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Did Julius Streicher Deserve his Death Sentence?

One of the most often heard criticisms of the 
Nuremberg Trials focuses on the perceived injustice of some of the sentences relative to others. Perhaps the best case for this relative comparison is the disparity of sentencing as regards Fritz Sauckel and Albert Speer. These two defendants were both guilty of much the same crimes to much the same degree, yet Saukel was sentenced to death while Speer only received a 20 year prison sentence. This Saukel/Speer question will be dealt with separately. This particular question concerns Julius Streicher, another Defendant whose sentence is often criticized as unjust.

Streicher was accused of calling for and encouraging the extermination of the Jews in his racist newspaper Der Stuermer. Indeed, he published the most virulent imaginable anti-Semitic articles, both before and during the Holocaust. In some of the latter articles, he practically gloated over the 'progress' being made in solving 'The Jewish Question'. In the opinion of the Prosecution--and ultimately the Tribunal--these articles called for and encouraged War Crimes, as defined by the Charter, and constituted a Crime against Humanity.

Those who criticize Streicher's sentence point out that 1) he was never a member of the Party political leadership, 2) there are no official orders signed by Streicher because he had no official positions, and 3) during the time period in which the Holocaust was actually taking place Streicher was under virtual house arrest and thus not a part of--or even aware of--what was going on in Germany or the concentration camps. It is further observed that 4) Streicher's counsel was inept and perhaps incompetent, and thus Streicher did not receive a fair trial. Is this criticism warranted?

First, the relationship between Streicher and his lawyer:

October 29, 1945: Only seven of the defendants have obtained counsel by this date. Major Neave, while serving the Indictment to the defendants, had offered to assist them in obtaining counsel. Streicher rejects a list of lawyers provided by Neave, commenting that the names 'look like those of Jews.' He demands a lawyer who is an anti-Semite. Ultimately, Streicher will hire Dr Hanns Marx, a Nuremberg lawyer and former Nazi Party member. Note: Eighteen of the forty-eight German lawyers who eventually participate in the trial will have Nazi backgrounds. (Conot, Maser, Taylor)

Below is a characteristic excerpt from Streicher's testimony. It stands out as perhaps the most contentious imaginable dialogue in such a situation. Indeed, were the event not of such a serious nature, it would be dark comedy worthy of a Greek playwright. One thing is certain, the embattled Dr. Marx could not possibly have received adequate compensation for his valiant efforts on behalf of Streicher.

April 29, 1946 Nuremberg Tribunal: On day 116, prior to the continuation of Streicher's testimony, his attorney makes a statement to the Court:

Dr. Marx: Witness, another serious accusation made by the Prosecution against you is that a special issue concerning ritual murders was published in the publishing house of Der Stuermer and appeared in one number of Der Stuermer. How did this special issue come about and what was the cause for it? Were you the author of that special issue?

Streicher: No.

Dr. Marx: Who was the author?

Streicher: My collaborator, the Editor-in-Chief at that time, Karl Holz, who is now dead. But I assume the responsibility.

Dr. Marx: Is it not true that even during the twenties you dealt with that question in Der Stuermer?

Streicher: Yes, and in public speeches.

Dr. Marx: Yes, in public speeches. Why did you now in 1935 stir up again this doubtlessly very grave matter?

Streicher: I should like to ask my counsel to express no judgment as to what I have written; to question me, but not to express judgment. The Prosecution are going to do that. You have asked me how this issue came about. I will explain very briefly...

Dr. Marx: Excuse me, Mr. President. I have to protest against the fact that Herr Streicher here, in the course of his interrogation by me, thinks he can criticize the manner in which I put my questions. Therefore, I ask the Court to give a decision on this, since otherwise I am not in a position to ask my questions at all.

The President: You have already stated your position and the Tribunal has given you full support in your position. Will you please continue? And let me tell you this, Defendant, that if you are insolent either to your counsel or to the Tribunal, the Tribunal will not be able to continue the hearing of your case at this moment. You will kindly treat your counsel and the Tribunal with due courtesy.

Streicher: May I ask to say something about this?

The President: No. Answer the question, please.

1) A case can not be made that Streicher was ill-served by his counsel, a former Nazi. When one reads the entirety of the testimony, it is clear that Streicher's continued baiting of his counsel made Marx's somewhat unprofessional conduct--arguing with his own client during examination--understandable, at least on a human level. It was Streicher who decided to treat his counsel as if he were an adversary. Earlier in the transcripts--and throughout his testimony--one of Streicher's recurring themes was to attack his counsel, the one man in the Court who was trying to save his skin. (The entire testimony is recommended reading for any defendant in any court seeking to totally sabotage his own defense.)

