Archive of Signatures and Photographs of Nuremberg War Trials to be Auctioned

On September 7, 2016, a most unusual book, approximately 70 years old, is to be sold at auction and is expected to fetch £18,000.  This book, being sold by a British collector through C&T Auctioneers of Ashford, Kent is a one of a kind historical archive entitled Nazi Cavalcade, compiled by Hank Schardt.

Schardt was born in Thuringa, Germany in 1918 and emigrated to the United States with his parents in 1926.  The family settled in Chicago, where he was educated. In 1937 he joined the US Army where his natural progression was into military intelligence, as he spoke fluent German.  His forte was the interrogation of German prisoners of war; at the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 he was awarded the Bronze Star for his interrogation of English-speaking Germans posing as Allied troops.

At the conclusion of hostilities, he was assigned the task of interrogating many of the elite Nazi war criminals, both civilian and military, so that cases could be prepared for trial.  The album contained photographs and, most importantly, authentic signatures.  These signatures would be compared to those on captured documents that ordered atrocities to be committed.

This black book of Nazi henchmen and women was a key piece of evidence at the 1946 Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, even though the Nazis tried to burn as many documents as possible to prevent evidence of their crimes falling into Allied hands.   Mr. Schardt had been extremely diligent, and the book contains details of 230 individuals, ranging from high-ranking military officials and diplomats to various civilians such as factory workers and bank owners.

The Luftwaffe chief Herman Goering was one of the people Schardt interrogated.  It is obvious that Schardt had nothing but disdain for Goering, writing, “Director of the FOUR YEAR PLAN. Looter of priceless European Art Treasures, Nazi ‘Glamour Boy’ Designer of Uniforms, Drug addict, on trial in Nuremberg on all four counts of the indictment.”  Goering was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to death, but he committed suicide by ingesting cyanide before he was hanged.

One of the most highly-ranked Nazis to be tried at Nuremberg was Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel.  He was found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death after Schardt described him as “one of the most active military leaders of Germany”.

Another high-profile Nazi to be featured is Alfred Jodl.  He was a favored general of Hitler and was described by Schardt as “an active leader in the development of the Nazi war machine”. He was also convicted of war crimes and executed.

On a par with Goering was Admiral Karl Donitz, who was head of the German Navy and later replaced Hitler after Hitler committed suicide in April 1945.  Donitz, described by Schardt as the “second Fuehrer of the Third Reich”, was also successfully prosecuted and sentenced to 10 years incarceration.

Schardt also interrogated Julius Streicher, a man who was never involved in the planning the Holocaust, but whose hatred of the Jewish people and subsequent incitement of the extermination of the Jewish people was so extreme that he was indicted at Nuremberg, tried, found guilty, and executed.

Perhaps the odd one out of the entire book is the interrogation of Hanna Reitsch.  She was one of the last people to see Hitler and Joseph Goebbels, his propaganda minister, alive in the bunker, as she had flown to Berlin in the hopes of airlifting Hitler out before the Russians arrived.  Hitler refused to leave and committed suicide instead.  Reitsch was jailed for 18 months before being released without being charged.

After the conclusion of the Nuremberg Trials, Schardt remained employed by Military Intelligence before transferring to join the CIA, where he remained until his retirement in 1976.  At that time he was awarded CIA Intelligence Medal of Merit. He died in the 1990s leaving behind a remarkable dossier of the bad, the ugly, and the cruel of the Nazi regime.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE