On this day on 20th November

On this day in 1737 social reformer Caroline of Ansbach died. The daughter of the John Frederick, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, was born on 1st March, 1683. When her father died in 1686 she moved to the court of her guardian, Sophia Charlotte of Hanover.

After rejecting Archduke Charles of Austria, she married George Augustus in 1705, the third-in-line to the British throne and heir apparent to the Electorate of Hanover. They had eight children, seven of whom grew to adulthood: Frederick Lewis, William Augustus (1721-1765), Anne, Amelia, Caroline, Mary and Louisa. Caroline moved to Britain in 1714 when her husband became Prince of Wales.

Caroline became a strong supporter of Robert Walpole, an opposition politician who was a former government minister. Walpole rejoined the government in 1720, and helped heal the split that had taken place between her husband and King George I.

George II became king when his father died. She was crowned alongside her husband at Westminster Abbey on 11th October 1727. Caroline advised her husband to retain Walpole as the leading minister. Walpole commanded a substantial majority in Parliament and George II had little choice but to accept him or risk political problems. In return Walpole secured a civil list payment of £100,000 a year for Caroline, and she was given both Somerset House and Richmond Lodge.

Caroline held liberal opinions and supported clemency for the Jacobites, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech in Parliament. She gained a reputation for surrounding herself with artists, writers and intellectuals. Voltaire wrote of her, "I must say that despite all her titles and crowns, this princess was born to encourage the arts and the well-being of mankind; even on the throne she is a benevolent philosopher; and she has never lost an opportunity to learn or to manifest her generosity."

Caroline of Ansbach by Michael Dahl (c. 1730)
Caroline of Ansbach by Michael Dahl (c. 1730)

On this day in 1824 William Cobbett published an article about child labour after visiting a textile factory. "The 1st, 2nd and 3rd of September were very hot days. The newspapers told us that men had dropped down dead in the harvest fields and the many horses had fallen dead in the harvest fields and that many horses had fallen dead upon the road. Yet the heat during these days never exceeded eighty-four degrees in the hottest part of the day. What, then, must be the situation of the poor children who are doomed to toil fourteen hours a day, in an average of eighty-two degrees? Can any man, with a heart in his body, and a tongue in his head, refrain from cursing a system that produces such slavery and such cruelty."

Cobbett was a campaigning journalist who established his own newspaper, the Political Register in 1802. He was a strong advocate of parliamentary reform. An unsuccessful attempt to be elected as M.P. for Honiton convinced him of the unfairness of rotten boroughs.

William Cobbett was not afraid to criticise the government in his newspaper and in 1809 he attacked the use of German troops to put down a mutiny in Ely. Cobbett was tried and convicted for sedition and sentenced to two years' imprisonment in Newgate Prison. When Cobbett was released he continued his campaign against newspaper taxes and government attempts to prevent free speech.

By 1815 the tax on newspapers had reached 4d. a copy. As few people could afford to pay 6d. or 7d. for a newspaper, the tax restricted the circulation of most of these journals to people with fairly high incomes. Cobbett was only able to sell just over a thousand copies a week. The following year Cobbett began publishing the Political Register as a pamphlet. Cobbett now sold it for only 2d. and it soon had a circulation of 40,000.

Cobbett's journal was the main newspaper read by the working class. This made Cobbett a dangerous man and in 1817 he heard that the government planned to have him arrested for sedition. Unwilling to spend another period in prison, Cobbett fled to the United States. For two years Cobbett lived on a farm in Long Island where he wrote Grammar of the English Language and with the help of William Benbow, a friend in London, continued to publish the Political Register.

William Cobbett arrived back in England soon after the Peterloo Massacre. Cobbett joined with other Radicals in his attacks on the government and three times during the next couple of years was charged with libel.

In 1821 William Cobbett started a tour of Britain on horseback. Each evening he recorded his observations on what he had seen and heard that day. This work was published as a series of articles in the Political Register and as a book, Rural Rides, in 1830.

Cobbett continued to publish controversial material in the Political Register and in July, 1831, was charged with seditious libel after writing an article in support of the Captain Swing Riots. Cobbett conducted his own defence and he was so successful that the jury failed to convict him.

William Cobbett still had a strong desire to be elected to the House of Commons. He was defeated in Preston in 1826 and Manchester in 1832 but after the passing of the 1832 Reform Act Cobbett was able to win the parliamentary seat of Oldham. In Parliament Cobbett concentrated his energies on attacking corruption in government and the 1834 Poor Law. Cobbett died on 18th June 1835.

William Cobbett by George Cooke (c. 1831)
William Cobbett by George Cooke (c. 1831)

On this day in 1864 Minnie Baldock was born. As a girl she worked in a shirt factory. After her marriage she had two sons, Jack and Harry. She was a member of the Independent Labour Party and her husband was a local councillor in West Ham. During this period she became friends with Dora Montefiore and Charlotte Despard.

Along with Keir Hardie, her local MP, she held a public meeting in 1903 to complain about the low pay of women in the area. She was also involved in the administration of the West Ham Unemployed Fund. In April 1905, Baldock became an ILP candidate in the election for the West Ham Board of Guardians.

Baldock joined the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) and on 19th December 1905 she joined forces with Dora Montefiore and Annie Kenney to heckle Herbert Asquith, while he was making a speech in Queen's Hall. Baldock joined with Kenney to repeat the performance when Henry Campbell-Bannerman appeared at a Liberal Party rally at the Royal Albert Hall on 21st December. They were ejected but not arrested. The following day Baldock, Kenney and Teresa Billington-Greig, called on Campbell-Bannerman at his house at Belgrave Square. He told them that he would be dealing soon with the question of women's suffrage.

On 29th January 1906, Minnie Baldock established the Canning Town branch of the WSPU. It was an attempt to recruit working-class women to the cause. Over the next few months Baldock arranged for Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, Annie Kenney, Flora Drummond, Dora Montefiore, Selina Cooper, Teresa Billington-Greig and Marie Naylor to address the members of the group.

On 23rd May 1906, Dora Montefiore sent her a postcard saying: "Am resisting bailiff who has come to distrain for income tax, and the house is besieged. Tell the poor women I am doing it to help them." In response, Baldock organised a demonstration of about fifty women outside Mrs Montefiore's barricaded house in Hammersmith.

Later that year Baldock joined Annie Kenney, Mary Gawthorpe, Nellie Martel, Helen Fraser, Adela Pankhurst and Flora Drummond as WSPU full-time organizers. Baldock now began to tour the country. According to Elizabeth Crawford, the author of The Suffragette Movement (1999), Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence "sent her a postal order for 30 shillings to cover her expenses while holding meetings in Long Eaton in Derbyshire."

Minnie Baldock was arrested during a demonstration outside the House of Commons in February 1908. She was sentenced to a month in Holloway Prison. The historian, June Purvis, has pointed out: "Her anxieties about her small son, left at home with his father, were somewhat alleviated by the knowledge that union members outside would offer help." For example, Maud Arncliffe Sennett sent a parcel of toys for her two boys.

In February 1909 Baldock worked alongside Annie Kenney, Clara Codd, Marie Naylor, Marie Naylor, Vera Holme and Elsie Howey in the West of England campaign. During this period she visited Eagle House near Batheaston, the home of fellow WSPU member, Mary Blathwayt. Her father, Colonel Linley Blathwayt was sympathetic to the WSPU cause and he built a summer-house in the grounds of the estate that was called the "Suffragette Rest". In April 1910, Colonel Blathwayt sent her a hamper of plants, to brighten her East-End garden.

