?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

The Eagle Chronicles 15: Nuremberg

Title: Nuremberg
Series: The Eagle Chronicles.
Word Count 4913
Summary Steven receives an invitation to witness the vedicts at the Nuremberg Trial




15 Nuremberg


late September 1946

Steven was sitting in one of the Vatican gardens, still recuperating from a stab wound to the chest incurred when solving a series of art thefts. "Steven, this telegram came for you," said Hugh O'Flaherty, a priest with the Vatican and a good friend.

"I wonder how they knew where to find me?" he questioned as he took the telegram.

"I'm sure Ghiradelli made mention of you in the press release."

"After I asked him not to?" Steven read the telegram

STEVEN TAYLOR
THE VATICAN

Steven--
Things are coming to a close. You might want to see for yourself. Stop at Ansbach for a uniform. See you in a couple days.
Capt. Jason Springer
Nuremberg, Germany



"Is it good news or bad news?" asked Hugh.

"I haven't decided yet," answered Steven as he re-read the telegram. "A friend in Nuremberg has arranged for me to see the conclusion of the trial."

"Are you going to?"

"Of course. I can't pass this up. I'm still haunted by what happened when I was in Germany and this should help put things to rest."

Steven went to the room that he had been given for the length of his stay and packed his belongings. He then placed a call to Paolo Fabrini, an artist and former member of the Italian Resistance. "I'm glad to see your show has been well-received, Paolo. I'll spread the word of your talent."

"You're leaving, aren't you?"

"At least we get to say good-bye this time."

"Arrivederci, mio amico. Don't be a stranger."

Next, Steven called Angelina Ghilberti whom he had met during his investigation. They had plans for dinner and he had to tell her plans had changed. "Angelina, I won't be able to take you to dinner tonight. I'm leaving Rome today. Something came up."

"Will I see you again?" she asked.

"I'll try my best. Take care, mi caro."

Hugh walked with him to where his car was parked. "His Holiness asked me to give you this." He handed Steven a chain and medallion.

"St. Christopher, patron saint of travelers." He smiled. "Is there one for former thieves and adventurers?"

"I'll look into it," remarked Hugh. "My prayers go with you. If there's anyone who needs peace in his life more than you, I haven't met him."

"Thanks, Hugh."

Steven drove north through Italy and stopped for lunch some hours later. It wasn't until later that he caught the name of the town: Feltre. How ironic that on his last trip to Italy in 1943 that this was the last town in which he stayed. This was where Mussolini and Hitler once met. He still wasn't sure what they had talked about, probably how they had planned to divide the world. He continued until it began to grow dark. He stopped in Innsbruck, Austria for the night.

He stopped at one of the small hotels and greeted the innkeeper in German, which seemed to put the man at ease. After all the foreigners in the country, it must have been nice to find someone who spoke the language. "What brings you to Innsbruck, mein herr?" he asked Steven.

"I've just spent the last few weeks in Rome and am on my way home." He signed the register.

"A long way, Herr..." he looked at the signature, "Taylor?" He stared at Steven.

"You could say that."

The man escorted Steven up to his room, not speaking until they were at his door. "You are going to Nuremberg," he stated.

"Yes."

"They deserve what they get. Because of them, people think all Germans and Austrians are evil. But you, you know the truth."

"Yes. I've known many who fought against the Nazis."

"We will be serving dinner starting at 7:00, Herr Taylor."

"Danke." Steven put his bag down on the bed and looked around the room. It was large with a small balcony overlooking the street. He wondered if his name had gotten him this prime accommodation. No matter, it was only overnight. If he got an early enough start in the morning, he should make Nuremberg by mid-morning. He checked his watch. He had a couple of hours to explore Innsbruck before dinner.

At dinner, Herr Baumann fussed over him, giving him a prime table and choice wines. He was flattered and embarrassed at the same time. The zwiebelrostbraten Baumann had recommended was nothing less than what he expected in a family-run establishment. Frau Baumann came out with a large piece of chocolate torte. "You are spoiling me." He smiled and took a bite, knowing she wouldn't leave until he had. "This is positively delicious. I've never tasted better." Frau Baumann smiled and went back to the kitchen. When dessert was finished, he went up to his room. Tomorrow was going to be one long day.

***********************************************

He stopped at the gates to the U.S. Army Base outside Ansbach and gave his name to the sentry. The man saluted and gave him directions to the CO's office. Steven parked in front of the building and strolled in. The CO himself greeted him. "An honor to meet you, Mr. Taylor. A true honor." He ushered Steven inside.

Steven sat in one of the chairs in front of the desk. "I take it you know why I'm here."

"Yes. Capt. Springer called with his request. He was right in asking for a uniform for you. One more won't matter much up there. We've also arranged for a driver."

"Do you think I'll get lost along the way?"

"Far from it. Capt. Springer stressed anonymity. Your car would stand out among all the military vehicles." He stood. "Let me show you where you can change."

"Thanks." Steven followed the man to a set of rooms used for visitors. The uniform was pressed and hanging in the closet. "How did you know my size? No, let me guess. Jason."

The Base Commander grinned. "When you're done, you can come to my office while we wait for the car." He left.

Steven made full use of the facilities before changing into the uniform. He tried to remember if he'd ever worn a U.S. Army uniform before. Nope, nothing. He had worn a German uniform on a number of occasions with the Resistance and a British uniform when he sneaked onto a ship crossing to Normandy. He had been given the honorary rank of captain, thus the bars on the uniform. Jason was going all out. He debated putting on his medals. He still wasn't sure why he brought them. What the hell? When will I get another chance to wear them with a uniform? He took one final look in the mirror before walking down the hall to the Commander's office.

"What a sight you make; a Medal of Honor, Victoria Cross, Légion d'Honneur, and an Iron Cross! Not often you see them all on one uniform."

"Do you think it's too much?" He hated drawing unnecessary attention to himself.

"When you put on the overcoat, it should be all right. Would you like some coffee before you hit the road?"

Steven looked at his watch. "Yeah, I've got time."

The CO took out a couple of well-used mugs and spooned some instant coffee into them while the water boiled on his hotplate. "My little private stash," he explained. "You know how bad army coffee is."

When it was poured and mixed, Steven took a sip. "Not bad. I had the most wonderful cup last night in Innsbruck." He laughed. "We sound like we should be in the front parlor."

There was a knock on the office door. "Come in."

A young soldier entered. "Captain Taylor's car is ready, sir."

Steven stood and shook the officer's hand. "Thanks for all your help."

"The pleasure was mine, Mr. Taylor. Or should I call you 'Captain'?"

"'Mr.' will do just fine." Steven followed the soldier outside to the car. It was the type used by four-star generals. Makes and models meant nothing to him as long as it worked. He just knew it was too luxurious for him. "Are you sure you've got the right car?"

"We were told to get you a good-sized car, one that would fit in with all the dignitaries."

"Jeez, Jason thought of everything," he said as he got into the back. "What's your name?"

"Dillon Morris, sir," answered the soldier as he started the car.

"How long have you been in Europe, Dillon?"

"I came over after D-Day. Didn't get much fighting in, but at least I can say I was here."

"Yeah, the folks back home'll spoil you once you go back. They did with me."

"I don't think I'm in the same league as you, sir."

"In small towns, everyone who comes home from war is treated like a hero. Then life returns to normal." I wonder if mine ever will.

They chatted on and Steven finally got Dillon to break his reserve and, by the time they reached the outskirts of Nuremberg, they were on a first name basis.

As Dillon pulled the car up in front of the Palace of Justice on the Fürtherstrasse, Steven looked out at the crowd gathered and had second thoughts about going through with it. Then he thought of Jason, who had arranged the whole thing, and of Herr Baumann back in Innsbruck. Dillon looked back at him via the rearview mirror, waiting. He got out and spoke to Dillon. "Thanks for the lift. Good luck when you get home."

"I've been assigned to you for the duration of your stay," said the young soldier with a smile. "How else would you get back?"

"How did you land this duty?"

"Whatever it was, I'll gladly do it again."

"All right. Find yourself a place to park and I'll leave your name at the door in case you want to come in."

"Um, I don't think so."

"I'll leave your name anyway." It started to drizzle so he removed his cap, placing it inside his coat, which he then buttoned. There were some hangers-on waiting outside for any piece of news. He walked right by them and up to the guard at the entrance. He pulled himself straight and put on his haughtiest expression.

The guard looked him over then greeted him--in German! "Guten Tag, mein herr. How may I help you?"

Steven decided to play along. "I have been asked to witness the sentencing," he replied, also in German.

"All German officers have been accounted for."

"German! I never said I was German!" he declared in French.

The soldier checked the list again. "All the French have also been accounted for."

They were attracting an audience. Russian or Italian next? He looked at the guard who was getting a little frustrated. Maybe not. He looked at the list on the clipboard. He saw his name and pointed.

The guard looked at the name, then up at Steven. "Oh. Go ahead."

"Don't judge by appearances," he said with a smile. "Oh, my driver may be in. Name of Dillon Morris."

"Right, sir. I'll add it to the list. It's room 600, third floor. That is, if you can make it through the crowd."