As the astute Tusa's put it:

From The Nuremberg Trial by Ann and John Tusa:

After eight relatively straightforward cases, the prosecution now had to tackle a handful of trickier ones, cases which raised real difficulties and needed skill and some luck to win. The first of these--that of Julius Streicher--gave an appearance of simplicity which was highly misleading. The misconception arose from assuming that someone so immediately repellent must be found guilty. Any spectator in court had an instant desire to go and wash thoroughly after being in the same room with the man. The sight of Streicher doing his daily exercises in prison soured the breakfast in the stomachs of prisoners and guards alike. He exercised stark naked. He was revolting. Everyone complained about the spectacle. [Hans] Fritzsche tactfully presented him with a pair of shorts made by cutting down a pair of old trousers, but Streicher refused to wear them.

He had driven the other prisoners distracted in the early weeks in jail by bellowing in the night. Andrus stopped that--he threatened punishment and Streicher fell silent. Andrus could not, however, stop Streicher telling him incessantly that General Eisenhower was a Jew (and that was why he attacked Germany) and that Jackson was a Jew (whose real name was Jacobson). Andrus did not need a report from Gilbert to tell him that Streicher was 'rigid, insensitive and of obsessive mentality.' That was plain for all to see. He was also well aware that Streicher was 'the least intelligent and least amenable of all defendants.'

It was, however, possible to extract occasional entertainment from Streicher's stupidity and one-track mind. Andrus once sent interrogators to him accompanied by a blond, blue-eyed Jewish interpreter. Streicher, always susceptible to a handsome young man, had been thrilled. He called the interpreter 'a perfect example of a German Nordic.' Gilbert told Andrus that such was Streicher's fastidiousness on racial questions that he 'considers the Bible pornographic literature and has no use even for Christ because he was a Jew'. Streicher considered himself an expert on pornography . . . .

Given his repellent aspect and driveling mind, Streicher should never have gone into the witness box. If he had had a modicum of self-awareness and common sense, he would have avoided drawing attention to himself and encouraged his counsel to play on the undoubted weakness of the prosecution case. Instead, he gave evidence and submitted to cross-examination for a day and a half ... It began with a bitter denunciation of his counsel . . . . Streicher continued with a shrill protest about the conditions he had suffered in captivity, complaining that he had been kept for days without clothes (an odd complaint from a nude exerciser) and that he had been 'made to kiss Negroes' feet.' He paused for breath and then screamed: 'My mouth was forced open with a piece of wood and then I was spat on. When I asked for a drink of water I was taken to a latrine . . . . These are the sort of things the Gestapo had been blamed for.' This section was later struck from the record.

With that off his chest, Streicher then settled down to a less impassioned rant about the way Jews had seized power in Germany ... 'Well,' said Fritzsche, as the Streicher case finished, 'they've put a rope around his neck after all; at least our end of the dock thinks so.' It might have been more accurate to say that Streicher himself had put his head in the noose. But would the judges allow the defendant to hang himself rather than expect the evidence to do it?

The criticism that Streicher's defense was incompetent is not sustainable. Marx had advised Streicher against taking the stand, but Streicher seemed to be immune to good advise and insisted on testifying. While it may seem unfair to some that Streicher's personality was an issue in a trial concerned with determining guilt for serious crimes, it is undeniable that the manner in which a Defendant conducts himself before any court has an influence on the way judges, human beings one and all, perceive the accused. By the time his testimony was completed, he had alienated not only every person in the Hall of Justice, including his fellow Defendants, but his own counsel. The embattled Dr. Marx took such abuse from Streicher that, by the trials end, he was visibly fed up with him. As another observer put it:

From The Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials by Telford Taylor:

Julius Streicher was the next defendant in the sequence, and Dr Marx's task was easy to state. To save Streicher from a capital sentence, Marx needed to do two things: persuade the Tribunal that there was insufficient evidence that Streicher had incited the killing of Jews, and prevent hateful reputation and repulsive appearance from crucially influencing the Tribunal's decision. But what did 'incitement' mean? Before the war Streicher and many other Germans 'incited the persecution of Jews,' but under the Charter these acts were not international crimes. Most German Jews were expelled to Poland shortly before the war, and soon after the Germans occupied that country. Within a year or so the Germans were sending Jews from other countries in the East for extermination or forced labor; that was certainly criminal persecution.