Minnie Baldock continued to work for the WSPU until July 1911 when she became seriously ill and was operated on for cancer by Dr Louisa Aldrich-Blake at the New Hospital for Women. She was visited in hospital by Christabel Pankhurst and Mabel Tuke wrote to her pointing out: "I am sure we can fix up a country visit for you when you come out of hospital with some kind member of the WSPU." However, when she left hospital she went to stay with Minnie Turner in Brighton.

Baldock never returned to work for the WSPU. This might have been because she disapproved of the WSPU arson campaign because she continued to be a member of the Church League for Women's Suffrage. She was also in contact with Edith How-Martyn of the Women's Freedom League. In January 1913, Minnie moved to Southampton with her husband. Minnie Baldock, who during her later years, lived at 73 Lake Road, Hamworthy, near Poole, died in 1954.

Minnie Baldock (1909)
Minnie Baldock (1909)

On this day in 1884 socialist leader Norman Thomas was born. In 1905 Thomas helped to establish the Intercollegiate Socialist Society. Other members included Jack London, Upton Sinclair, Clarence Darrow, Florence Kelley, Anna Strunsky, Bertram D. Wolfe, Jay Lovestone, Rose Pastor Stokes and J.G. Phelps Stokes. Its stated purpose was to "throw light on the world-wide movement of industrial democracy known as socialism."

Thomas did voluntary social work in New York City before studying theology at the Union Theological Seminary. Influenced by the writings of the Christian Socialist movement in Britain, Thomas became a committed socialist. Thomas was ordained in 1911 and became pastor of the East Harlem Presbyterian Church.

A pacifist, Thomas believed that the First World War was an "immoral, senseless struggle among rival imperialisms". His brother shared his views and went to prison for resisting the draft. Thomas joined with Abraham Muste, Scott Nearing and Oswald Garrison Villard to form the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR). In 1917 Thomas, Crystal Eastman and Roger Baldwin established the National Civil Liberties Bureau (NCLB).

In 1918 he founded and edited The World Tomorrow and two years later joined with Jane Addams, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Upton Sinclair to establish the American Civil Liberties Union. Thomas, a member of the Socialist Party of America, was its candidate for Governor of New York in 1924. As well as being associate editor of the Nation (1921-22), he was co-director of the League of Industrial Democracy (1922-37), an organization he had created with Jack London and Upton Sinclair.

The leader of the Socialist movement, Eugene Debs, died in 1926. Two other prominant figures, Victor Berger and Morris Hillquit, were eligible to run for President in 1928 by virtue of their foreign birth. The third main figure, Daniel Hoan was unwilling to leave his post as Mayor of Milwaukee. Thomas, who have developed a reputation as an articulate spokesman for socialism was chosen as their candidate. It was hoped that the well-educated, good looking, middle-class, Thomas, would make a good candidate.

The 1928 Presidential Election was won by the Republican Party candidate, Herbert Hoover. He received 21,427,123 votes (58.21%), whereas Al Smith of the Democratic Party only obtained 15,015,464 (40.80%). Thomas finished in third place with 267,478 (0.73%). However, he easily beat the American Communist Party candidate, William Z. Foster, who gained only 48,551 (0.13%) votes.

Franklin D. Roosevelt easily won the 1932 Presidential Election with 22,821,277(57.41%) votes, compared to Herbert Hoover who received 15,761,254(39.65%) votes. Once again Thomas won his fight against Foster of the American Communist Party. Thomas won 884,885 (2.23%) votes compared to Foster's 103,307 (0.26%).Although defeated Thomas had the satisfaction of seeing Roosevelt introduce several measures that he had advocated during his presidential campaign.

Thomas was disturbed by the events that were taking place in the Soviet Union. He found the confessions in the Soviet Show Trials unbelievable and came to the conclusion that Joseph Stalin was attempting to establish a dictatorship and gave her support to his rival, Leon Trotsky. In March 1937 he joined forces with John Dewey, Sidney Hook, Edmund Wilson, John Dos Passos, Bertrand Russell, Reinhold Niebuhr, Franz Boas, John Chamberlain, Carlo Tresca, James T. Farrell, Benjamin Stolberg and Suzanne La Follette to form the American Committee for the Defense of Leon Trotsky.

