tv Book Discussion on Mission at Nuremberg CSPAN May 3, 2014 9:45am-10:49am EDT
president obama and joel mchale of nbc's "community" headline the event before celebrities, journalists and the white house press corps. that's live at six. and live sunday on booktv, former gang member, community activist and political candidate luis j. rodriguez will take your calls and comments "in depth" at noon on c-span2. and on american history tv, a industry, sunday night at 9:35 on c-span3.ñr >> tim townsend reports on u.s. army chaplain henry georgia reck key and his assignment to minister to the nazi leaders on trial for crimes against humanity. the author recounts the lutheran minister's many ethical and spiritual conflicts in administering to the 21 nazis as the nuremberg trials and his interactions with the men during and following their trials as they awaited their sentences. this is about an hour.
[applause] >> thank you, first, to left bank for having me. it's, obviously, a great bookstore, and i spent a lot of time at left bank when i lived here, so thank you very much for hosting this event. i also want to just thank, first and foremost, my colleagues from the post dispatch who are here and who are my friends and have supported me for a long time when i wrote this book, for the six years that i wrote in this book and for the last two weeks since its publication. appropriately, because they're journalists, they're all in the back drinking -- [laughter] thank you, guys.
and thank you, also, to the sort of celebrity in the audience. this is a book about henry ger reck key and his son, colonel hank gerecke came up to be here tonight. he's in the front, and i hope he's going to say a few words in a little bit. [applause] hank was my collaborator in every way on this book. i spent a lot of time at his kitchen table, he and his wife millie, learning about his father and his mother and their upbringing in st. louis. so for those two reasons, this is a very meaningful and special night for me. so thank you both, collectively and individually. okay.
we're good. so friday, june 14th, 1946, was day 155 of the trial of the major war criminals. more commonly now referred to simply as the nuremberg trials. toe no one in courtroom -- though no one in courtroom 600 knew it yet, the trial was about halfway over. on day 155 franz von poppen, hitler's former chancellor, was on the witness stand. as he testified, the propaganda chief -- a sublieutenant of joseph goebbels -- wrote a letter which the former heeder of the hitler youth -- leader of the hitler youth movement then translated into establish. it was addressed to mrs. alma gerecke of 3204 halladay avenue
in south st. louis. holding nazi leaders accountable for world war ii was an experiment. at the time there was no legal precedent for framing criminal charges against the perpetrators of a war of aggression. as early as 1944 allied leaders were hashing out the best way to punish people whose criminal activities were so horrendous that laws barring them didn't technically exist. nuremberg was an improvisation. never before had the international community held a state's major leaders accused and convicted them of conspiring to commit crimes against humanity. the trial of the major war criminals was, in the words of one of its american prosecutors, quote: a benchmark in international law and the lode star of thought and debate on
the great moral and legal questions of war and peace, end quote. existing within the larger nuremberg improvisation was another that has never been told in full. it is a historical asterisk to what was called the trial of the century. it was an experiment in how good confronts radical evil. and at its center was a farm kid from missouri. those organizing the nuremberg trials knew that if they were going to try some of the world's most notorious criminals for war crimes, they also had to follow the geneva conventions. article 16 of the convention's regulations regards the treatment of prisoners of war and states that prisoners of war are permitted, quote: complete freedom in the performance of their religious duties, including attendance at the
services of their faith. ministers of religion who are prisoners of war, whatever may be their denomination, shall be allowed freely to minister to their co-religionists. but nuremberg was not the average p.o.w. camp. the world was watching as hitler's deputies answered for the holocaust. the allies didn't trust chaplains to do the job, so they brought in two of their own instead. chaplain henry gerry key of st. louis and kaplan o'connor of oxford, new york. chaplain. for the first time in history, u.s. army chaplains would minister to the enemy. and the enemy included some of the 20th century's most infamous names. herman goering, hitler's number two, commander of germany's air force, the luftwaffe, and the force behind the third reich's final solution.