Steven thanked him and made his way to the third floor. That guard wasn't kidding, the place was packed. He elbowed his way to the door and made his way inside. There was no room to move forward even if he had seen Jason amid all those uniforms. He stood by the wall and watched the proceedings. He received a few stares and wondered why. Then he remembered the Iron Cross. He then noticed that some of the defendants were staring as well. He was known only by a few, so it might just be because of the medal. Just what I need. If everyone stares at what the defendants are.... And I meant to sneak in unnoticed. So much for that... The heat of the packed room was too much and he removed his coat. Ah, much better.

He listened intently as the verdicts were delivered on the four counts; conspiracy to commit aggression, commission of aggression, crimes in the conduct of warfare, and crimes against humanity. Four men were found guilty on all counts and four were acquitted. The rest were everything in-between. Once Göring's verdict was delivered-- guilty on all four counts--Steven caught his eye and winked. Göring had never liked him, and, well, this just made him feel a little better.

Court was adjourned at 1:45 for a lunch break. As the crowd exited the room, Steven once again looked for Jason. Jason spotted him first. "Steven!" he cried out. "You made it!" He grabbed his hand and shook it vigorously.

"Couldn't really turn down your invitation, could I?" He looked at the departing defendants.

"You're looking good. And the Vatican? Man, I wouldn't have thought that."

"And I wouldn't have thought you would have the pull to arrange for me to get here."

"Yeah, well, when the others found out I knew you, they couldn't do enough. C'mon, let's get out of here." He took Steven out into the hallway, which had miraculously cleared of people. "So, what were you doing in Rome? Last I heard, you were saving a damsel in distress in Monte Carlo."

"You heard about that?" He smiled. "I got bored and thought I'd look up and old friend." He related his Roman holiday to Jason's eager ears.

"Never a dull moment with you. I'm afraid what affect you'll have here," he joked.

"I'll try to be on my best behavior, but sometimes things get beyond my control." They passed a room that was packed with people. "What's going on in there?"

Jason looked into the room. "The press room. Looks like they're questioning the ones that got off." The two stopped and stood in the doorway and watched as the press grilled the four who were to go free.

Steven wondered what their lives would be like once this was over. On the outside, there might be some semblance of order and contentment, but what about inside? Would any of them wonder "Why me"? He knew that his life would probably be different after a reprieve such as this.

One of the reporters glanced up and saw him. A puzzled look crossed his face as he tried to place where he had seen him before. Recognition struck. "Steven Taylor," he said. He shoved his way to the door, making the others wonder why he was leaving. Then they, too, saw Steven.

"I think we'd better be going," declared Steven as he backed into the hall.

Jason led Steven downstairs before the press mobbed them. "I see what you mean about things getting beyond your control. Only you would be able to pull a reporter from one of the biggest stories of the decade."

"Now you know why I try to avoid these things." He looked at his medals. "Normally, I'd just slink in unnoticed and slip away the same way."

"With nobody being the wiser. You don't want people to put a face to the name."

"That's how I survived in the past. I could go anywhere and not be recognized. Now I can't even walk down the street without being stared at or pointed at."

"It's the price of fame, Steven. You're going to have to come to terms with it. You didn't know this was going to happen. You were just doing what you thought was right, your duty. You weren't thinking of the future consequences."

Have you taken up psychiatry now, Jason?" asked Steven with a wry grin.

"I do sound like one, don't I? No, I've just seen a lot of people having to confront their past actions. I mean, this trial for one thing. They thought they were doing their duty by their country, too, but they went way beyond that and some will have to deal with that guilt for the rest of their lives. Being recognized on the street is minor compared to that."

"You've given me something to think on."

"How do you feel, seeing them again?"

"I almost feel like gloating. I caught Göring's eye when his verdict was read and I grinned. Hell, I winked. I didn't know him as well as some of the others. A nodding acquaintance, you'd call it. From the stories I'd heard, he was not one to befriend. I think he resented me in a way because Hitler asked me for unbiased opinions. True, the man could have had me killed for saying the wrong thing, but I had no part in the intrigue and backstabbing that went on. Too bad the other big-wigs got out of this."

"We can talk on this later. We'd better get something to eat before court is reconvened."

*************************************************

Court reconvened at 2:50 and this time Steven was provided with a seat near the front. He would have an ideal view of the defendants as they were brought in and he would be able to see their reactions to the sentencing. There were only two he was interested in. Göring was the first brought in, escorted by two guards. There really was no doubt, Steven could see that in the judges' faces: death by rope.

