December 31st, 1945 (MONDAY)
UNITED KINGDOM: Astoria Dancehall, Stoke-on-Trent: While on leave prior to a posting to the occupation forces in Berlin, Gnr J.T.Etherington meets Clarice Longland and walks her home after the New Year Dance.
GERMANY: Nürnberg: The Nazi leaders have returned to this mediaeval city, once the scene of Hitler's torchlit rallies where German hordes cheered the Nazi dream of a world ruled by an Aryan master race. But this time they are here as defendants: out of their glittering uniforms, they seem a motley bunch of seedy middle-aged men.
The 20 men in the dock, and Hitler's secretary Martin Bormann in absentia, were indicted before this international tribunal of US, British, French and Soviet jurists on 20 November. The recital of their crimes - mass murder, atrocities, torture, genocide - has sent shivers of revulsion around the courtroom and the world. But the defendants seem oddly unmoved.
Göring, the star defendant, wriggles restlessly and yawns as the evidence is debated. Next to him sits Hess, cadavarously thin, his deep-set eyes staring blankly into space. Hans Frank, the former governor of Poland, responsible for millions of deaths, listens carefully through his headphones, his lips moving in silent protest. Hitler's chief Jew-baiters, the sweaty pornographer Julius Streicher and the "ideologist" Alfred Rosenberg, are both broken men, convinced that the prosecutors, spectators and guards are all Jews.
Also in the dock are Frick, the interior minister, Sauckel, the slave labour organizer; Seyss-Inquart, the Netherlands governor; Funk, the Reichsbank president; Schacht, the former economics minister; von Schirach, the Hitler Jugend leader; von Papen and von Neurath, diplomats; von Ribbentrop, the foreign minister; Fitszche, the propagandist; Kaltenbrunner, the security chief; and Speer the armaments minister. Keitel and Jodl, senior officers with the armed forces high command (OKW), and the two Grand Admirals Dönitz and Raeder complete the line-up.
But can the court deliver justice rather than mere vengeance? While the world cries out for those guilty of these horrible crimes to be punished, many people are concerned that the trial will not satisfy the basic requirement that justice should be even-handed. The verdict will be that of a victor over the vanquished, delivered against individuals whose share of the blame is not easy to apportion. And they can all claim the same defence: "I was only following orders."
HMCS Longueuil paid off Esquimalt, British
Columbia. (Dave Shirlaw)
Destroyer USS Meredith commissioned. (Dave Shirlaw)
U.S.A.: President Harry S. Truman issues a proclamation officially terminating U.S. participation in World War II.
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