albert spear, hitler's architect and the armaments minister. to mine granite used in germany's granite plants. the field marshal and second only to hitler in germany's military hire ary. the reich's labor minister in charge of what one historian called, quote, the greatest round-up of slaves in history. and hans frank, hitler's personal lawyer and eventually the governor general of to polander where he earned pick names such as slayer of the poles and the butcher of cra cow. on that friday in june, 1947, von poppen testified in courtroom 600. when he finished, all 21 of the
nazi prisoners, including the catholics and those who had refused any spiritual counsel, signed it. it read in part: your husband, pastor gerecke, has been taking religious care of the undersigned defendants during the nuremberg trial. he has been doing so for more than half a year. we now have heard, dear mrs. gerry key, that you wish to see him back home after his absence of several years. because we also have wives and children, we understand this wish of yours very well. our dear chaplain gerecke is necessary for us not only as a minister, but also as the author rely -- thoroughly good man he is. surely we need not describe him as such to his own wife, we simply have come to love him. in the fall of 2007, i was writing a story for the newspaper right down the street,
the "st. louis post-dispatch," where i discovered the religion beat. the story was about operation barnabus, a program that the lutheran church missouri senate had recently begun to help chaplains who were returning from iraq and afghanistan more smoothly reentering their congregations back home. but i needed some color for the story. so i went to concordia seminary historical institute happened to have an exhibition on the history of the american military chaplaincy at the time. under one of those pieces of glass was a letter to alma gerecke from the nazis. i read that word "love" just pof the signatures -- above the signatures of the perpetrators of the genocide, and i thought, ah, that could be a story. [laughter] i found gerecke easeleddest son, hank -- eldest son, hank gerecke, in cape gerardo, and he
told me the story of his father and mother. and six years later, here we are. hank and his younger brother corky were already in uniform in 1943 when their father raised his hand and said he'd like to be a war chaplain. the first part of gerecke's career had been spent pastoring a church in south st. louis. then during the depression he had been a missionary with the st. lutheran city mission. st. louis lutheran city mission, ministering no those on the streets, in hospitals and in city jails. now he wanted to do his part for the war effort. he was 50 years old. the army assigned gerecke to the 98th general hospital which in 1944 landed in hermitage, about 60 miles west of london, in the south of england. there the 98th set up a 1,000-plus-bed transit hospital where doctors and nurses would
literally just stop the bleeding as wounded g.i.s were flown in from the front lines in europe before putting them on a train to larger hospitals in london. when the war was over, the 98th was sent to germany to take over a bombed-out hospital in munich. in the fall of 1945, colonel burton andros, the commandant of the prison, heard about a lutheran chaplain in munich who could speak german and who had ministered to men in the st. louis city jail system. gerecke was given the assignment, but he was also given the chance to turn it down. gerecke prayed hard about the decision. he asked himself how could a preacher from st. louis make any impression on the disciples of adolf hitler? during his months in munich, gerecke had taken several trips to dachau. he'd seen the raw aftermath of the holocaust. he returned to his commanding
officer, i'll go, he said. gerecke wasn't the only chaplain at nuremberg. the assistant chaplain was a francis can fry car from upstate new york. father o'connor had been a chaplain with the 11th armored division known as the thunder bolt during the war. the 11th fought in the battle of the bulge and moved east over the winter of 1944 and '45. o'connor earn add pons star -- earned a bronze star. in may 1945 the 11th helped liberate mat hawzen concentration camp outside hitler's hometown in austria where nearly 100,000 people were tortured and murdered between 1935 and 1945. this is a photo of what were called the stairs of death. they led down to the granite
quarry called the german earth and stone works. albert speier supplied granite for his great vision of nazi buildings and monuments, many of them in nuremberg. the 186 steps to the quarry floor were badly cut into the clay and slippery. when prisoners reached the bottom of the steps, they strapped massive granite slaps on their backs and were then sent up the stairway of death. when a man reached the top, seen here in a photo after liberation, an ss guard may have directed him to throw the slab from the top of the sheered quarry wall 12 stories high back down to the bottom of the pit, then demand he run down and bring the same boulder back up to the top. throwing prisoners 12 stories to their deaths below was also a cheap, effective murder method for the guards. the ss called the victims of such murder parachutists.
