Gerard Pacitti here, Corporal in the U.S. Army. I lived all around Europe and I immigrated to the United States at 13. I spent time in the Italian mountains with a view that made me feel like I was living on a cloud and then in Belgium in a small apartment above a bakery and chocolate factory whose sweet scents seeped through the floorboards and swirled in the air of my room, causing a temporary euphoria. When I came to the U.S. I was not expecting to find my way back in Europe any time soon. I had said my goodbyes and was ready for a new chapter, in my new country, filled with endless possibilities. Now, I live in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in a center row home on Broad Street. My center row home radiated on either side all the way down the left and right of the block. Upon arrival I began the school year in the 2nd grade. Humiliating, because I was so much older than the other students and I didn’t know much English. Moving around Europe allowed me to pick up several languages and I could speak 6 languages fluently: Italian, Flemish, German, RUssian, Polish, and French. I worked my way up, got back on track, and soon enough became fluent in my seventh language, English. Now at age 24, the war has ended and I was informed that I will be an interpreter at some sort of trials in Nuremberg, Germany. I’ve never been into those superficial war stories of soldiers and how great they and their accomplishments are, but one of my buddies told me these trials are supposed to be a big deal and encouraged me to start, so here I am.
More details to come,
Lawrence here again, we’ve been trekking for days on end, but still receiving a good amount of rest at night though. This was a bit off for Commanding Officer Murphy. That bastard usually shows no mercy. You were expected to be at your best all of the time, day and night, resting or in battle, no excuses. You always knew when someone wasn’t feeling a hundred percent because I swear to God you could hear Ole Murphy’s deep bark from miles away. His tall, buff, broad shouldered figure would shake as his face turned red. That’s how loud this man could scream. We should have already reached the camp in Germany where we are meant to dismantle. I don’t know what it is, but everything seems so familiar, as if we’ve been walking in circles. The same looking trees and terrain or what’s left of them, the bombers really did a number on Germany, geesh!
Anyways, I will update when we arrive at the camp,
My buddy was right. These trials in Nuremberg are going to be a big deal. So many nations are in ruins following the war and their leaders believe that the individuals and organizations responsible for the atrocities committed during the war need to be brought to justice. The accused Nazi leaders and organizations are going to be tried for their crimes. The trials are the first of its kind because there have never been such war crimes committed. Serves them right. Since there is no basis for this type of trial many people, including me, have been enlisted to help the trials run smoothly and effectively. Not sure what to expect from it, but I’m ready to help take down these Nazis (Nuremberg War Crimes Trials).
Until the trials,
We arrived to the sight of other soldiers already dismantling the camp. Much of the interior had already been emptied out and there was just the physical camp for us to take down. The smell is absolutely repulsive. The smell is so familiar, yet I can’t put my finger on it. It just hit me! It’s the faded smell of decaying bodies! That bastard! He knew exactly where we were going, sending us in circles purposefully. The rest of the pack not much older than my age of 17, he waited long enough for the bodies to already be disposed of! God, I could kiss the man! He didn’t want us to see the bodies! If I'm being honest I don’t know if I’d be able to live with seeing that image of bluish-purple, bruised, bloodied, decaying bodies of innocent Jews. Praise God!
German politician and leading member of the Nazi Party, Rudolf Hess, took the stand with a grimace spread across his long and hairy face. Hess was charged with one count of conspiracy and two crimes against peace (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC). I listened to his husky German voice on my headphones as he pleaded guilty to the charges saying, “The statements are true; this declaration is made by me voluntarily and without compulsion; after reading over the statement, I have signed and executed the same at Nuremberg, Germany on the fifth day of April 1946” (Rudolf Hoess: Testimony at Nuremberg Trial (1946)). In my sound-proof booth, I interpreted the plea into English as I heard each German word travel off the tip of his tongue and into my headphones (Eriksen Translations Inc.). He was sentenced to life imprisonment. I reported his statement and his sentence over the microphone to the English speaking audience of the courtroom (Eriksen Translations Inc.). There weren’t multiple reactions, just variations of the same agreeing nod and then quick turn to jot down the note. This is how the proceedings went with each defendant, but this one was particularly interesting as Hess was one of Hitler’s right hand men. The way he pleaded didn’t sound quite remorseful, instead it sounded like a plea to just get his trial over with. Understandable, as these trials were very extensive, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, serves him right.
