Shylock as Judge, by Heinrich Haertle — part 14

Guilt by Kinship
From Freispruch für Deutschland by Heinrich Haertle
Translated by Hadding Scott, 2015

A final difficulty emerges because one of the main defendants, Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, proves unfit to stand trial.[1]

One remembers the extent to which already in the First World War the American arms-industry agitated for war so as to earn billions in the armaments-boom. As munitions escalated in the Second World War, the profit from carnage increased accordingly. Reason enough to divert attention from these facts with an accusation against German industry. The Krupp company, for generations a symbol of the national and social strengths of the German economy, should be accused and condemned as a symbol for all German industry. When however the owner of the last great European family enterprise proves to be a terminally ill man, one does not shy away from quite overtly applying guilt by kinship and accusing his son.

At first the deathly ill old man is tormented anyway, through constant examinations, although Krupp’s general practitioner, Dr. Otto Gerke, certifies: “There is a complete incapacity, even in the simplest actions. Herr von Bohlen is in no longer in any way accountable or fit for questioning!” The surgeon of the American 42nd artillery-division supports this assertion. The defense-attorney asks that the trial be postponed. On 6 November 1945 the terminally ill patient is examined again by English, French, American, and Russian physicians. Their report supports the same finding.

But the American chief prosecutor Jackson wants to have his revenge. He slanders the Krupp family as “the most incorrigible and influential warmongers.” Mr. Jackson produces the following falsification of history:

“We represent three nations of this Earth; one of them was overrun three times with the arms of Krupp; another had, in the course of a war in the east, suffered under the weight of the war like no nation before, and one of them has twice crossed the Atlantic in order, to the extent that it was in their power, to end conflicts that had arisen through German militarism.”

In the blindness of his hatred, Jackson rejected all medical reports. In vain the German defense-attorney, Dr. Klefisch, demands that a trial in absentia not be allowed in under any circumstance. No procedural law of any European state allows the prosecution of a defendant who is absent and totally incompetent to stand trial, he argued. In fact the prosecutors demand to prosecute Krupp in absentia anyway. That is too much for Lord Justice Lawrence. He directs to Jackson the question:

“Do you believe that it serves the interest of justice to convict a man who is unable because of illness to pursue his defense in an orderly manner?”

Jackson twists every which way but cannot say yes to the president’s question.

Then the English chief prosecutor, Sir Hartley Shawcross, repeats the same maneuver. He too is interrupted by the president with the penetrating question:

“Do you agree with me that according to the statutory law of Great Britain – just as, if I have understood correctly, according to the statutory law of the United States – a man in Gustav Krupp’s mental and physical condition would be declared unfit for trial?”

After some evasions Sir Hartley too must give in. He resumes Jackson’s contorted response.

Lawrence does not let go:

“Do you now suggest that under the prevailing circumstances Gustav Krupp should be prosecuted in his absence despite the medical reports that we have?”

The British chief prosecutor can no longer evade, and leaves the decision to the discretion of the court.

The acting chief prosecutor of the French Republic, in his prosecutory zeal, also cannot forgo the opportunity to embarrass himself before this tribunal. His English, American, and Russian colleagues had imposed on him, after the attempt to conduct a trial in absentia had run aground, the task of finding another way: now one does not shy away from resorting to guilt by kinship. The French prosecutor, Charles Dubost, stoops to this demand:

“We consider it necessary, since a second trial against the big industrialists is not supposed to occur, to substitute for Krupp the father, who is unfit to stand trial, Alfried Krupp, against whom grave accusations are raised.” Now the French judge loses patience too. Donnedieu de Vabres asks the French prosecutor with a piercing voice:

“You have just put forth the view that the name of the son Krupp should be substituted for the name of the father Krupp. Did you really mean “substituted”? … Do you really believe that you can ask the court to substitute one name in the indictment for another?

The embarrassment of the chief prosecutors however leads only to the separation of the prosecution of Krupp from the trial of the “main war-criminals,” and its postponement. In vain did the defense-attorney point out the illegality of this procedure based on guilt by kinship. In the documents he had been able to find hardly a word about complicity or participation by Alfried Krupp in the crimes attributed to Krupp the father. Furthermore, Alfried Krupp had become a proprietor only in November 1943. Nevertheless: guilt by kinship!

The Soviets treated the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg as the point of departure for 200,000 additional trials. Their democratic colleague Jackson hoped for 130,000 defendants that could be arrested and detained just by the armies of the United States because of this judgment.

Now the biggest trial in world-history can begin. The accusation presents 2630 evidentiary documents, the defense 2700. 2400 witnesses are questioned, and 300,000 affidavits are presented. The trial-transcripts and the bound volumes in all four languages of the proceedings tip the scales at 440 hundredweight. 780,000 photocopies are produced in the photo-lab. 27,000 meters of audiotape and 7000 phonograph-records preserve every word of the proceedings. The biggest war in history ends with the biggest show-trial ever staged. A gigantic extravaganza! For what purpose? Shylock wants his revenge – as a judge without justice, in a court without law.
[1]. Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach (1870-1950) was not a Krupp by birth. The arms-company had been inherited by Bertha Krupp in 1902 at age 16 following the suicide of her father, Friedrich Krupp. In 1906 Kaiser Wilhelm arranged for an aristocrat, Gustav von Bohlen und Halbach, to marry the young heiress so as to preserve the vital industry that the Krupp family had created. As part of the deal, the groom made Krupp part of his own name. (It seems not to have been unusual in Imperial Germany for a man to take his wife’s surname, if her family happened to be more prominent than his.) “Taffi Krupp” became chairman of the company in 1909. His health began to fail with a stroke in 1939, and took a dramatic turn for the worse in 1943 — which is evidently the reason for Alfried’s taking control of the company that year. The Associated Press on 16 November 1945 reported Krupp’s diagnosis as “senile softening of the brain.”

End of Chapter One 

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