it held 66,500 prisoners on may 4, 1945, the day before it was liberated by the 1 is 19th -- 11th armored division and other units. more than 450 died each day during the following week. father o'connor buried 2,911 people between may 8th and may 31st. this is a photo of earnest -- [inaudible] on the far right during an inspection of camp in 1941. with heinrich himmler on the left and the camp's commandant in the middle. he was the head of the reich security main office and controlled the gestapo, the sd or security police -- security service and the security police. he had authority over the group that roamed eastern europe killing as many jews as they could find. and as adolf eichmann's
superior, he was responsible for the administrative apparatus behind the entire concentration and extermination camp system. three months after helping to liberate the camp, father o'connor was in nuremberg ministering to him. this is a promotional shot taken by the army of gerecke inr:iqfi6 this a 169-square-foot chapel made by knocking down the wall between two cells. ..
written it helps us to take ourselves to be against the doers, not the perpetrators. we like to think that they are not like us. but indeed, there being unlike us is a very quality that explains that they could do what they did. having committed atrocities so outrageous in nature and scope as to explode this comprehension. they must surely be abnormal men. and so to think this way, however, is to turn away from what the holocaust means. to refuse to fully acknowledge the scope and what it is saying about the human condition. it is helping this is a historical fact in the first place. it attempts to understand does it create a path that excuses the behavior that creates evil.
if the perpetrators of genocide can be seen as fellow human beings, to be deserved empathy or even forgiveness from those of us that use lead good lives? theologians have argued that the existence of it is the corollary to free well and there is only one all-powerful god unless god come in some way, be responsible for this? many say that either god cannot abolish evil or he will not abolish evil. if he cannot, he is not all-powerful and if he does not come he is not altered. and if god creates evil but also allows free will, is god or man responsible for the holocaust?
if he is master of absolute good and evil, he must also claim those of us. and what about forgiveness? a theological point in which christians and jews differ. many believe that god, through the crucifixion of jesus has 30 excepted and forgiven then. it has to working parts. an extreme opposite ends of the spectrum, desisting from the lachemann doing good. the jews who survived the holocaust and later generations have no moral standing to forgive the perpetrators of the holocaust for it what right does anyone other than those who died have to forgive anyone for critical participated in? only the murder could forgive coming that could not
includes wiping out been one same recognize this, they ministered to this despite the horrors that they had executed. they attempted a different kind of transformation. it's one single burden was to return the mass murders from darkness to the good of their own lights. so i'm just going to read a little bit of one chapter. so the morning after the executions, interest had summoned them to his office and he said that the condemned man with you waking up 11:45 p.m., served a last meal, then walked
to the gym. the executions would begin after midnight and interest had ordered him not to tell the man or anyone else of the execution plans. they shouldn't know until they were working up that night, he told them. the day should proceed normally. in the afternoon as the chaplin visited the cells, they asked joachim von ribbntrop, ernst kaltenbrunner and whether or not he was asking. what did he know, do they demand? and this includes ernst kaltenbrunner, rosenberg, and joachim von ribbntrop. he aske3
joachim von ribbntrop. he asked them each to join in a pair that he had written and only rosenberg had refused. no, please do not, he said to gerecke. he demanded to know what was going on with the execution timetable. he was also refusing to leave his cell and he was adamantly against exercising [inaudible] he took all the family photos the decorated his flimsy table and put them in an envelope for his attorney. in the early afternoon, he requested a visit. what time are the execution scheduled for? and he didn't answer. the writes marshall was a likable man and he wished that he could have been honest with them. even the chaplin called him a good-natured farmer with a good sense of humor.
and he had been surprised that hermann goering knew quite a bit about the bible. of all the dmn, he impressed us the most, and with his brain he could've accomplished a lot. he had been fascinated with a small, and he often discuss the game with o'connor during his visits. he wanted to know about the dodgers and how baseball does the business. is there money in a? you ask. o'connor told them that the dodgers general manager me $90,000 per year. maybe i should've gone into that business, he had said. and so was mid-october and the st. louis cardinals were battling the boston red sox. though he was from upstate new york, o'connor had taken boston and a 10-dollar bet with gerecke. and in between visiting the prisoners in their cells a day, the chaplains adhered on the prison floor to get the score.
