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1947

Elisabeth Asbrink is a Swedish journalist/author whose new book 1947 WHERE NOW BEGINS has just been released in the United States, translated by Fiona Graham.
As a book of history and memory, the book is significant in itself, but it has significant, timely relevance for those involved in The Midnight Company's production of JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG by Abby Mann.

 

Mann's play takes place in 1947, the 9th of the post-war military tribunals at Nuremberg. Asbrink's book not only comments on the trials, but also on the events that marked turning points in Europe, the Middle East, South Asia and the United States, a mosaic of a year that unleashed forces still governing our lives seventy years later. Also in the book is the story of Asbrink's father, a ten-year-old Hungarian Jewish boy in a refugee camp one of millions across Europe looking for a new home. Asbrink is also a playwright who has written RALS, based on minutes taken at a meeting in 1938 convened by Hermann Goring (a defendant at the first Nuremberg trial)l, and four other plays.

Here are some of the major developments, in particularly in Nuremberg, of 1947.
More than 4.5 million buildings in London are damaged. In the Soviet Union, 1,700 small towns and villages have been demolished. In Germany, 3.6 million apartments have been blitzed. Half the homes in Berlin are derelict. 18 million people are homeless in Germany. Europe?s countryside - fields, woodland, farmsteads - lives, food, livelihoods - lie under ash covered in sludge. Greece lost a third of its forests. In Yugoslavia, half the country's livestock have been slaughtered. It reflects Heinrich Himmler?s orders for retreating German armies: ?Not one person, no cattle, no quintal of grain, no railway track must be left behind? The enemy must find a country totally burned and destroyed".

FEBRUARY The Nuremberg trials continue. The four victorious world powers have agreed that Nazis and their supporters must be brought to account. But the story of the war is not written yet, no historians have gone through archives left behind. The legal proceedings will be a history lesson, a means to collect facts, and proof that justice has won the day. Throughout the trials, decisive information about Nazi ideology filtered out to the world - to those who hadn’t yet understood, those who hadn’t been affected, those who refused to believe. The verbatim records of the trial were to be historic documents. The Nazis’ own documents would provide sufficient proof, and were preferable to witnesses whose traumatized, self-contracting testimonies could crumble under cross-examination. Thus few witnesses were heard.

MARCH In Berlin, attorney Benjamin Ferencz is preparing a new war crimes trial. Funding and American lawyers and judges are becoming difficult to recruit for these ongoing trials. A Swiss member of Ferencz staff brings him documents just uncovered documents from a remote German Foreign Office. Documents never seen before. In them is listed the murders by invading Nazis in Russian territory, beginning in 1941: murders of Jews, Roma, members of the resistance, the mentally ill, men, women, children. Using a calculator he adds up the numbers, then stops when it gets over a million. He immediately goes to the office of his boss, Brigadier General Telford Taylor. He says, “We can’t let these guys go.” The trials continue. Ferencz, 27 years old, whose never presided over a court case before, is initiating the world’s biggest murder trial.

APRIL Henry Ford dies. A fierce anti-semite, he bought and funded widely distributed newspapers and books espousing anti-Jewish principles. They made a deep impression on Adolf Hitler, and Ford is the only American mentioned by name in MEIN KAMPF. In 1938 he received the highest Nazi order that can be awarded to a non-German, and his portrait hung in Hitler’s office.

Bernard Baruch, American millionaire and presidential adviser, gives a speech. In his efforts to begin the renewal of American spirit and industry, he warns “Let us not be deceived. We are today in the mist of a “cold war.” Our enemies are to be found at home and abroad. Widely quoted by the American press, the new term gains more exposure as the title of Walter Lippman’s book, THE COLD WAR.

Raphael Lemkin, a Polish exile from the Nazis, now a young lawyer working in Washington, D.C., coined the term “genocide” in his 1944 book AXIS RULE IN OCCUPIED RULE. After the war, he began his quest to incorporate the word in the world’s legal lexicon. Leaving his career behind, he worked tirelessly, but without success, with the Supreme Court of the United States. But through them, he reached the inner circle of the lawyers working the Nuremberg trials. The word was uttered at the first trial, and a British prosecutor quoted verbatim from Lemkin’s book. Unshaven, unkempt, with untrimmed hair, Lemkin stalked the halls of Nuremberg’s Grand Hotel, where he would accost and try to persuade U.S. lawyers to recognize this concept. Finally, in a 1947 trial, the term, and concept of, “genocide” was incorporated in a final judgment.

JUNE Over the Cascade Range, pilot Kenneth Arnold spots eight semi-circular objects flying in the sky above him, flashing lights as they go. Arnold says they look like Saucers. And so it begins.

JULY On a sheep ranch in Roswell, New Mexico, Mac Brazel comes across twisted debris in the desert. Reporting to local authorities, he describes it as wreckage from a flying saucer. And so it continues.

AUGUST Not only in Nuremberg, but in Krakow, Hamburg, Venice,s are taking place targeting Nazi criminals, including:

    Trial of 16 lawyers and judges who concocted laws facilities murder on the basis of “racial hygiene.”
    Trial of SS officers involved in organizing the Final Solution.
    IG Farben for exploiting slave laborers and manufacturing the lethal gas Zyklon B.
    Trial of 14 officials for Nazi program of “racial purification, through forced abortions, abduction of children, expulsion of population groups.
    Trials of doctors/nurses guilty of murdering thousands with physical and mental disabilities.
And many, many more.

SEPTEMBER In Hollywood, the House Un-American Activities Committee arrived, interview 41 “friendly witnesses” who will name names of directors, scriptwriters and directors who may have been pretty to Communist thought and sympathizers.

Ferencz makes his opening statement in the biggest murder trial of the century. In his opening address, he refers to the concept of genocide, and says later that he did that out of sympathy for the man, for the soul in torment, of Raphael Lemkin.

OCTOBER Rogers Dry Lake. Chuck Yeager breaks the sound barrier.

 


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