Sidney Hook later recalled in his autobiography Out of Step: An Unquiet Life in the 20th Century (1987): "The first and most important step of the commission was to appoint a subcommission to travel to Mexico City to take Leon Trotsky's testimony. It was crucial for the success of the commission that John Dewey consent to go, because without him the press and public would have ignored the sessions. It would be easy for the Kremlin to dismiss the work of the others and circulate the false charge that they were handpicked partisans of Trotsky. Only the presence of someone with Dewey's stature would insure world attention to the proceedings. But would Dewey go? And since he was now crowding seventy-nine, should he go? Dewey must go, and I must see to it." The Dewey Commission published its report on 21st September, 1937. The commission cleared Trotsky of all charges made during the Show Trials.

A strong critic of the Soviet communism, Norman Thomas also denounced rearmament and the development of the Cold War. Other issues associated with Thomas during the post-war period included his campaigns against poverty, racism and the Vietnam War. Thomas wrote several books on politics, including Is Conscience a Crime? (1927), As I See It (1932), A Socialist Faith (1951), The Test of Freedom (1954), The Prerequisites of Peace (1959) and Socialism Re-examined (1963). Thomas died on 19th December, 1968.

Norman Thomas
Norman Thomas

On this day in 1910 civil rights activist, Pauli Murray, was born. Her mother, Agnes Murray died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1914. Her father, William Murray, was a graduate of Howard University and taught in a local high school. He suffered from the long-term effects of typhoid fever and eventually was confined to Crownsville State Hospital where he died in 1923.

Anna and her five brothers and sisters were raised by relatives in Baltimore. Eventually she went to live with her aunt, Pauline Fitzgerald, a school teacher. After graduating from Hillside High School at the head of her class, she moved to New York City. Murray attended Hunter College and financed her studies with various jobs. However, after the Wall Street Crash, unable to find work, Murray was forced to abandon her studies.

In the 1930s Murray worked for the Works Projects Administration (WPA) and as a teacher in the New York City Remedial Reading Project. She also had articles and poems published in various magazines. This included her novel, Angel of the Desert, that was serialized in the Carolina Times.

Murray also became involved in the civil rights movement. In 1938 she began a campaign to enter the all-white University of North Carolina. With the support of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) Murray's case received national publicity. However, it was not until 1951 that Floyd McKissick became the first African American to be accepted by the University of North Carolina. During this campaign she developed a life-long friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt.

A member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), Murray also became involved in attempts to end segregation on public transport and this resulted in her arrest and imprisonment in March 1940 for refusing to sit at the back of a bus in Virginia.

In 1941 Murray enrolled at the Howard University law school with the intention of becoming a civil rights lawyer. The following year she joined with George Houser, James Farmer and Bayard Rustin, to form the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Members of CORE were mainly pacifists who had been deeply influenced by Henry David Thoreau and the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and the nonviolent civil disobedience campaign that he used successfully against British rule in India. The students became convinced that the same methods could be employed by blacks to obtain civil rights in America.

In 1943 Murray published two important essays on civil rights, Negroes Are Fed Up in Common Sense and an article about the Harlem race riot in the socialist newspaper, New York Call. Her most famous poem on race relations, Dark Testament, was also written in that year.

After Murray graduated from Howard University in 1944 she went to Harvard University on a Rosenwald Fellowship. However, after the award had been announced, Harvard Law School rejected her because of her gender. Murray went to the University of California where she received a degree in law. Her master's thesis was The Right to Equal Opportunity in Employment.

Murray moved to New York City and provided support to the growing civil rights movement. Her book, States' Laws on Race and Color, was published in 1951. Thurgood Marshall, head of the legal department at the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP), described the book as the Bible for civil rights lawyers.