so the only way that they had of receiving updates after each happening was through a phone call from an american officer outside the prison walls. and around 7:30 p.m., gerecke returned to the cell of hermann goering to get them to accept christ. he had been a regular, but he had resisted the efforts to bring you more seriously into the olds of the church. and he told hermann goering that ebert a special devotional form and he said to leave it on the table because he would read it later. but what he really wanted to discuss was the kitchens. and gerecke tried to steer the conversation toward how a man prepares his soul for death. he asked him to join him in a prayer, no, he said, he would watch and pray for from his cot. he thought that he seemed more depressed than we had earlier, which was not surprising given what was coming and he asked how
the other men were doing. and he could hear crying and moaning with fear. and he asked gerecke if you might be able to see him to get through this. then he started in again on the method of execution. hanging, he said, was the most dishonorable way for him to die, given his former position with the german people. and he didn't even respond. he heard the same complaint dozens of times since the sentencing. silence fell between them. somewhat desperately now he tried one last time to engage him on the eternal values at how a man can be prepared to die to meet his god. but he was not open to listening. for the last time he told them
he was a member of the christian church but he couldn't accept the teachings. he began to make fun of the creation story in the old testament and he ridiculed the idea that the bible was written by scribes divinely inspired by god. and he refused the fundamental christian doctrine of atonement, the duties is there his suffering by for the forgiveness of man's sin and this is not to stop speaking to you. what did you say jesus save me. and he said no, i cannot do that. this jesus you always speak of, to me he is just another smart jew. and he said this jesus is my savior who suffered and then die that i may go to heaven someday. he paid for my sins.
hermann goering yelled "ach." you don't believe that yourself. when one is dead, they don't have anything. >> and he said pastor, i believe in god. i believe he watches over the affairs of men, but only the big ones. he is too great to bother about little matters. so he fell silent for a moment and then he looked at gerecke. pastor, he finally said, how do you celebrate the lord's supper? and he was astonished. he claimed membership in the church, you must be familiar with the sacraments. the lord's supper was particularly meaningful for him, as a lutheran, he believed that when christ offered brad to his apostles at the last supper, telling him it was his body, and actually became his body. and bread and wine were consecrated and those in the pews have been taught to believe
that the body of christ is truly present in and went in under the elements of bread and one. so in holy communion some christians believe that god is mitigating their suffering through the sacrifice of christ his son. their sins disappear each time they receive communion integral little closer to god. these convictions stem from christianity's central belief in atonement. and gerecke reminded hermann goering of the church doctrines, emphasizing that only those should partake. [inaudible] had requested it and had suffered through a great deal of self-examination under his guidance. he said this is the way it is. only those who believe that jesus is really their savior and who believe in him who instituted the sufferer should be permitted to attend the
lord's supper. the others are unfair. >> i have never been refused the lord's supper, he said. never. and he had been afraid of this moment. a committed member of his congregation was asking for the most central sacrament of the church with his final wish. yet he had just a spiritual foundation of the christian faith. and he knew he was like rosenberg and many others a believer in god, but not christ. and as a rationalist, he wanted to go through the motions, believing the same case christianity really represented the truth. >> i cannot with a clear conscience because you deny the very christ who instituted the sacrament, he said. maybe it on the church roll, but you do not have taken christ and have not accepted him as your savior. therefore, you're not a christian, and as a christian pastor i cannot give you communion.
so he thought that at that moment that hermann goering would request a german pastor. he read in bed for 30 minutes before getting up and walk into walking to the toilet in the corner of his cell. out of view of his guards. and then he returned to his bed, took off his boots, and put on his slippers. he was agitated and restless. he picked up his book and walked to the table and his reading glasses and then put them down. he moved his suspenders and writing utensils, placing them on a nearby chair. at 9:15 p.m., he changed into his soul pajamas and got into bed. covering his chest with his hands. his left hand haggling between his body and the wall while he massaged his forehead with his right hand. and as usual, the lights were turned on at 9:30 p.m. the lights dimmed and the lights
were turned out. at 10:40 p.m., he turned his head to the wall and lay that way for a few minutes. then he placed his hands at his sides and clenched his jaw hard, breaking the glass vial of cyanide placed in his cheeks moments before. his guard saw him stiffen and make a glowing choking sound through his lips. he began grabbing at his throat. the guard booth nearby, the guards and chaplains had gathered for the world series update from outside the prison walls. dimaggio had doubled in two runs to tie st. louis. he saw johnson signaling that something was wrong. iraqis have incomes and turned some kind of spell. he began unfolding the door as the smell of bitter all men's came to the door. they arrived and they moved toward the cot. hermann goering, was gurgling
into debt, he thought. his heart was still beating, but his eyes had rolled back in his head and the gurgling sound continued. his right arm dangled over the side of the cot and he picked up his hand and felt for a pulse. if the doctor, this man is dying, he yelled, at the prison officer. and he was turning green and his gasping with growing fainter and his toes were beginning to crawl towards the soles of his feet. he renounced his ear. the blood of jesus christ cleanses us from our sins, he said. the prison doctor arrived and he stepped back to let him take his pulse. it was fading. the doctor pulled back the blanket covering him to check his heart and found two white envelopes on his left hand. he handed them to gerecke, telling him to remember later that he had done so. he looked inside and found a case where you had hidden the
cyanide and folded pieces of paper. by 11:00 o'clock, his skin had turned from green to gray and one i was partly open and dilated and his mouth was also slightly open and the doctor could see glass shards on his tongue. he turned that she prison officer as he arrived. he said, he said. and handed him the white envelopes which were later classified as top secret. thank you. [applause] so i'm happy to take some questions of people have them. before i do that, i do want to have the celebrity in the audience talk if you'd like to.
hank? [inaudible conversations] >> this way. >> we might have to charge admission. [laughter] >> i want to say a word is a former chief of police, i have been a subject of several of your articles. not all favorable, but that is part of the job. but there was a young man at nürnberg who is a reporter and one of the reports distressed my
father. and he talked about it when he was in st. louis and they said i will take care of it, and he did. and you will find the record as i have it here but they had a report dealing with hermann goering as he died. my father was criticized because he did not hermann give hermanng to me. and he was criticized by several ministers, though, he said, you should've given him immunity, he was going to die. and they were talking to the wrong guy. and whether you believe in god or except god's word was the question. but hermann goering was a
manipulator of the first order. and let me tell you what he said to my father on the exercise field. he said, you know, i'm a senior officer here and you're going to have people come to the capital. he said i will have given order to them that they have to attend the chapel. and he said no, you won't. and he said, well, i know he won't. if they want to come to chapel, they will come to chapel. and so it was an all black and white with my dad. he had a sense of humor, believe me. one of the prisoners was concerned about his wife. and he asked to find out how they were doing. so my dad courtesy to the intelligence called upon them
and dad said, excuse me, i've got the wrong house. the captain said, well, who would you looking for and he said he believed he came and he talked to her for a few moments. he went back to the prisoner and the prisoner said how is my wife doing. and she is doing fine, dad said. he had a heart that was as big as a house. believe me. and he went to the airport several times to pick up one of the german officers wives where they had consigned her and was being held by the russians. she never showed up because they would not release her.
there is a book written where the evidence is there, but not positive. that an american captive who became friends with him, he had access to his release and hermann goering came prepared to take poison. but again, how you do you deal with something like this? i called my dad the night of the hanging. i was in a hospital in frankfurt, kind of beat up. and i got the right through. i said that i am lieutenant and i would like to talk to my father and they put me through and i talked to dad and i said, and i remember this very well,
my prayers go out to you, dad, so take care, and i have said a prayer to you. and to this day i found it strange that i said those things my father. but he thanked me. and things were not all that bull is my god. and he called it the week before nürnberg and sent can you get away and get to paris? and i said yes, i can, i have to go there on a very important mission. you and the important mission is to buy a liquor supply.