But in the meantime the German government had rusticated Streicher, and his voice was heard only in Der Stuermer. It was a small newspaper (some 15,000 subscribers), and Streicher had no connections with Himmler or his subordinates, who were actually carrying out the Holocaust. Marx traced Streicher's record in the Party and his activities with Der Stuermer during the war, and made a very strong argument that the defendant could have little or no impact on the situation and fate of the Jews. A few issues of Der Stuermer contained articles calling for extermination of Jews, but its 'incitement' was surely imperceptible, especially when Field Marshal von Reichenau and other military leaders were issuing instructions to their troops that were just as rabid against Jews as was Streicher's rag. Marx made little effort to rehabilitate Streicher as a human being worthy of the law's protection. Indeed, at the end of his argument Marx declared that he had had 'a difficult and thankless task' as defense counsel (which no doubt was true) and left Streicher's guilt or innocence 'in the hands of the High Tribunal,' thus seeming to wash his own hands of his client.

As to Taylor's statement that "Marx made little effort to rehabilitate Streicher as a human being worthy of the law's protection," this is no doubt true, but how was he to go about that when his client insisted on taking the stand? Once that happened, what were the chances that Streicher would come across as anything but the hateful fellow he in reality was? Streicher made no effort to modify his normally odious behavior during his testimony. In the end, Streicher had no one to blame for his disastrous defense but himself.

2) On the question of Streicher's guilty knowledge of the Holocaust, the crucial question to be asked is: What did Streicher know about the Final Solution--the systematic physical extermination of Europe's Jews--and when did he know it?

The significance of the question is this: Lacking evidence that he had knowledge of the Holocaust while publishing calls for their extermination, the 'it was just speech, not action' defense could be utilized as extenuating circumstance. This would mitigate his guilt to such an extent that the Death Penalty could perhaps have been avoided. But if, after having gained knowledge of the Holocaust, Streicher continued his anti-Semitic campaign, he would be proved guilty of Crimes Against Humanity beyond any doubt.

Here is the documentation:

From Streicher's own IMT testimony:

I had subscribed to the Jewish weekly that appeared in Switzerland [the Israelitisches Wochenblatt]. Sometimes in that weekly there were intimations that something was not quite in order; and I think it was at the end of 1943 or 1944--I believe 1944--that an article appeared in the Jewish weekly, in which it said that in the East--I think it was said in Poland--Jews were disappearing in masses. I then made reference to this in an article which perhaps will be presented to me later. But I state quite frankly that the Jewish weekly in Switzerland did not represent for me an authoritative source, that I did not believe everything in it. This article did not quote figures; it did not talk about mass executions, but only about disappearances.

3) By Streicher's own admission, he at least suspected that "Jews were disappearing in masses."

If this is not enough, there is this:

From the IMT Testimony of Frau Adele Streicher:

I myself remember, when Dr. Goebbels visited the farm, that Julius Streicher said to him, "Doctor, you dare to come here? Do you not know that it is prohibited by the Party chiefs to visit me?" . . . . Dr. Ley came to the farm on 7 May 1944. The visit of Dr. Goebbels occurred on 4 June 1944.

June 4, 1944: Despite the prohibition, Goebbels visits Streicher. Note: Streicher has been in virtual exile on his farm in Pleikershof, prohibited visits by party bigwigs.

4) It is proved beyond doubt through Goebbels' Diary entries, that Goebbels knew in detail of the Final Solution since the end of 1942, if not much earlier. Knowing that Streicher and Goebbels shared between them a virulent anti-Semitism unmatched by even the most hard-core of Nazis, is it reasonable that the subject of the Jews did not come up? Though no notes were taken of their conversations, I believe it can be safely assumed that Goebbels shared this knowledge with Streicher, who was no doubt delighted (though it is obvious that it could hardly have been news to him).

The idea that Goebbels and Streicher did not have such a conversation is ludicrous, of course. It would be about as likely that FDR and Churchill would get together and not discuss the War.

5) So, between his reading of the foreign press, and contact with such Party big shots as Ley and Goebbels, a preponderance of probabilities indicates that Streicher knew about the Final Solution at least by the middle of 1944.

