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par Mark DUELL
Winston Churchill wanted Nazi leaders to be executed and others imprisoned without trial -instead of going through the Nuremberg war crimes tribunals, according to wartime diaries declassified today. But Britain’s wartime prime minister was said to have been swayed against the idea at the famous ’Big Three’ conference in 1945 by US president Franklin D Roosevelt and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Roosevelt argued the US public would want proper trials and Stalin thought they would provide good propaganda. The British agreed to the hearings, despite fears they could set a dangerous example.
The 1940s and 1950s diary was by ex-MI5 head of counter-espionage Guy Liddell, who backed a plan from Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Sir Theobald Mathew to ‘bump off’ certain Nazis. He dictated an entry in June 1945 about talks with a member of the British War Crimes Executive, an MI6 official and a Special Operations Executive representative over a war crimes prosecution.
Mr Liddell said the DPP wanted a committee to ‘come to the conclusion that certain people should be bumped off and that others should receive varying terms of imprisonment’, reported the Guardian. This would have been put to the Commons -and ‘any military body finding these individuals in their area’ would have had authority to ‘arrest them and inflict whatever punishment had been decided on’.
‘This was a much clearer proposition and would not bring the law into disrepute,’ Mr Liddell said. According to The Times, he added in the diary which was codenamed Wallflowers : ‘Winston had put this forward at Yalta but Roosevelt felt that the Americans would want a trial. ’Joe supported Roosevelt on the perfectly frank ground that the Russians liked public trials for propaganda purposes.
’It seems to me that we are just being dragged down to the level of the travesties of justice that have been taking place in the USSR for the past 20 years.’ A year later Mr Liddell flew to Nuremberg with MI5 deputy head Oswald Harker to witness 21 senior Nazis prosecuted -and felt his concerns about a show trial had been confirmed, reported the Guardian. ‘One cannot escape the feeling that most of the things the 21 are accused of having done over a period of 14 years, the Russians have done over a period of 28 years,’ he wrote in the diary. Mr Liddell said this contributed to the ‘somewhat phoney atmosphere of the whole proceedings’. He added that the experience led to one of the biggest worries for him, that the court was ’one of the victors who have framed their own charter, their own procedure and their own rules of evidence in order to deal with the vanquished’. The Nuremberg trials were a defining moment in war crimes justice that saw the 21 defendants accused of acts such as crimes against peace and humanity, and murder of prisoners. It was described by the British president of the tribunal, Justice Geoffrey Lawrence, as ‘unique in the history of the jurisprudence of the world and of supreme importance to millions of people’. The accused included Hermann Goring, Commander of the Luftwaffe ; Admiral Karl Donitz, who became president of Germany after Adolf Hitler’s death ; and Hitler’s close friend Albert Speer. Churchill became prime minister during World War Two in May 1940 and helped inspire the nation to victory, before losing power in 1945. He was prime minister for a second time from 1951 to 1955.