Nuremberg Scripts

1945, WWII in uniform

After service in an engineer combat unit in Europe, I was transferred at the end of World War II in 1945 to American Forces Network as a news writer preparing on-the-hour news broadcasts and other special assignments. American Forces Network brought U.S.-style broadcasts to the several million American troops in the UK and on the Continent. It also had a vast European following largely due to its news coverage and its numerous disk jockey music programs.

It was a great new job for me, mainly because I was stationed in Paris at a time when most GIs had headed home and the American liberation of France was still top of mind. Also, of course, I welcomed the occupational change.

Three months into the job, in early November, I was summoned to the office of AFN commanding officer, Colonel John Hayes, who as a civilian had headed WQXR, the radio station of The New York Times. He told me he wanted me to cover the upcoming Nuremberg Trial of major Nazi war criminals which was to start on November 20. At age 24, I was the youngest GI on the news staff. While flabbergasted that I was his choice to cover so historic a happening, I was flattered to have been chosen but confident I was up to the task.

1946, Tribunal ID

My job was to write the news commentary after each day of the trial; I didn't have either the right voice or the right accent to go on air. For the first couple of weeks, I worked with another AFNer on the scripts; until the end of March, I did all the writing. Because staff members were being discharged, four successive "voices" read my scripts every day the court was in session, and the last of them, Herb Kaplow, later was with NBC News in Washington.

Knowing I was experiencing history in the making, I saved my scripts. For sixty-five years they attracted no attention, although I have participated in numerous conferences and seminars dealing with the Nuremberg Trials. About four months ago, in a one-on-one social get-together, the New York Times columnist, Joe Nocera, inquired if I had ever been a reporter. I related my beginnings on a Memphis newspaper and subsequent work at American Forces Network, including covering the Nuremberg Trial. Also, I noted that I still had my scripts sixty-five years after-the-fact. He asked if I would send him a copy.

On the sixty-fifth anniversary of the end of the Nuremberg Trial, Joe Nocera's column on the Op-ed Page of The New York Times carried the headline, "The Nuremberg Scripts." Little would I have thought what a stir this would cause in the way of e-mails, telephone calls and requests to see the texts of some of the broadcasts.

Therefore, this sampling, the words of which make me prouder today than when I typed them on an ancient Olivetti portable typewriter that badly needed an overhaul.

October 2011

Given the interest in my scripts, I decided to donate them as well as my Tribunal courthouse credentials to the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. The transfer date was November 19, 2013, sixty-eight years from the day I wrote my first script.

Harold Burson
January, 2014

Copyright © Harold Burson. All Rights Reserved.