6) The following snippet puts the icing on the cake. This is the final exchange during the cross-examination of Streicher's last witness:

Lieutenant Colonel J. M. G. Griffith-Jones (M.C, Barrister-at-Law, Junior Prosecuting Counsel for the UK): I have only one matter to ask you about. Do I understand you to say that by the middle of 1944 Streicher had become convinced that the reports in the Swiss newspaper, Israelitisches Wochenblatt, were true?

Ernst Hiemer: I did not understand you. Will you please repeat the question?

Griffith-Jones: Do I understand you to say that by the middle of 1944 Streicher had become convinced of the truth of the reports he was reading in the Swiss newspaper about concentration camps?

Ernst Hiemer: Yes, I had the impression that Streicher in the middle of 1944...

Griffith-Jones: I only wanted an answer "yes" or "no." That is quite sufficient. Let me just read to you three lines of an article which was published in Der Stuermer on the 14th of September 1944.

Ernst Hiemer: Yes.

Griffith-Jones: [Quoting] "Bolshevism cannot be vanquished; it must be destroyed. The same is true of Judaism; it cannot be vanquished, disarmed, or rendered powerless; it must be exterminated." That is Page 2. Then the word that you use or is cited for exterminated is ausgerottet, which I understand means completely wiped out. Why was that article appearing in Der Stuermer in September 1944, when it was known by the owner of Der Stuermer what was going on in concentration camps in the East? What was the purpose of that article?

Ernst Hiemer: I personally did not write this article. I believe that Streicher wrote it, therefore I myself am not able to judge the intention of the article. But I do maintain that Streicher made statements opposing the murders in the concentration camps, and that he did not want the murder of Jewry.

Griffith-Jones: Very well, I will leave that. My Lord, in the interest of time I do not propose to cross-examine this witness any further. Perhaps I might be allowed to draw the Tribunal's attention to those articles contained in your bundle, which are articles actually written by this witness. There are about seven of them. Page 3A, 35A, 38A, 40A, 49A, 50A and 51A, that is, covering a period from January 1939 up to August 1944. And, My Lord, the other matter that I would draw the Tribunal's attention to was that this witness was the author of the disgusting children's book which I presented to the Tribunal in putting the individual case against Streicher.

The President: Is there any further cross-examination? [There was no response.] Dr. Marx, do you wish to re-examine? You heard what counsel said about the various articles written by this witness. You wish to re-examine or not? Have you any questions you wish to ask the witness?

Dr. Marx: Yes, please. Herr Hiemer, perhaps you did not quite understand the question a moment ago. Please tell us again just when Herr Streicher received knowledge, and when he told you that he was convinced of or believed in these mass murders.

Ernst Hiemer: It is my opinion and conviction that it was in the middle of 1944.

Dr. Marx: But there had been statements to that effect in the Israelitisches Wochenblatt for a number of years prior to that date.

Ernst Hiemer: Yes; at that time Streicher did not believe these things. His change of view took place only in the year 1944 and I remember it was not before the middle of the year.

Dr. Marx: I have no further questions to the witness.

The President: The witness can retire.

7) The Tribunal's Final Judgement sums it up nicely:

From the Final Judgement of Streicher:

In November 1943 Streicher quoted verbatim an article from the Israelitisches Wochenblatt which stated that the Jews had virtually disappeared from Europe, and commented: "This is not a Jewish lie." In December 1942, referring to an article in the London Times about the atrocities aiming at extermination, Streicher said that Hitler had given warning that the second World War would lead to the destruction of Jewry. In January 1943 he wrote and published an article which said that Hitler's prophecy was being fulfilled, that world Jewry was being extirpated, and that it was wonderful to know that Hitler was freeing the world of its Jewish tormentors. In the face of the evidence before the Tribunal it is idle for Streicher to suggest that the solution of the Jewish problem which he favored was strictly limited to the classification of Jews as aliens, and the passing of discriminatory legislation such as the Nuremberg Laws, supplemented if possible by international agreement, on the creation of a Jewish state somewhere in the world, to which all Jews should emigrate. Streicher's incitement to murder and extermination at the time when Jews in the East were being killed under the most horrible conditions clearly constitutes persecution on political and racial grounds in connection with War Crimes, as defined by the Charter, and constitutes a Crime against Humanity.

Conclusion: The simple fact that he was calling for the extermination of all Jews at the same time that the Jews were being exterminated--a fact he was almost certainly well aware of--made him an accessory, at the very least. He was thus guilty of complicity in the Holocaust, and well deserved his sentence of Death.
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