When taking apart a camp there is a simple method we dismantlers adhere to. Simple is the term there, while it is quite the simple process, it is also quite the deadly process. The walls have tall panels on concrete, maybe 20 feet, that sit perfectly between two pillars on either side of each panel. Along the top of the walls there are metal bars that protrude from the pillars and lean towards the inside of the camp as if trying to keep popcorn on the stove from popping over the sides of the pan. Connected to each metal bar are four strips of barbed wire strung like Christmas lights, but in a dark, messed up way. The wire shines, but it brings a different feeling then the shine of Christmas lights do. There are men at the top and men at the bottom. The men at the top yell a signal to get out of the way and then simultaneously snip the life right from the wire and it falls to the floor. The cycle continues. This place is huge and goes on forever on each side, I don’t know that I’ve mentioned home yet, but it makes me think of my row home back in Philadelphia, but again in a weird messed up way. But this time it was pouring rain like the sky got angry and just opened up and everything from up above just fell to the ground. With Murphy on our tails you know he made us work through. I should’ve known, just when he was softening up and protecting us he would snap right back. He didn’t like showing his emotions or feeling weak, I get the feeling he never has. Working in the rain requires the right attire. I wore my incredibly thick Army issued raincoat of course. The deafening sound of thunder roared while our only source of light were the lightning strikes that seemed to shake the ground we stood on. I stood at the bottom of the wall waiting for the yell of the soldiers that stood at the top of the wall preparing to cut the barbed wire. There was a simultaneous thunder and lightning strike and the wire fell. Next thing I know it was shredding through my inch thick raincoat with ease. The wire ripped my coat into two pieces. Luckily the coat was thick enough to keep it from touching my skin, but just imagine those innocent Jews trying to escape through this stuff.
They say nothing's impossible, but the thought of escaping this place really makes me question the accuracy of that statement,
It’s October 1, 1946. The trials finally came to a close today. I am holding a neat piece of paper in my hands with the words, “Interpreter 320;-- interpreted foreign language into English and English into a foreign language to assist military personnel and others in conversing with individuals who are unable to speak the same language” (Army of the United States). My separation qualification record which allows me to go back to my humble row home that I miss so much.
I’ve got to go board my ship home,
After lots of intensive labor and the raincoat scare, the camp is down. I’ve been discharged and am boarding a ship that will take me back home to the states and my row home. The smell is rewarding. It is not decaying bodies, it is not smoke so thick it engulfs all of your senses, it’s a new scent. A clean ,salty mist. A new life for us and our country. I let my senses take control of me and I-
“Excuse me. Is this seat taken?”, Gerard asks Lawerence with a sincere look on his face.
“No, go ahead.”
Gerard introduces himself and extends a hand, “Corporal Gerard Pacitti, pleasure to meet you!”
Lawrence grabs it firmly and responds, “Private Lawrence Agostini, you as well!”
In an attempt to strike up a conversation for the long trip home Gerard asks, “So where are you heading?”
Lawrence takes the bait saying, “Home to Philadelphia.”
Gerard replies, “Me too! We have been all over, but I guess it still is a small world, huh?”
“Indeed it is!”
The two bonded over their common hobby of journaling and shared their stories from war and from Philadelphia the whole ride. They talked until they heard the sounds of elated soldiers cheering and waving to those on land as the ship bounced off the dock of the Port of Philadelphia on the Delaware. Lawrence mentioned a new beginning and this conversation just might be the start of a great friendship.
Army of the United States. "Separation Qualification Record." 1 Jan. 1946. Working paper.
Eriksen Translations Inc. "The Nuremberg Trials and the Birth of Simultaneous Interpreting." Eriksen Translation Inc., 30 Apr. 2020, www.eriksen.com/language/nuremberg-interpreting/. Accessed 21 Sept. 2020.
Liv Pacitti “The Nuremberg Trials: Overcoming Adversity”
"Nuremberg War Crimes Trials." Europe since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction, edited by John Merriman and Jay Winter, vol. 4, Detroit, Charles Scribner's Sons, 2006, pp. 1900-02. Gale In Context: World History, link.gale.com/apps/doc/CX3447000656/WHIC?u=pl2247&sid=WHIC&xid=0c194318. Accessed 21 Sept. 2020.
"Rudolf Hoess: Testimony at Nuremberg Trial (1946)." World History: The Modern Era, ABC-CLIO, 2020, worldhistory.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/341240. Accessed 21 Sept. 2020.
Taylor, A. "7707 European Command Intelligence Center." 10 May 1947. Typescript.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC. "Rudolf Hess." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/rudolf-hess. Accessed 21 Sept. 2020.