In the early 1950s Murray, like many African Americans involved in the civil rights movement, suffered from McCarthyism. In 1952 she lost a post at Cornell University because the people who had supplied her references: Eleanor Roosevelt, Thurgood Marshall and Philip Randolph, were considered to be too radical. She was told in a letter that they decided to give "one hundred per cent protection" to the university "in view of the troublous times in which we live".

In 1956 Murray published Proud Shoes: The Story of an American Family, a biography of her grandparents, and their struggle with racial prejudice. In 1960 Murray travelled to Ghana to explore her African cultural roots. When she returned President John F. Kennedy appointed her to his Committee on Civil and Political Rights.

In the early 1960s Murray worked closely with Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin and Martin Luther King but was critical of the way that men dominated the leadership of these civil rights organizations. In August, 1963, she wrote to Randolph and pointed out that she had: "been increasingly perturbed over the blatant disparity between the major role which Negro women have played and are playing in the crucial grass-roots levels of our struggle and the minor role of leadership they have been assigned in the national policy-making decisions."

In 1977 Murray became the first African American woman to become a Episcopal priest. Pauli Murray died of cancer in Pittsburgh on 1st July, 1985. Her autobiography Song in a Weary Throat: An American Pilgrimage was published posthumously in 1987.

Pauli Murray
Pauli Murray

On this day in 1923 social reformer John Clifford died on 20th November 1923. In November 1850 Clifford became a Baptist. After two years as a lay preacher in Nottingham, he was recommended by his church to the Midland Baptist College in Leicester, where he began his course in September 1855. "Like many other theological students he questioned the historical truth of Christianity, the teaching of Christ, and the place of miracles in the life of the world."

Clifford was tempted to become a Unitarian but eventually became a minister at the Praed Street Baptist Church in London. At the time the church had just over sixty members, but over the next forty years it increased to over a thousand. Clifford believed that the church existed "not only for our spiritual improvement, but also and specially for saving the souls and bodies of the people in the neighbourhood in which we are located".

John Clifford took his BA in 1861 and BSc in 1862 (with honours in logic, moral philosophy, geology, and palaeontology) at London University. He married Rebecca Carter on 14th January 1862, and they had four sons and two daughters. He continued with his studies and achieved a MA in 1864 and law degree (with honours in the principles of legislation) in 1866.

Clifford was a strong supporter of social reform and self-help. He helped establish the Westbourne Park Institute in Paddington, that provided free adult education, the Mutual Economic Benefit Society, an organisation that provided sickness benefit, the Westbourne Park Permanent Building Society to encourage saving and a Labour Bureau to help those seeking work.

In the 1870s Clifford emerged as the leader of the Baptist Church in England. He held several senior positions including the presidency of the London Baptist Union, National Baptist Union and the Baptist World Alliance. As a religious individualist, Clifford clashed with the other main Baptist leader at the time, Charles H. Spurgeon, who advocated a more conservative approach to religion.

Clifford was a strong supporter of the Liberal Party. In Clifford's view, the politician should always base his policies on "what would further the cause of liberty and equality." He especially admired William Ewart Gladstone, who he believed applied Christian principles to political issues and was therefore a "Christian statesman".

Other causes supported by Clifford included disestablishment of the Church of England, extension of the franchise, repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act, the admission of the atheist Charles Bradlaugh to the House of Commons, Irish Home Rule, the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, and the Temperance Society. An advocate of trade unionism, Clifford was a strong supporter of the Matchgirls (1888) and the London Dockers (1889) in their struggles for better pay and working conditions. Clifford alsoplayedaleadingrolein the protests against the way suffragettes were treated in prison.

