Nuremberg lawyer said "knocked Goering off perch"

Thu Mar 19, 2009 9:03pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's main prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials recalled in a letter to his wife how he felt he got the better of "fat boy" Hermann Goering during cross examination after his U.S. counterpart had faltered.

Previously unseen letters between David Maxwell Fyfe, British deputy chief prosecutor at Nuremberg, and his wife Sylvia have been donated to the Churchill Archives Center at Cambridge University and shed new light on the famous trial.

"Friday morning, I think that my cross examination of Goering went off all right," he wrote, referring to the senior Nazi and Luftwaffe chief.

"Everyone here was very pleased. (U.S. chief prosecutor Robert H.) Jackson had not only made no impression but actually built up the fat boy further. I think I knocked him reasonably off his perch." The donation of 205 letters was made on Friday, the 63rd anniversary of Maxwell Fyfe's interrogation of Goering.

The lawyer's grandson Tom Blackmore discovered his grandparents' letters in the vaults of a London solicitor in 1999 having previously feared they were lost. He then set about transcribing and organizing the correspondence.

"In March, 1946 Maxwell Fyfe's cross-examination of Goering at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials began to pour light on the guilt of the leaders of the Third Reich," Blackmore said.

"It set the tone for the practical presentation of evidence to prove the guilt of those in the dock. And Maxwell Fyfe followed it up with the forensic destruction of (Joachim) von Ribbentrop, (Karl) Doenitz and (Franz) von Papen."