[laughter] >> you can laugh, but that is important. [laughter] and i was entrusted by this monumental task. and i went to lunch with dad, i went to breakfast with him and i had dinner with him. but after dinner i went back to his hotel and i went out. and i was there a couple of days and we had just finished going through the louvre and i said, i have to rest. and he said come on, we have a limited time here and we have to see these things and he said come on, let's go. so let's go forward to 1959 in 1960 in chester, illinois. sitting on the back porch and we're reminiscing about our time in london and paris and so forth. quite an activity for a preacher and his son, talking about
visiting the city's. and i said to dad, did you ever wonder why i was so tired we are talking about this. and he said yes, i knew what you were doing. i figured if i walked the long you long and hard enough, you would stop that nonsense. [laughter] were my father. when i was leaving the army, he asked me how much money i had, and i said a quarter. he reached in his wallet and he pulled out a 5-dollar bill. money is tight, you know great and he said, take this. and i said, i can take that. this is his runaway money, if you want to put it that way. and he said no, i want you to
have it. this is my father who would give you the shirt off his back. he had sympathy for the downtrodden and also the poor. and he was not a pushover. and he got along successfully. when he died, the warden of the prison called me and said can we have your dad's body brought back to the prison because the prisoners would like to acknowledge them. and i've talked to my mother, and she agreed. so they came to the prison and 2400 prisoners passed by, catholics, jews, all of them. because he was a person who could see something in them that most of us cannot. and so he was there to save their souls regardless. and i adore him. thank you.
[applause] [applause] >> i forgot to say if you haven't bought the book, buy it. [laughter] >> thank you. >> a lot of reporting assignments are not exactly what we would call fun. but you can see why this one was. thank you. >> and i should say that there are more individuals here, the granddaughter of gerecke has come, thank you for coming, it is amazing. if it anyone has questions, i'm happy to answer them. then we can find some books.
>> i have read it and i could not put it down. >> that is my favorite kind of question. [laughter] >> i have a question for the children and grandchildren of those who were adults in the second world war. and they teach holocaust every year in school so that as they say, it will never happen again. you can take a class in college that covers it. >> i'm not sure that that is true. i spent some time at the holocaust museum here in st. louis. and i happened to be there once
in the spring or the fall, and they have busloads and busloads of kids coming through. i was there once and you could barely get in because they had so many high school and younger kids coming through it. and they had set up the museum there very specifically to be interactive so the kids could and i don't know enough about the education of some snow at public schools are not teaching the holocaust. but i would say that specially a lot of the jewish communities to a pretty great job of getting kids who maybe are not being taught specifically about the holocaust during world war ii, but they get them to come to these museums to experience them for themselves.
>> two questions. did you find any evidence that colonel anders ever attempted to somehow disrupt the relationship with this control of the prisons? >> the question is has anything been written about father o'connor and whether interest, whether he did anything to scuttle the work that he did. >> also if you try to turn them into informants. >> nothing has been written about father o'connor, mostly because he never talked about this experience.
there is very little written. i talked to one or two people that had talked to him even about it. he had never tried to get in the way of the chaplain or tried to do anything to try to get them to tell what they have learned and confessional and anything that i had learned of riyadh gerecke had an interesting opposite when he was in the hospital during the war. there were some german pows in england at the time. and they try to get him to be their pastor to get information from the pows and he refused. he refused to do that. and so i don't know what happened. i don't think it happened in
that way. he was a very committed christian. and he had a church outside of nürnberg that he pastored also. and he attended his as part of the regular sunday event. >> there is sort of a malign character. the reality of this supported to pay for helen's daughter to go to school and he could not bring himself to do the executions. >> that's right. >> so the commandant has been portrayed their history as a
peacock. he had very strict rules and a lot of the literature that has been written about it, and there is a lot of it, used him almost as a comic foil. this gentleman is saying that in fact he was a good guy and i do have this part of the book that he refused to go to the executions because he said no matter how much you know about these men, i can spend a year with them and i can't watch them be hanged. >> there was a lot of testimonies of the trials which describe the terrible conduct of these people on trial. to the prisoners ever express any reaction to the testimony? >> not that i know of to the specifics. whether the prisoners ever
express what was happening during the trials themselves to the chaplains. the testimony that they were getting and what was coming out and what their thoughts were about it. and so from all of the reading that i did, most of that has come from books written by psychiatrists who were americans including douglas kelly and others in gilbert was one of the psychiatrists there. and so it's nothing that i know of that has come from the chaplains themselves in that regard. but most of that, comments about each other's testimony comes from them. >> i had an had a sense of all of the background. the account that you gave us of
interaction between him and gerecke are detailed. >> yes. the question was how i reconstructed that particular scene that i read and others like him. there were pieces that he wrote. he wrote a piece in 1952 that had two or three rough drafts simply that he had written beforehand and for publication for army travel magazines. there is also an audio of a similar described experience. and i think it is a lutheran
ladies meeting or something like that. but someone found an audio of him giving this kind of speech. which he did a lot of touring around the midwest and telling his story a small gatherings. this was found and they had cleaned up and accept their website. you can actually hear him himself talking about these things. so things like that here and there i was able to kind of piece together into a narrative. >> smacker passers. >> they gave the report. people just love it. >> yes. it. >> let's go to the back. >> how well were they known.
