Wennerstrum, Charles F.

Charles Wennerstrum
Charles Wennerstrum

Charles F. Wennerstrum (11 Oct. 1889 – 1 June 1986) was a U.S. American lawyer who served on the Iowa Supreme Court from 1941 to 1958. After the Second World War, he was the presiding judge of the Nuremberg Tribunal in Case 7 against several German generals in the so-called “Hostage Case.” Although he only experienced the prosecution’s mild excesses in the courtroom, he published the following devastating opinion on these proceedings immediately following the judgment (Foust 1948):

“If I had known seven months ago what I know today, I would never have come here.

Obviously, the victor in any war is not the best judge of the war crime guilt. […] The prosecution has failed to maintain objectivity aloof from vindictiveness, aloof from personal ambitions for convictions. It has failed to strive to lay down precedents which might help the world to avoid future wars. The entire atmosphere here is unwholesome. […] Lawyers, clerks, interpreters and researchers were employed who became Americans only in recent years [mostly emigrated Jews], whose backgrounds were embedded in Europe’s hatreds and prejudices. The trials were to have convinced the Germans of the guilt of their leaders. They convinced the Germans merely that their leaders lost the war to tough conquerors.

Most of the evidence in the trials was documentary, selected from the large tonnage of captured records. The selection was made by the prosecution. The defense had access only to those documents which the prosecution considered material to the case. […]

Also abhorrent to the American sense of justice is the prosecution’s reliance upon self-incriminating statements made by the defendants while prisoners for more than two and a half years, and repeated interrogation without presence of counsel. Two and one-half years of confinement is a form of duress in itself.

The lack of appeal leaves me with a feeling that justice has been denied.

[…] The German people should receive more information about the trials and the German defendants should receive the right to appeal to the United Nations.”

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