- Airey Neave
- ARRSE Rating
- 4 Mushroom Heads
I think most of the uuuumm, more mature, members of Arrse will be familiar with the name Airey Neave, if only because he was murdered by the IRA. I certainly wasn’t aware of his backstory but reading Nuremberg made me want to read up a bit more.
The book is his, very personal, account of the trials of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg. There are references liberally sprinkled throughout if you want more factual information on what he talks about but this is his story and how he seen things through his eyes. His eyes are influenced by his capture by the Germans in 1940, subsequent escape and recapture, briefly in the hands of the Gestapo, imprisonment in Colditz where he was the first allied prisoner to escape and make it back to the UK. Once back he mainly was involved in the running of escape lines for POWs.
The book is split into 3 sections. The first explains how he came to be chosen for the task at Nuremberg. The second was his role in serving the indictments on the prisoners. The last was about the trials themselves.
Neave was absolutely shocked when the American General running the trial told him he was to deliver the indictments as his own CoC hadn’t informed him of that little fact. A very big responsibility for someone so junior. Not to mention that he was more than a little intimidated by the thought of being in the presence of some of the most senior Nazis still alive. His brush with the gestapo had, unsurprisingly, left him more than a little frightened about meeting their bosses and those responsible for giving out the orders to kill and torture so many people.
Meeting Hermann Goring and some of the others made a very deep impression on him and he remarks on these many times. However, a lot of the prisoners were nowhere near as scary in the flesh, stripped of their uniforms, rank and toadying subordinates. Giving them the indictments made most of them, for the first time it seemed, realise that they were going to be held accountable for their behaviour and actions. He met them several times afterwards, organising their briefs and dealing with other legal matters.
The trial was a long, much longer, affair than anyone expected. It was also very tedious and boring, except for those who were likely to have their necks stretched I suppose. Neave gets extremely angry with these people who show absolutely no remorse, no compassion and almost give no thought to the absolutely monstrous actions which they commissioned or facilitated. He describes how even the office workers in one of the factory HQs which used slave labour were completely impervious to the suffering of the slave labourers. He describes in some detail how the Nazis, their defence council and the prosecution acted and how some of the more prominent speeches went. He was there until the sentencing, unfortunately Goring escaped the noose by using the cyanide capsule hidden for all the time in his tooth.
Its an interesting read of a very unique period after the war was won.