“The Trial of Herman Schmitt (Part 2)”
20 October 2005
Herman is sitting in his “cell” in the old converted hotel when he hears a knock on the door to his room and a “Hello. Herman are you decent?” “Yes, yes, come in,” Herman replies gulping down a piece of breakfast toast. Then the click of the key in the door and it opens and in marches his defense team lead by Jones, then Shapiro and finally Hines, the guard at his door closing the door and locking behind them.
“Herman,” says Jones in his perfect German, “We met with the prosecution team and have gone over all the evidence and we think we need to talk with you about your desire to get on the witness stand.” “Oh,” Herman replies, “I thought I made myself clear that I needed to defend myself. I did nothing wrong. I just did my job and that is all. I did not kill or hurt anyone.”
“Herman, we just do not think it is a good idea. The way we see it, if you get on the witness stand and say you were just doing your job and you did nothing wrong, you will come across as cold hearted, callous and that defense did not work at all at the trials at Nuremberg. when Nazi leaders proclaimed they were just following orders. Herman, they were all convicted. If on the other hand you get on the witness stand and say you are sorry for what you did, then you are admitting that you knew you were doing wrong when you designed and oversaw the installation.”
Herman sits back in his chair and says nothing.
“Herman,” Jones goes on, “We have decided that we really cannot argue on the merits of the case as it is clear you did the design work and installation but that should not matter. Engineers and designers should not and cannot be held criminally responsible for what their government or employer either does or does not do with their designs. Certainly, if Hitler had not taken his own life, I am sure he would have been tried in a court of law although he, himself, never killed anyone but he certainly set in motion the Holocaust. But we see that as different from your case. We are going to argue that if you are convicted, it could considerable slow down the advance of science and the development of new products if the designers could be held criminally responsible for what they developed: simple as that. But Herman, we need to know if we know everything there is to know about what you did or did not do in those days, during the war. Unlike, the courts in the United States and other places, the prosecution does not have to share with us everything it has as evidence against you, so is there anything we should know you have not told us?”
Herman just shakes his head. It has been days, weeks now and he still cannot grasp the concept that “they” want to pit him on trial for. He wants to see his sons.
“Have you heard from or seen my 2 sons?” Herman asks.
Jones turns to Shapiro and Hines and translates. Both shake their heads, no.
“No, Herman, we have not seen or heard from them but I am sure they will be in touch soon and I think we can arrange for them to visit you here, in your room. Would you like that?”
“Yes, please,” says Herman, his eyes focused on the floor.
“I have heard what you have said about that I should not get on the witness stand but I just have to. It is not fair they accuse me of something, which was just a job to me. Any of them would have done the same, at that place and time. I must make them understand that and I will. No, I will not stay off the witness stand and that is that,” Herman says, getting up and turning his back to his defense team.
Jones translates and Shapiro tells him he just has to make Herman understand how bad it could be for him if he gets on that stand.
Jones tries once again. “Herman, we have talked it over again and honestly Herman, you are going to hang yourself if you speak during your trial. We will not stop defending you but we have to tell you, that if you speak, we feel that you could be convicted although we think the case should not result in a conviction, if you let us handle it and do not get on the stand.”
Herman turns and faces Shapiro, Jones, and Hines, still standing near one of his room’s floor to ceiling window. “I am an old man. I do not want to go to prison but how much longer will I live anyway. I will only tell you one more time, I do not care how much you think it will hurt me, I must and will speak on behalf of my own defense.”
Braun is sitting in the bar just off the lobby of the court hotel when he sees in the mirror behind the bar, Hines come walking in and takes a seat at a table staring right at him. “Well, maybe,” he thinks and picks up his beer glass and walks over to Hines’s table. “My English is a little rough but do you mind if I join you?” Hines, dressed in a nice business suit with the skirt ending just her knee and long nice legs, looks at Braun. “No problem, sit down and your English seems fine to me.”
“Strange isn’t it, being in a bar inside the court house like this? Very convenient for us, don’t you think?” Braun offers up, looking at Hines’s immaculate hairdo and makeup. No smile her her though or at least not yet but it is early.
