The Palace of Justice and Courtroom 600

 

During the time Maxwell Fyfe spent in Nuremberg, the Palace of Justice was the place he spent most of his time. It was where he worked with the British prosecution team, bringing more than 20 Nazi defendants to account after the Second World War. The trials took place between 1945 – 46 and during that time, Maxwell Fyfe cross-examined Joachimm von Ribbentrop, Field Marshall Kietel and Grand Admirals Raeder and Doenitz and most famously, Hermann Georing.  In a letter home to his wife, Sylvia, Maxwell Fyfe wrote of his work saying 'My part is partly conducting a seemingly unending international conference, partly running a small department and lastly getting up a case for trial.' The Courthouse and surrounding area are described in detail as is the process leading up to the start of the Trials. He explains why Nuremberg was chosen for the Trial saying 'For our purposes….the Provincial Court House, with numerous rooms in addition to the Court itself, and the adjacent prison, was obviously suitable...On practical grounds, as well as from the ideological standpoint of being the place where the Nazis had held their Party Rallies, Nuremberg seemed a good choice.' At the time Maxwell Fyfe was in Nuremberg, the town was still heavily affected by bombing and even the Palace of Justice was affected. Describing the Palace on his first visit, he says 'The Palace of Justice in Nuremberg had received some bomb damage and required fairly extensive repairs.' And goes on describe the courtroom's transformation from 'dark, solemn and old fashioned' to a large enough court to fit all those who worked there including Judges, defence and tables for each of the four prosecution teams from Britain, France, Russia and America. The Trials are now commemorated in a permanent exhibition attached to the Court Room and make sure the job the Trials did are not forgotten, 70 years on.

Nuremberg: 1945 and 2015

 

The City of Nuremberg is truly a modern miracle. When Maxwell Fyfe flew out in October 24th, it had been flattened by bombing. He recounts in his autobiography his first impressions saying 'On each side of the main roads there were banks of rubble...The old walled town was a heap of ruins. Machine-gun cartridges littered the streets where a couple of SS divisions had made a stand. There were even some in the precincts of the court house and the adjacent prison. People peeped at us from the bunkers under partly shattered houses, apathetic and wretched.The only sign of civilisation was a succession of shabby, noisy and crowded trams, which were still running.' Amazingly, this couldn't be further from the truth now. It is a buzzing, metropolitan town, full of culture and life. The city has been rebuilt with care and attention. Old building have been carefully restored so they look new and vibrant. Tourists flock to the castle, and surrounding cathedrals and churches. But they don't forget their history. Inside St Sebalds, the peace church, the war is still tangible in the air as there are photos of the rebuilding of the church after it was bombed. The rivers Pegnitz and Rednitz run through the middle of the city and Maxwell Fyfe remembers them as part of the leisure activities. He says 'The Pegnitz had been a Nazi Party trout stream...and in the may-fly season of 1946 it was wonderful. Not only the fishermen but all the our delegation relished the trout.' The Grand Hotel was where all the delegation parties were held and he wrote 'The Americans had caused the (Grand) hotel to be rebuilt as a VIP guest house, and collected a number of circus turns, who performed in the ballroom. It was almost too much of a change from the daily round of horrors.'  

Zirndorf

 

Although the main action of the trials took place in the city of Nuremberg, all of the teams of prosecution were stationed outside of the city in various areas. Maxwell Fyfe says 'Another remarkable feature was that there was practically no ill-health, and in that badly blitzed town, full of dead bodies, no epidemics. One reason for this was that most of us were outside the city of Nuremberg itself.  The 'small but comfortable' house Maxwell Fyfe shared was out of the town and in a quiet suburban street. In his letters to Sylvia, he recounts having the 'most wonderful laze on the veranda' which you can still see on the house today. To his great interest, the house was at the foot of the Alte Veste and he wrote about walking around the surrounding countryside and tracing the lines of battle of the Battle of Alte Veste. Although the area is more built up now and suburban, there is still a big park opposite where he lived and the river Bibert still flows through. In an early letter to Sylvia, his wife, he wrote 'We are in Zyrndorf, a village about 5 miles out.  It is pleasant fine wood country and looks lovely today.  The only snag at night is the American's shoot hares which they catch and skin with the headlights of their jeeps with carbines which is slightly irritating when one is going off to sleep.' The small 'township of Zirndorf' is a charming town, full of local amenities which might have been there when Maxwell Fyfe was and avoided bombing as many of the buildings in the town are older than in the centre of Nuremberg. There is a charming bakery and beautiful church with a cottage toy museum in the square. Zirndorf is now mostly known as the place of invention for Playmobil and there are reminders on every street corner of its connection with the toys. From Maxwell Fyfe's writings, it is evident that he found Zirnndorf a tremendous escape from the noise and work of the Palace of Justice and gave him a quiet and safe place to live during his work at the War Crimes Trials.

'The villas occupied by the British team were in the township of Zirndorf some seven kilometres to the SW. The villa which I shared was at 7 Geothestrasse and had formerly been occupied by the burgomeister of Zirndorf.'

from David Maxwell-Fyfe's autobiography, Political Adventure

Click on a small image to enlarge

'The old walled town was a heap of ruins. Machine-gun cartridges littered the streets where a couple of SS divisions had made a stand. There were even some in the precincts of the court house and the adjacent prison.'  

from David Maxwell-Fyfe's autobiography, Political Adventure

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Nuremberg

View from Nuremberg Castle

P of J 25

Inside Courtroom 600

'The Palace of Justice in Nuremberg had received some bomb damage and required fairly extensive repairs. A more difficult problem was, however, the court itself. There was a dark, solemn, and old fashioned court room which had been big enough for local cases but it was quite insufficient for this trial.'

from David Maxwell-Fyfe's autobiography, Political Adventure

Click on a small image to enlarge

Z 16

No. 7 Geothestrasse, Zirndorf

N Pan

Bridge over the Pegnitz

Click on a small image to enlarge