Kentucky retiree remembers post-WWII Nuremberg duty
WESTWOOD, Ky. (AP) — A brush with history and the archcriminals of all time made little impression at the time on Eulas Hamilton, who guarded the trial site of Nazi defendants during the Nuremberg war crimes trials after World War II.
“To tell the truth, I didn’t give it a second thought. If I’d known then what I know now, I would have made more pictures,” said Hamilton, now 90 and living in quiet retirement in Westwood, where his family was planning a belated birthday celebration over the weekend.
Hamilton was 18, a country boy from Redbush in Johnson County when he joined the Army in 1946.
Sent to Germany, he spent a couple of months washing pots and pans on kitchen police duty before jumping at the chance to be a military policeman.
“The officer said you had to be tall and not fat. I had a 28-inch waist in those days,” said Hamilton, who is still six feet tall, although he walks with a bit of a stoop now.
Hamilton had a variety of duties in postwar Nuremberg, escorting celebrities and political VIPs among them, but the job that cemented his place in history was guarding the Palace of Justice, the complex of offices, courtrooms and prison cellblocks that was the site of the International Military Tribunal.
Commonly known as the Nuremberg Trials, the tribunal prosecuted top Nazi officials, including Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess, Alfred Jodl, Wilhelm Keitel, Julius Streicher and other civil and military leaders.
Hamilton can tell you stories about his time in Nuremberg, but few of them have much to do about the trials, because his guard post was at the gate outside, where MPs checked the credentials of anyone entering the complex.
One photo in his collection shows him as a saluting soldier in uniform that included a white ascot and gloves and gleaming Sam Browne belt. “I was kind of spit and polish at the time,” he said.
What he mainly remembers is that winter was bitterly cold — enough so that to handle his firearm with ungloved hands would have resulted in his skin freezing to the frigid steel — and the eager-to-please locals. “We had more trouble with American soldiers than with the German people. It seemed like they were anxious to help all the time. They’d jump in and push a Jeep and help get it started,” he said.
He could have stuck his head in the courtroom where the trials were held, but wasn’t interested. As a young soldier away from home and curious about the world outside Kentucky, he had other priorities. “When I was off duty, I wanted to get away from that place.”
He does remember taking many a defrocked German general to the cellblocks. The disgraced officers tried to maintain their dignity — “they would click their heels, it was their form of greeting” — but were otherwise taciturn: “We led them like leading a dog to food. They didn’t say nothing to us,” Hamilton said.
He got no sense they were sorry for their misdeeds, he said.
Hamilton recalls escorting Hermann Goering’s wife to the top Nazi’s cell. He may be confused about the identity because he remembers two or three children accompanying her — Goering had only one child, a daughter. He wonders if the woman he escorted delivered the cyanide with which the condemned man committed suicide before he could be hanged.
MPs were assigned to ferry celebrity visitors around the occupied city, and among Hamilton’s Hollywood passengers was Rita Hayworth — but the encounter didn’t amount to much; the actress didn’t speak to him.
He wore heavy gloves and a helmet when on motorcycle duty. “I almost killed myself learning to ride,” he said.
He doesn’t think much these days about the Nazis who met their fates in the courtroom and prison he guarded.
Instead, when he looks at a photo album from his time in Nuremberg, he scans the faces of the comrades who called him “Useless.”
“Because my name is Eulas,” he says, smiling at the memory.
“I think about what happened to all the guys,” he said.
Information from: The Independent, http://www.dailyindependent.com