Hess was brought in next. He had been an early confidante of Hitler's and, when the two had been imprisoned together, took down Hitler's dictation that later became Mein Kampf. Steven hadn't met him because the man had secretly flown to Scotland in 1941 in an attempt to bring about peace. Now, he was just a wee bit mad. He was given life imprisonment at Spandau.

More defendants came through, but they meant nothing to him. Then it was time for Speer, one of the men Steven had met when he first arrived in Berlin. Not knowing what had occurred during the trial, Steven could only draw on his observations made while in Berlin. Speer had been quite objective about the war, not mad on power like the others. He had even confided to Steven that he felt the Allies would win. Steven nodded when Speer first walked in, and Speer, once he was over his initial shock, nodded in return. He had been found guilty on charges three and four, the most serious of all. It was up to the judges. When the sentence of 20 years imprisonment came down, Steven heaved a sigh. Granted, it was a big chunk of his life, but at least he still had one.

When the sentencing was done, then men were to hang. At least it proved the Allies were not out for total vengeance. If that had been the case, the trial wouldn't have lasted a year. He stood and stretched. He needed to get away and think on what Jason had said. He picked up his coat.

"Where are you off to?" asked Jason.

"I need to walk and think things out."

"But--"

"I've been here before so I know my way around and I'll bring Dillon along. My driver," he explained as he left.

Steven put on his coat and walked out the front past the reporters who had been unable to get inside. Ignore them. Pretend they're not there. He kept repeating that as he walked down the steps. He spotted Dillon. "Up for a stroll?"

"Sure. Where?"

"Wherever. Just need to think out a few things. Walking helps. You can play bodyguard if you want." He smiled at the look of eagerness that crossed Dillon's face.

They walked past the rubble of bombed buildings. People stared at the two American soldiers who had wandered from "their" area of the city. The two men soon found themselves at an open arena. It had not escaped the bombing either, but Steven, in his mind's eye, saw it in its pristine glory; filled with people cheering and banners waving. Steven sat on one of the benches and thought back on one of the famed rallies he had witnessed. As his position was somewhat questionable, he was not placed near Hitler and his hierarchy, but it was enviable for most of the other loyal party members there to take part. He still couldn't get over the affect one man could have over so many people that they would follow him blindly, regardless of the consequences.

Dillon seemed to read his mind. "It's amazing how one man could whip a country into a frenzy like that. I know not every German was a Nazi, but they were still afraid to speak out against him." He sat down next to Steven. "What did you make of him?"

"Hitler?" Dillon nodded. "He knew how to play upon people's emotions. During the Depression, he told people that Jews and Eastern Europeans were taking jobs away from 'true' Germans. He just built on that when he came to power. When I was there, he was paranoid, afraid assassins were hiding behind every corner. I'm surprised he trusted me as much as he did."

"Did you know any of the men on trial?"

"I knew Speer well, spoke with Göring a few times, and von Ribbentrop."

"What happened in there? I heard four got off." Steven filled him in on the sentencing. "So, when will it happen? Do you plan to stay for it?"

"I don't know when. I hadn't planned on staying for them. I'm not that morbid."

Clouds had begun to gather. "Looks like rain. We'd better get back."

"Good idea. Don't want to have lived through a war only to die of a cold."

They stood and walked back to the Palace of Justice.

********************************************************

A few days later the excitement surrounding the trial had died down and all that was left was the tension. When were the hangings to take place? The Allied Control Council, which had been set up to govern Germany, ruled that the executions were to take place 15 days after sentencing. Most of the delegations had already left for home. Steven wondered what to do himself. Did he really need to see them hang? Would that lay his demons to rest? Perhaps if he got out of the city. Maybe if he revisited the site to see if nightmares came back?

He found Dillon in the mess with the guards. He excused himself from his circle of listeners and joined Steven. "Need to go somewhere?"

"Yeah. I was thinking of a little trip. Ever been to Berlin?"

"You're joking. Berlin? I can be ready in half an hour."

It was closer to an hour before the left. Steven told Jason where he was heading so the man wouldn't think he had been kidnapped by Russians or Nazis who had escaped the dragnet and were out for revenge. Jason opened his mouth to argue, then thought better of it.

Steven sat up front with Dillon as they drove through the decimated countryside and saw the German people try to carry on with their lives. The fields had been ravaged by bombs, tanks, soldiers, and mines making it near impossible to farm. Livestock was practically non-existent. When they arrived in Berlin, they could see conditions there weren't much better.

"Where do you want to go?" asked Dillon. "Any spot in particular?"

Steven just stared at the buildings as they passed by. "Turn left up here. Okay, stop here."

