in an interview, he said that he had never seen such unimaginable destruction and that he took the photos of the city to show his parents, who he feared otherwise might not have believed him.

The city of Nuremberg after World War II.

A recurring theme in these city photographs is the contrast between German citizens rebuilding their lives, with whom he sympathized, and the Nazi leaders on trial. Twenty years after Nuremberg, he returned to the reconstructed city and documented its rebuilding in Nuremberg Then and Now, in which he notably reshot the exact locations he had photographed two decades earlier. In an interview, he explained that the Nazis, fully expecting Nuremberg to be bombed into oblivion, had taken extensive photos of the city, which the Germans used after the war in their reconstruction of the city. He also published a book of the International Military Tribunal with text in German, which was sold only at Nuremberg.

The son of a grocer from Holyoke, Massachusetts, who had come to America from Italy in 1918 and brought his wife over two years later, D’Addario was a photography hobbyist who began his career as a photographer in 1938 (at age 12) working freelance. He enlisted in the United States Army infantry after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and, seeking to serve as an army photographer, he was sent by his lieutenant to San Antonio to work in an army photography center. A year later, he was assigned to work at the U.S. Pictorial Service in London, where he photographed the Blitz and German bomber attacks from atop London roofs.

As D’Addario tells the story, he was waiting to go home after the war with about 13 other photographers remaining in Wiesbaden when, in November 1945, the Army Pictorial Service assigned him to document the International Military Tribunal (IMT) in Nuremberg. He had never heard of Nuremberg, had no idea where it was, and the only Nazis at trial whom he had ever heard of were Hermann Göring and Joachim von Ribbentrop. Told that it would be a three-month assignment – although the international trial ran for nine months – he was sent to stay at a castle in Stein, just outside Nuremberg, where all the press and photographers lodged. The castle had been the factory where Eberhard Faber, aka “the Pencil King,” manufactured his pencils.

The tribunal had prohibited taking photographs during the sentencing of the defendants but, with the construction of three scaffolds for hanging the ten Nazi leaders who had been sentenced to death, D’Addario fully expected to take photographs of their bodies. He was initially disappointed that photographers were not permitted to photograph the executions; instead, a lieutenant was brought down from Frankfurt to take three pictures of the bodies in their coffins before quickly departing. Later, when D’Addario learned that the hangman had badly bungled the job – Joachim Von Ribbentrop hung for 14 minutes before choking to death and Wilhelm Keitel struggled for 24 minutes before dying – he was relieved that he had not been present.

Nuremberg synagogue in 1905.

In an interview that may be seen on YouTube, D’Addario talked about the Nuremberg synagogue being burned and expressed his astonishment that Jews had returned to Germany and were living there as if the Holocaust never happened. The Grand Synagogue of Nuremberg, which had been completed in 1874, was destroyed on September 27, 1938, on the orders of Julius Streicher, founder of the viciously antisemitic Der Sturmer who was convicted and hanged at Nuremberg for crimes against humanity, and Friedrich Wilhelm (“Willy”) Liebel, whom the Nazis had installed as Lord Mayor of Nuremberg after deposing his predecessor and who went on to play a leading role in the deportation of the Jews of Nuremberg.

After the International Military Tribunal delivered its judgment against the Nazi leaders on September 30 and October 1, 1946 – 12 of the defendants were sentenced to death, three to life imprisonment, four to prison sentences ranging from 10 to 20 years (three were acquitted) – the IMT disbanded and the U.S. Army discharged D’Addario. However, with the IMT establishing the crucial precedent of the criminality of war crimes and crimes against humanity, subsequent trials were held by the Americans to determine the guilt of other Nazi officials and military leaders charged with these crimes. Telford Taylor, the lead prosecutor in these so-called “Subsequent Nuremberg Trials” before the U.S. military courts, who had succeeded Jackson, retained D’Addario to serve as chief photographer for these 12 additional American proceedings. D’Addario ended up staying in Germany for three-and-a-half years after the war, during which he photographed the trials of more than 200 other Nazis – which he characterized as “historic.”

Pass to attend Nuremberg trial.

Displayed here is a very rare Visitor’s Gallery pass to attend the Prosecution’s closing arguments in the Hostages Case at Nuremberg on February 3, 1948, one of the “Subsequent Nuremberg Trials.” [The verso is printed in German.]

The seventh of these trials, held from July 8, 1947, through February 19, 1948, was The Hostages Trial, also known as the “Southeast Case” because the defendants were all German generals leading the troops in southeastern Europe during the Balkans Campaign in Greece, Albania and what was then Yugoslavia. They were charged with committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, including mass murder, torture, deportation, hostage taking, reprisal killings, plunder, and wanton destruction. All the defendants pleaded “not guilty.”

Of the twelve defendants indicted, Franz Böhme committed suicide before the arraignment and Maximilian von Weichs was severed from the trial for medical reasons. Of the remaining ten defendants, two were acquitted, and the others received prison sentences ranging from seven years to lifetime imprisonment.

In 1948, D’Addario was chosen by Michael Musmanno to accompany him as photographer on trips to interview various Nazi members who had worked closely with Hitler, the primary thrust of which was to determine if the Fuhrer, whose body was never found, was dead. Among the people whom he photographed while accompanying Musmanno were Leni Riefenstahl; Friedrich and Franziska Braun, the parents of Eva Braun, Hitler’s consort (and, briefly, his wife); Frau Gertrude “Traudi” Junge, Hitler’s private secretary, who had remained in the bunker with him until his death; and Göring’s wife and daughter.

After serving as a Pennsylvania judge and in the military justice system during World War II, Musmanno served as military governor of an occupied district in Italy and, beginning in 1947, he served as a presiding judge for the Einsatzgruppen trial at Nuremberg. In 1950, he published a book based on his research in which he argued that Hitler had indeed committed suicide in a Berlin bunker in 1945, and he later became famous for defending Sacco and Vanzetti.

In this correspondence on his “1945 International Military Tribunal 1946” letterhead dated February 7, 2009, a reminiscing D’Addario writes a few years before his death:

D’Addario correspondence.

It has been over sixty years for the trial – not many of us are around – and today there is more interest on what happened in books and in film. I’m glad that you have an intessest [sic].

William Glenny is nearby and talks to me occasionally – he was a guard in the cell block. His phone number is . . . and he took Goering to church.

Glenny was one of 120 guards charged with securing the Nazi prisoners at Nuremberg. In an interview, he stated that Göring was less interested in going to church than seizing on any possible excuse to leave his cell. He expressed great regret that Göring was able to escape justice by committing suicide – but also great relief that he was not the guard who had been on duty when Göring killed himself.

One of D’Addario’s classic photos of Robert H. Jackson.

D’Addario donated many of his photographs to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and many of his images have been displayed in permanent exhibits marking the historic trials, including at the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown, New York.

Jackson (1892-1954) served as U.S. Attorney General (1940-1941) and as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court (1941-1954) before his service as chief U.S. prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials. Jackson, whom D’Addario met a few weeks before the commencement of the trial and whom he greatly admired, had begun work on the trial well before the end of the war and, on April 13, 1945, he delivered a major address in which he had advocated conducting trials for Nazi war criminals.

Robert Jackson’s June 18, 1941, correspondence to Arthur Goldberg (then a labor layer in Chicago and later himself a Supreme Court Justice), thanking him for his good wishes upon becoming a Supreme Court Justice.

Jackson believed that the imminent Allied victory in the most inhumane war of all time should end with a civilized proceeding where the guilt or innocence of Nazi leaders would be properly determined in a court of law. Though many allied nations urged summary executions, President Truman, seeking an individual with unimpeachable credentials and high ethical standards, asked Jackson to serve as the American chief of counsel prosecuting the principal Nazi leaders before the IMT at Nuremberg. Jackson accepted and, as a result, he was absent for the Supreme Court’s entire 1945 term.

Jackson’s absence from the Court – indeed, his very participation in the Nuremberg trials – was by no means universally popular; in fact, many of his own colleagues on the Court were highly critical. For example, Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone called the Nuremberg trials “a fraud” and wrote that “Jackson is away conducting his high-grade lynching party in Nuremberg. I don’t mind what he does to the Nazis, but I hate to see the pretense that he is running a court and proceeding according to common law. This is a little too sanctimonious a fraud to meet my old-fashioned ideas.” Yet, notwithstanding his 14 years on the bench and his participation in many seminal Court cases, including Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Jackson viewed his service as Nuremberg prosecutor, and his role in creating new standards in international law, as his crowning achievements in public service.

Jackson played an important role not only in the trial itself but also in the creation of the IMT, as he led the American delegation to London that successfully resulted in the London Charter, a consensus agreement between the American, British, French and Soviet governments signed on August 8, 1945. It was through Jackson’s leadership that the Nuremberg trials were organized; standards of evidence developed; rights of defendants defined; and prosecutorial action commenced. Never before had standards been established defining aggressive war, crimes against peace and crimes against humanity and, much more than America’s chief prosecutor, he was the driving force behind the conduct of the trials themselves.

A now-famous and critical precedent was established at Nuremberg rejecting the so-called “Nuremberg Defense” – i.e., “I was only following orders” – and holding individuals personally responsible for committing such crimes. Setting a new standard in the field of international law that remains in effect to date, Jackson established that individuals who commit war crimes or crimes against humanity may be tried by an International Tribunal and be found personally responsible.

*****

While photographing the trials, D’Addario met and married Margarete Borufka, a Czechoslovakian refugee who was working as a translator at the Palace of Justice. Upon their return to the United States, they settled in Holyoke and opened a camera shop. D’Addario died in 2011 at age 90.

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Saul Jay Singer serves as senior legal ethics counsel with the District of Columbia Bar and is a collector of extraordinary original Judaica documents and letters. He welcomes comments at at sauljsing@gmail.com.