“If you ask me this whole thing is strange. No reason in the world that Herman should even be on trial. He is an old man for God’s sake. What is gained by having a trial now and sending him to prison?”
“All business apparently,” thinks Braun.
“Oh, come on, you know Herman is guilty. We have all the evidence we need and some you do not even know about, to convict him. Herman knew what he was doing when he designed the gas dispensing equipment and should be held accountable for it. I will agree that at Schmitt’s age, hardly seems like worth all the effort but my government is so afraid of appearing not to be pro Jew at this point that they want him tried and convicted.”
“Some evidence we do not know about? What do you mean? You did not give us everything when we met to go over the evidence?” Hines responding immediately, her interested peaked.
“Oh, now that would be telling wouldn’t it,” Braun says with this smirk on his face.
"Ok, ok, this is getting us nowhere. Let’s talk about something else, like why are you on prosecution team? What is your role?” Hines says in disgust are getting nothing more out of Braun about other evidence.
Braun knew this would probably come up. “I am here because I was told to be here. My government requires a German attorney be on the prosecution team of any German citizen. I can tell you that I really was not bothered about coming here, as I really have nothing to do other than represent my government. And what is your role in the trial?”
Hines crosses her legs and Braun hears the delicious sound of her nylons rubbing together. Oh, how he would love to have her in his bed right now: none of the work talk or foreplay.
Hines has a sip of her beer and looks Braun in the eye. “I am going to cross examine prosecution witnesses.”
“Oh, and you are good at doing this, so much so, they added you to the team?”
“Yes, I am very good at it amongst other things,” adding a slight smile and uncrossing and then re-crossing her legs. Braun can only imagine underneath the table.
“Look, I know perhaps it is a little forward of me but I have a really nice bottle of wine in my room. Would you like to join me there before we hit the bed?” Braun knowing that last part has the double meaning he wants it to have.
Hines takes another sip of her beer and then another before turning her eyes towards him and with a slight smile says, “Sure. Maybe we could talk about that evidence you say you have and are not sharing or maybe we could find something else to do?" Braun likes the sound of this.
The week after the news about Herman’s arrest and the details of the charges, Henrick’s wife left him and took their 2 children. She just could not be associated with a Jew killer. Henrick was devastated and stopped going to work.
Adolph did not fair much better although his wife stayed with him and was supportive, but at work, he had become an outcast as no one would joke or even talk with him, outside strictly business matters. When it was time to leave for The Hague, he was glad, as he needed to get away from work and perhaps let his co-workers forgive him for the sins of this father.
It was a Friday that Henrick and Adolph met up at the train station to head to The Hague. Neither packed very much as they were in no mood to think about such trivial things as what they were going to wear: their father was on trial as a Jew killer.
Adolph did not say much during the train trip but he did not have to, as Henrick would not shut up. “His wife had left him.” “He just could not stand to go to work and they did not even know where he was and he would probably loose his job, but he did not care.” “He was not sleeping and had this terrible headache and stomach ache all the time.” “What if there were reporters outside the court and they took pictures of Adolph and him?” “What if the pictures were posted in the newspapers?” “How could he ever go back to German?” “And God forbid, what if their father was actually convicted? What sort of life would Henrick have then?” “Why did his wife leave him, he had done nothing wrong?” “Wonder if she would come back to me if our father was found innocent?” On and on, Henrick went for hours and hours until Adolph could stand no more and headed off down the train to get a beer, telling Henrick he needed to be alone just for a few minutes.
When the train arrived at The Hague, Henrick and Adolph took a taxi to the hotel where Adolph had reserved them rooms. It was not very close to the court but also was not that far away and it was a hotel they both could afford at least for a while. If the trial lasted more than a week, they would have to find somewhere else to stay but in the mean time, it was good to finally get into their rooms and Adolph to get a break from his brother who was obviously moving into a deep depression, if he was not already there.
After they settled in their rooms and then met for dinner. They would go to the court tomorrow, see their father and the defense team and find out what was going on. Each still held out hope that the case would never go to trial although they had no idea how that was supposed to happen at this point.