there was a lot of negative criticism. >> that is a really good question. it was one of the heartbreaks of his post war life when he wrote this piece in the saturday evening post. he wrote very candidly about how he met these men for the first time and that his hand, when he first met him, he describes the emotional moment in the person escorting him to his left away. so now he is about to me the people he is so afraid of. and so he writes about that when i came out he received a lot of hate mail. a lot of people calling him a not a writer. people were so repulsed that
anyone would even touch him that they wrote it and told him about it. and so he found a secret compartment in the back of his desk and he had kept all of this hate mail for some reason. we don't know why. but during his career he was a chaplain to everyone. which was so important to him. if you were jewish, he would try to find you a rabbi. a couple of different times both in england and in germany. he went out of his way to find a synagogue during the high holiday so that the jewish doctors and nurses could worship. whatever you were, he wanted you to believe that very strongly. his granddaughter had spoke
about a jewish nurse who had her father in new york make a ring for him with something that he said frequently. this, too, shall pass. and she gave this ring to the chaplain as a thank you for going out of his way for doing his job in making sure that everybody in the unit to warship. and jim haslett around her neck right now. >> when i was a child i belong to the good shepherd church. and so we talk about hanging out with the boys. >> okay, if you couldn't see that, he was baptized by pastor
gerecke at the good shepherd church, which is one he was a missionary. it was a tiny little church that is no longer there. but that is amazing. >> my question stems from this gentleman's question. the details of the death of gerecke and the execution, did you have access to any military records and whether any differences personally? >> thank you. the question is whether there were other sources for the scene that i read about his suicide. it was an actual investigation that i read through. and a lot of what i read through have come from that. and then the book that hank mentioned, i think his name is [inaudible name], the person in texas who did an amazing amount of reconstruction to try to
figure out who gave him the sinai. but that book was incredible. so i used this book, the actual investigation itself and then his memory of it was his own in the chapel itself and there was a little bit in her from the one interview that o'connor gave. and it sort of a stitching together as much as i could find and if there was something that didn't match up, they either left it out are probably went with the investigation documentation. >> two questions. one is about the letter you mention in your reading.
and that ought and second, if you have any contact with [inaudible name] >> the question is what is in the classified letter that i talked about. and whether gerecke had any contact with rudolph, who is sort of his -- well, they were all probably a little crazy. but he was schiller's number two. he wrote mein kampf with heller. so the letters were declassified in two of them ended up. one was to him, and it was written to deflect the blame from the own guards and who gave him the cyanide capsule. he addressed him to give the
letter to his wife. so two of the four. one could you give this to my wife, and the other one saying i'm sorry had to do it this way, but there's no way i was going to hang. and i think the third one -- i don't want the fourth one was. but there were four in total and one of the american prosecutors wrote a book that was sort of the bible of the scholarship. and that he had access and i actually went to columbia university where they are to dig them up with what they said. >> we had some difficulty that comes from commuting with these
people. but did he have any apprehensions? and why was he so well received by these people who were the archenemy? >> question is whether his german presented any difficulties and secondly why was he so well received by the nonsense at all. his english and german, he learned german on the fun growing up. his parents had german or background. but he was also studying to be a pastor. and his education was in the lutheran church, and they taught a lot of this as well. but he had not used it in a long time. and one actually says they laughed at his german outburst. it was very simple and one of
the reasons he was well-received is because he was as old as they were. we mention another tampon who was the original one and they wouldn't talk to him because he was too young. so they need a gerecke, and they had some experience. he sort of looked the part and was balding and he was looking tired. so they, aside from his manner, part of it was they responded. they had a lot of common ground. they had kids that followed the war and they had to marry the daughters of brewers. and i think they just had more in common with him where he could express that to them. and i think that is what eventually brought them to this