Letter from Katherine Fite to Mr. and Mrs. Emerson Fite, July 23, 1945. K. Lincoln Papers, War Crimes File. (Harry S. Truman Presidential Museum & Library)
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Monday, July 23
I have seen so much since I last wrote you. You probably read in the papers that Jackson went to Nuremberg over the weekend. Me, I went too! I was rather frightened of the trip - both the flying and the going into Germany, but it was probably the most interesting weekend I ever had. I wish I had had time to write a detailed account when I got back last night - already the sharpness of the impressions is fading away.
Anyway I shall try tonight to get some of it down, and please save the letter. I am tired and may not finish having worked until 10:30 at the office. In the party were Jackson, his three principal assistants - his press relations man - an officer from the engineers corps - a photographer - the British Attorney General and two assistants and a British General, the French representative, (the bravest man in the party, for he was sick or on the point thereof the whole time), his assistant and a man from the French Embassy, the Justice's sec'y (female) and myself and a lovely colonel who had us in charge.
The Justice has his own plane, a C-47 with a crew of four. We flew from Bovingdon in the clouds, but they cleared over the Channel and from France we looked back at the Dover Cliffs and the Channel looked very narrow. Thence over Brussels and Liege into Germany and the Rhineland where we flew low (and bumpily) to see the sights. We hit the Rhine just south of Cologne and could see the Hindenburg Bridge collapsed. We went right by the Remagen Bridge all fallen into the water. Thence over Coblenz which they say is badly destroyed but which I couldn't see well. Frankfurt even I could see is a mass of destruction.
Just almost exactly 3 hours and we were in Nuremberg. There, being VIP (army for Very Important People) we were met by a group of officers - including the Commanding General in the region. We piled into jeeps or their first cousins and set off in a cavalcade into the city. Nuremberg is a shambles. The old city they say is 85% destroyed. The people look, as you have read, healthy and well fed and surprisingly well dressed and clean, considering what they must have to live in. Bicycles everywhere, but as one of the Frenchman reminded me, the bicycles came from all over Europe. Somehow I hated to look at the Germans - some looked at you boldly and curiously, - others looked very stupid and sullen.
We were taken for lunch to the Grand Hotel - a wreck outside, but fixed up inside by that remarkable organization, the U.S. Army, of which more anon. I was startled to find the hotel using German servants (bitte this and bitte that). We lunched in grand style with linen (no napkins in England) and wine (Rhine and Bordeaux) and Reichspartei silver. Delicious cooking and toasts and speeches, Jackson being host to the French and British and all of us guests of the U.S. Army.
After lunch, by cavalcade to see the old courthouse and jail and the opera house. The courthouse room we saw (badly damaged of course) still has the Ten Commandments and Fiat Justitia on the walls. (Should be Ruat Coelum, said Mr. Sidney Alderman, a witty and brilliant civilian lawyer, 2nd to the Justice). The opera house (with Hitler's box in which stands a sentry) is more or less intact and is used for church services, USO shows and symphony concerts by a German orchestra. Sunday P.M. we attended a concert at which the orchestra played Beethoven's Fifth, the Victory Symphony. We did not however sit in Hitler's box.
Our cavalcade always was headed by an armored car and escorted by MP's on motorcycles and each driver was armed. We were "billeted" 6 or 8 miles out in a charming group of country houses out of which the Army simply turned the proprietors and installed us. The other girl said she felt as tho she were trespassing - but that didn't bother me. After all we are military occupants. I did however balk at going out shopping for German toys.
We had cocktails on the terrace where I chatted with a State Dept man sent down from Mr. Murphy's office at Frankfurt, also with a Col. Fairman from the Judge advocate's office. He is a political science professor and asked if I were related to Emerson Fite. I think he taught at Stanford, and daddy once tried to get him for Vassar. Back to the Grand Hotel for dinner where I sat next to the British Attorney General, very sweet and dignified and suave - with moth holes in his suit and patches in another. We sat late over dinner and had to be back in our quarters by eleven, the curfew for Germans is 10 o'clock. (Incidentally they say the German girls won't fraternize).
The trip home through absolutely deserted ruins - no street lights and motorcycles screeching - was eerie. We were more than comfortable in our rooms - with good linen and hot water and the inevitable German puffs. The Justice asked me to sit down when we got back with Gen. Betts, the Judge Advocate in the European Theater of Operations and his assistant, the aforementioned Col. Fairman. We went over a bit of business and I felt as tho I were in very high quarters, but spoke up nevertheless.
In the morning we were jeeped out to the famous sports stadium where they had there enormous congresses. It looks grass grown and shoddy. All the swastikas down. It all looks transitory and, as I said, shoddy. (There are several stadia - Nazi in Nuremberg), the heart of Nazidom. Saw the SS Caserne and the unfinished party hall. We climbed up on Hitler's rostrum and had photos taken, of which I hope I shall get a copy or so. Saw SS prisoners being marched from work.
Then back into the heart of the old city where the destruction is so complete. Our forces were attacking and the SS retreated there and refused to surrender. So they called in British air forces. Some say the annihilation took 50 minutes, others two hours. Anyway it was thorough. The shell of the cathedral remains and I think could be restored.
German prisoners of war are being brought in this week to start cleaning up the city. Some parts of the old city they said we couldn't go in, corpses still unburied. In places throughout the city you can smell the sewage, and maybe corpses. In the old city they are still living in cellars five stories deep, they say they're foul. The army keeps referring to the DP's, displaced persons whom they herd. Saw an Italian flag flying over the center for Italian DP's. And people sitting in front of the forlorn barnhof waiting to get onto some train. You see lots of men on the streets. We were told the army has already released two million.
The American army is superb. Everywhere, Scotland, London, Nuremberg. The boys are so handsome and so courteous. And the efficiency with which they handle you and everyone is astonishing. They feed you, and inoculate you, and billet you, and fly you with the most astonishing efficiency.
Our trip back was un-noteworthy. We flew at 10,000 feet to avoid the bumpiness lower down so that our French judge would be more comfortable. Four hours against the wind, and we were back in London, or rather Bovingdon, 25 miles out.
Justice J. is a grand person, very simple, very witty, very kind and thoughtful. And a very heavy load on his shoulders. He has arranged for some of us to hear a case in the House of Lords tomorrow, through "the Attorney", as the British say, I suppose. I believe I am to be included by virtue of my female and perhaps State Dept status. It makes it a bit embarrassing to be included when my army colleagues with whom I work much of the time are not. But they're grand persons (whom I greatly prefer to Navy and OSS) and don't seem to begrudge it to me.
It is after 12 and I must stop. I shall hope to hear from you this week.
All my love,