BY FREDERICK C. OECHSNER, United Press Staff Correspondent
NUREMBERG, Nov. 20, 1945 (UP) - Twenty frightened men sat today at the bar of the world's justice and heard themselves accused of murder.
To me they were like figures out of a nightmare that I had tried to forget but couldn't.
I had seen each before. I had talked with them. From 1929 to 1942 I watched them act out a drama of politics, blood and terror. Yet, no one could have imagined a scene as macabre as the final act which opened today.
Here they are, stripped of their medals and their power-the Hitler gang on trial:
Herman Goering: Almost alone among the defendants he looked robust and healthy. He has been cured of the drug habit. But, in my mind's eye, I saw another picture of Goering, too-Goering against a background of fanfare and panoply. I saw him the day he was married at the Berlin Cathedral with cherubic Hitler youths as trainbearers and a huge automobile garlanded in pink rosebuds. I saw him, too, at the Reichstag fire trial when he blew his top in Wagnerian fury under the cool taunts of the Bulgarian Communist, Georgi Dimitrov. Today Dimitrov is riding the crest of the wave in his native Bulgaria. And Goering is on trial for his life.
Joachim von Ribbentrop: Arguing with his companion defendants-a gray, shrunken figure. I thought of an evening I had spent with von Ribbentrop-a beer party at which he superciliously expounded his views on how the United States could solve its problems-by following Germany's example.
Julius Streicher: Querulous, doddering old man, still asking an attendant about a pretty girl-one of the interpreters. "Do you like her?" he was asked, and he replied: "So, so." One afternoon I listened for three hours while Streicher exhorted the foreign correspondents about Nazi accomplishments. Subconsciously he returned again and again to his favorite themes-blood, whipping and rape.
Rudolph Hess: Apparently sitting in a daze, engaging in little conversation with his companions. Once his bushy eyebrows lifted when a prosecutor mentioned his name. When Germany was on the rise I saw Hess almost every time Hitler appeared in public. He was the Fuehrer's shadow, aloof, arrogant, unapproachable.
Hjalmar Schacht: Today he guffawed at parts of the indictment dealing with the sterilization of women. In another day it was Schacht who was endlessly apologizing for Hitler and working his financial wizardry which made the Nazi rearmament possible.
Franz von Papen: Today he blanched and muttered, "No, no" when the charge was read against him, then blushingly bowed his head and covered his eyes with his hand. But it was von Papen who spied for Germany in the United States in 1917. And it was von Papen whom I have watched pave the way for Hitler's rise.
Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel: Even today he still was a military figure-but without his Iron Crosses and decorations. But of the 20 defendants only Keitel strode firmly into the courtroom and watched the proceedings with iron rigidity-the rigidity of a Prussian Junker whose life has been in jeopardy on too many battlefields to show signs of fear.
So it ran down the list: Wilhelm Frick, Walther Funk, Hans Frank, Albert Speer... and the other men who strutted in the reflection of the bright light that beat on Adolf Hitler.