Dillon pulled the car over to the side of the road in front of a building that had seen action. The top floor was an empty shell. Steven headed for the front door. "Hey, where do you think you're going?" Dillon called as he followed him inside. The entryway smelled of dust and mildew and there were cracks running along the walls. "Why this building?" No answer. He offered up a quick prayer as he followed Steven up the rickety stairs.

He caught up with him on what used to be the top floor. "It offers a good view of the city," he remarked.

Steven was standing near the edge. "Over there you can see the Reichstag, and over there is the Brandenburg Gate. Somewhere in that direction is the Wilhelmstrasse where Hitler's private office was located."

Dillon walked slowly around the rubble. "I hope whoever lived here was away when it happened."

"I know for a fact that one of the former occupant was long gone when it happened." Dillon looked at him. "This was my apartment for a time. Within beckoning distance, you might say."

"Wow. They let you have your own place?"

"Only after a few months. I had to 'prove' myself first." He took a deep breath. "Okay, back to street level." He looked down. "It seems the car has attracted an audience."

The crowd backed away from the car as the two men walked out the door. They accepted Dillon's uniform, but seemed in awe of Steven in his civilian clothes. He recognized one of the women as a former neighbor. "Guten Tag, Frau Richter. I'm glad to see you. Please pass on my regards to your family." He joined Dillon in the car.

"And who was that?"

"The building's resident gossip. This should give her something to go on about for weeks. They all knew I worked with Hitler and now they're wondering why I'm driving around with an American soldier."

"They didn't know you were American?"

"Not when I speak like a native. I don't think Hitler wanted them to know an American was living there. It could have hampered my work."

Steven directed him to one of the most infamous addresses in Berlin: Prinz Albrechtstrasse and the headquarters of the SS. There were American soldiers there now, going through all the files and papers. Steven and Dillon were barred from entering. "Don't you know who this is?" Dillon asked the guard.

"Dillon, don't bother."

"This is Steven Taylor," Dillon continued.

"Yeah, right," said the guard. "You don't know how many times I've heard that one."

A lieutenant came over. "What's going on?"

"These two want entry. This one claims to be Steven Taylor."

"And you're refusing them? This happens to be the genuine article. Please, come in, gentlemen. What brings you to this dungeon?"

"Exorcising a few personal demons," answered Steven.

"I forgot you were a former 'guest'. You don't need me to show you the way, then."

"No, thanks. You can go back to what you were doing and we'll call if we need anything."

Steven led Dillon down into the cellars. Dillon peered into one of the cells and shivered. He then looked at Steven who had continued on. The man had been only a few years older that he was now and had held out in the face of torture for three months. He then escaped, bringing vital plans with him. He had a whole new respect for him now.

Steven stopped at the farthest cell and stood in the doorway. The light from the hall barely reached inside. He slowly walked in and cast his eyes about. He walked over to the chains dangling from the wall and picked up one of them. The end was worn and the manacle broken off. No one had been put in them since his escape in December 1943. He smiled at that. What do you know? I'm actually smiling in this place.

He looked up and saw Dillon. "So, this is it. This was your cell."

"Yep. I wanted to see how I would feel, coming here, seeing this all again."

"Is that what you meant by exorcising demons?"

"That's what this trip was for. If I can put this all behind me and not relive it everyday, then I can get on with my life."

"I guess that's what they mean about taking the good with the bad. I mean, you've got a name that can open doors, but hardly anyone knows what you had to go through for that to happen."

"And you think you do?"

"I'm beginning to understand," he answered honestly.

"Good." They left the building and blinked in the sunlight. "I could do with a beer. What about you?"

"That's one of the few things I can share with you on this trip."

Through the army, they found a place to stay the night. They following morning, they toured Berlin, not as a vanquished capital, but as a city in its own right. Dillon took out his camera and they took photos of each other at different sites. Steven chatted with different inhabitants, listening to their gripes and joking with them. Most of the older citizens had nothing to do with the war and just tried to survive as best they could.

"The thing is," Steven commented as they headed south out of the city, "if they're treated with respect, hopefully, there shouldn't be a problem. However, if they're treated like dirt..."

"Wasn't that what happened after the last war? They got a raw deal which built up resentment which then paved the way for Hitler?"

"Let's hope the politicians are as up on their history as you. I'm not looking forward to doing this again in another few years."

As they neared the turn-off for Nuremberg, Steven told Dillon to continue on to the Base. "But what about the executions?"

"Why bother? I think I've seen all I need to." I think it's time I went home and decided what to do next with my life.

Profile

SPN Dean Writing
blazoningpen
blazoningpen

Latest Month

June 2017
S M T W T F S
    123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930 
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Witold Riedel