As these things oft-times happen, OSS Director William J. "Wild Bill" Donovan's personal collection of notes, transcripts, and photographs related to the Nuremberg Trials languished in his law office for half a century before they were eventually turned over to Cornell University's rare book collection in 1998.
Though much of the Nuremberg proceedings is a matter of public record, Donovan's perspective on the trial of Nazi war criminals beginning in 1946 was unique: not only was he a leading investigator on the military tribunal tasked with prosecuting the Nazis, he was also the head of the intelligence organization that eventually became the CIA.
On Thursday, January 10, 2002, a 108-page document culled from the 148-volume collection was published on-line by the Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion. Its contents are startling.
Nuremberg investigators concluded that Nazi Germany sought "a complete extirpation of Christianity and the substitution of a purely racial religion tailored to fit the needs of the National Socialist policy."
In other words, according to German and English transcripts, background memoranda, and evidentiary analyses of the defendants, much of which was heretofore classified, "National Socialism by its very nature was hostile to Christianity and the Christian churches."
We are told the Nazis planned to infiltrate churches, discredit, jail, and — in some cases — murder Christian leaders.
Donovan's collection is "almost like a secret history that has come out," said Michael Salter, a law professor from the University of Central Lancashire, in Preston, England. "There's some material there which Donovan should basically have never taken away from the Nuremberg Trials."
Trial transcripts are not unique, of course, but the fact that the enormously powerful intelligence officer augmented official records with original photos, letters, sketches, handwritten notes and additional evidence is. "It's the supporting documentation that's harder to find," said Betsy Pittman, archivist at the University of Connecticut.
Donovan must have intended, indeed, for the documents to be found eventually, for he had them bound in blue leather and kept in his law office in New York, as opposed to CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
The collection was purchased by attorney Henry H. Korn in 1998 and given to his alma mater. The decision to share the material (heretofore only available to deep-digging scholars) with the Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion, and to allow its publication online, speaks well of Cornell.
The complete set of documents will be published online in PDF format at approximately six-month intervals. Scholarly comments will be added as they are made.
"Up until now, it would have taken a lot of work to get a lot of this information," says Julie Seltzer Mandel, 29, who has been editing the law journal's Nuremberg project since March 2001. "For as long as I can remember, the importance has been on remembrance and making sure the story is told accurately so history won't repeat itself."
Ms. Mandel's 80-year-old grandmother is a survivor of Auschwitz.
Regarding American espionage:
Wild Bill Donovan
The Stars of Project Paperclip
doing drugs for fun and profit
the CIA wants YOU!
When is a monkey's orgasm more than just fun and games?
The Johnny Appleseed of LSD
Sidney Gottlieb, the real-life "Q"
The Nuremberg Code
George Washington, Spymaster
the first American Intelligence failure in New York
The Bureau and the Mole
Sheila Hotchkin, Associated Press
Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion http://www.lawandreligion.com/