George Sakheim, Interpreter at Nuremberg Trials, Dies at 96


The interrogation of Rudolf Höss, Auschwitz & # 39; murderous commander, had ended for the day 1946 in the Nuremberg Palace of Justice when George Sakheim, interpreter at the Nazi's war crimes trials took some time to record Höss' creepiest words in a small diary.

"If we do not completely exterminate the Jewish race now, the Jewish race will annihilate the German people" Mr. Sakheim wrote in his mother tongue German and wrote down words that Höss said Hitler had about the "final solution" of the Nazis Spoken When asked about his Holocaust experience by the USC Shoah Foundation.

"I thought he was a monster, I thought he was degenerate," he said in 1998. "In my notes I had it said a worried expression on his face. I was a budding psychologist; he was scared and knew he would not make it. "

Höss, who admitted that from 1941 to 1943 more than two million Jews Gassed in Auschwitz was a defense witness for senior Nazi officials in the trials, and was later brought to trial in Poland and hanged in Auschwitz. Sakheim, who died on December 5 at the age of 96 hearing died, was one of the last surviving interpreters – there were about 30 – at the International Military Tribunal, since the trials were officially known, and an eyewitness to its landmark legal process. Only one Nuremberg prosecutor, Benjamin Ferencz, is still alive.

Mr. Sakheim's death in a hospital in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, near his home in Gwynedd, was confirmed by his son David, who said the cause was pneumonia and a heart infection.

During the interrogations of Nazis such as Höss and Hermann Göring, Hitler's deputy, Mr. Sakheim, helped to confront them with incriminating evidence, "often in the form of captured war documents that they themselves had signed," wrote in 2015 in the Jerusalem Post.

During his time in Nuremberg, Mr. Sakheim translated German documents into English; interpreted the interrogations of Höss and other Nazi leaders;

At one point during his trial, Höss complained that Mr. Sakheim had misinterpreted his words and requested that he be replaced.

] "My father said he was ashamed to be corrected in this way," said David Sakheim over the phone. "Most of the time, however, there were no such corrections and he was very proud to be able to master this art."

Mr. Sakheim described him as "a very tall, intimidating man with big cheeks who looked like he had lost weight" and added: "He did not get the gourmet food he was used to in prison. "

During this interrogation, Göring was not asked about the systematic murder of Jews, but rather about military questions, in particular about Germany's air strikes against England.

"Goering tried to present himself as someone who had tried to convince Hitler against various excesses, such as the fire in London," wrote Sakheim in The Jerusalem Post. Goering, he recalled, had said: "I have repeatedly contradicted him that we have to destroy the English war industry instead of throwing our bombs at stupid London."

Ruben Gabriel Sakheim was born in June 12, 1923, in Hamburg, to Arthur and Anuta (Plotkin) Sakheim. His father was a playwright and artistic director of the city's Thalia Theater. His mother was a bank employee.

After the death of his father in 1931, Ruben and his mother moved to Berlin, where she worked as a book editor. Two years later, after Hitler became chancellor, they moved to Palestine and settled in the Tel Aviv area.

His mother bought a car, became a taxi driver and tour guide, and brought Ruben together in foster families to different families for two years. In 1936 she had plans to send Ruben to his aunt, a doctor, in Manhattan. He arrived in 1938; Within a year, his mother died of ovarian cancer.

"One day, one of my letters with the stamp" Deceased "was sent back to her," he said in the Shoah interview. "The next day, I got a telegram from my mother's friend who said she couldn't go on and took an overdose of sleeping pills."

When he moved to New York, he was a teenager and changed his first name to George (after George Washington) and replaced his middle name with his father's first name.

Credit … via David Sakheim

After graduating from high school, he supported himself during his studies at Columbia University as an elevator driver and counterman at the Hot – Dog stand by Nedick at Penn Station. However, his studies in psychology were interrupted when the army designed it in 1943.

Because he spoke German, he was sent to Camp Ritchie, Maryland, where he completed a training program to interview prisoners of war, read maps, and analyze aerial photographs.

He fought in Normandy and landed about a week after D-Day. When his unit moved east towards the Netherlands, he began translating interrogations of German prisoners – initially to find out where the Nazis were producing V-1 and V-2 missiles, but also to make the locations of minefields more hostile Experience artillery and tanks.

In early April 1945, Sakheim, as part of the 104th Infantry Division, was one of the soldiers who liberated the Dora Mittelbau concentration camp in Nordhausen. The streets and crematoriums of the extermination camp were full of dead bodies.

”, he said in 2015 to Jewish Exponent, a weekly newspaper.

Mr. Sakheim continued to help interrogate German prisoners in internment camps after the end of the war in Europe. But he delayed his return to the United States when he learned that the upcoming war crimes trials required bilingual interpreters.

After his flight to Nuremberg, Sakheim, then only 22 years old, moved into the Grand Hotel, which was partially destroyed by bombing.

After seven months in Nuremberg, he resumed his training. He has a bachelor's and master's degree in psychology in Columbia and a doctorate in psychology. He studied clinical psychology at Florida State University.

He then began a long career in psychology and held positions in hospitals, schools, and other facilities in Maine, Massachusetts, and New York. He specialized in helping teenagers, especially reducing the risk of suicide.

As a senior psychologist at Cottage School in Pleasantville, New York, he tried to develop an arsonist profile in the 1970s and 1980s. Together with Elizabeth Osborn, he wrote "Fire-setting children: risk assessment and treatment" (1994).

In addition to his son, his wife Ilse (Oschinksy) Sakheim survives; his daughter Ruth Sakheim-Kitchell; and five grandchildren.

Long after the Nuremberg trials, Mr. Sakheim wrote that the contents of his diary vividly reminded him of what he heard face to face from Nazi war criminals, more than the official transcripts of their testimony.

"Despite the fact that I now have more than 50 years of experience in Nuremberg as a clinical psychologist," he wrote in The Jerusalem Post, "I continue to struggle with what the perpetrators did they said questioning us and how they said it. "


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