The courtroom of the Nuremberg Trial
November just gone by saw the 65th anniversary of the start of proceedings at Nuremberg in what was the world’s first international war crimes trial – a landmark in legal history. For the first time a nation’s highest-ranked officials (those, at least, who survived the war) were tried before an international court: 21 defendants collectively accused of conspiring to wage war, committing crimes against peace, ‘war crimes’ and ‘crimes against humanity’ including genocide. Thus in the dock, inter alia, were Gestapo founder Hermann Göring, Wehrmacht head Wilhelm Keitel, racial theorist Alfred Rosenberg, foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, and armaments minister Albert Speer.
Nuremberg was undoubtedly a trial of vanquished by victors, and the scope needed for its fullest and most proper functioning was, on paper, perhaps unobtainable. But as Gitta Sereny, who attended the Trial, later put it, Hitler and his regime had ‘deliberately and in full awareness offended against every conceivable rule of war and morality.’ And while Winston Churchill might at first have favoured summary executions for the Nazi leaders, it was clearly for the better (as Churchill eventually agreed) that Nuremberg permitted a watching world to see and hear the enormity of the evidence against the Third Reich.
Finds is pleased to republish what was the first of the many books written about Nuremberg, originally brought out by Penguin just a few months after the conclusion of proceedings. Written by the Times’ distinguished war correspondent Robert W. Cooper, The Nuremberg Trial is still regarded as one of the best descriptive accounts available.
Though hundreds of journalists from newspapers all over the world reported on Nuremberg, most papers were content to cover only the most newsworthy moments, such as Göring’s appearance in the dock. The Times, however, decided it had a public duty to keep record of each day’s events, and the task was given to ‘Bob’ Cooper who was then in Germany having led the Times’ reporting team from the Normandy landings through to the fall of Berlin. Cooper’s single-handed coverage of the trial – he had no assistance – is one of the most remarkable feats in modern journalism, a distillation of a mountain of evidence into an objective, intelligent account of the complex hearings, which he put to further good use by authoring his book.
Although Cooper reported some of the most momentous events in modern history, his name never once appeared in the Times because he wrote in an era when all of that paper’s journalists were anonymously known as “Our Own Correspondent”. Cooper died in April 1992, aged 87 and the Telegraph wrote in his obituary, “There is no doubt that Cooper’s reporting would have won him fame if he had worked for a more modern newspaper.” That same notice commented that “Cooper was well-equipped for the job of foreign correspondent. He was a linguist, a good reporter who hated official cant and obfuscation, had a superb shorthand note and was a fine writer”. Finds is pleased and proud to have Robert Cooper, under his rightful name, on our list.
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