John Clifford initially had been a liberal but later became a socialist and joined the Fabian Society. The Fabians believed that capitalism had created an unjust and inefficient society. They agreed that the ultimate aim of the group should be to reconstruct "society in accordance with the highest moral possibilities". The Fabians adopted the tactic of trying to convince people by "rational factual socialist argument", rather than the "emotional rhetoric and street brawls" of the Social Democratic Federation. The Fabian group was a "fact-finding and fact-dispensing body" and they produced a series of pamphlets, some written by Clifford, on a wide variety of different social issues.

In 1899 Clifford became a national political figure when he became one of the leaders of the campaign against the Boer War. He was president of the Stop-the-War Committee and a member of the South Africa Conciliation Committee executive. Clifford was a fierce critic of the policy of burning Boer farms and herding women and children into concentration camps. Clifford also opposed the negotiated terms of the Union of South Africa because it did not give equal rights to the country's black population.

On 24th March 1902, Arthur Balfour presented to the House of Commons an Education Bill that attempted to overturn the 1870 Education Act that had been brought in by William Gladstone. It had been popular with radicals as they were elected by ratepayers in each district. This enabled nonconformists and socialists to obtain control over local schools.

The new legislation abolished all 2,568 school boards and handed over their duties to local borough or county councils. These new Local Education Authorities (LEAs) were given powers to establish new secondary and technical schools as well as developing the existing system of elementary schools. At the time more than half the elementary pupils in England and Wales. For the first time, as a result of this legislation, church schools were to receive public funds.

Nonconformists and supporters of the Liberal and Labour parties campaigned against the proposed act. David Lloyd George led the campaign in the House of Commons as he resented the idea that Nonconformists contributing to the upkeep of Anglican schools. It was also argued that school boards had introduced more progressive methods of education. "The school boards are to be destroyed because they stand for enlightenment and progress." (12)

John Clifford became the leader of the campaign against the legislation. Clifford was opposed to Balfour's bill for three main reasons: (1) the rate aid was being used to support the teaching of religious views to which some rate-payers were opposed; (2) sectarian schools, supported by public funds, were not under public control; (3) teachers in sectarian schools were subject to religious tests.

John Clifford prepared a plan of "Passive Resistance". It was based on the strategy used by John Hampden against Ship Money in 1637 and one of the causes of the English Civil War. "Its tactics were to be those of the old Tithe War: refuse to pay the abhorrent education rate, submit rather to the forced sale of your goods and even of your house; if need be, go to jail!".

Clifford argued that people who disagreed with the proposed Education Act should refuse to pay at least that portion of the rate which was to be spent in or on church schools. The National Passive Resistance Committee was set-up with the motto "No Say. No Pay". However, within weeks the Anti-Martyrdom League was formed to pay the rates that the passive resisters withheld.

In July, 1902, a by-election at Leeds demonstrated what the education controversy was doing to party fortunes, when a Conservative Party majority of over 2,500 was turned into a Liberal majority of over 750. The following month a Baptist came near to capturing Sevenoaks from the Tories and in November, 1902, Orkney and Shetland fell to the Liberals. That month also saw a huge anti-Bill rally held in London, at Alexandra Palace.

Despite the opposition to the new Education Act, it was passed in December, 1902. John Clifford, wrote several pamphlets about the legislation that had a readership that ran into hundreds of thousands. Balfour accused him of being a victim of his own rhetoric: "Distortion and exaggeration are of its very essence. If he has to speak of our pending differences, acute no doubt, but not unprecedented, he must needs compare them to the great Civil War. If he has to describe a deputation of Nonconformist ministers presenting their case to the leader of the House of Commons, nothing less will serve him as a parallel than Luther's appearance before the Diet of Worms."

Rate refusals began in the spring of 1903. "What normally happened was that sufficient of their goods should be distrained and auctioned to defray the rate. It was usually arranged for a friend of the refuser should be on hand to buy back the goods." Over the next four years 170 men went to prison for refusing to pay their school taxes. This included 60 Primitive Methodists, 48 Baptists, 40 Congregationalists and 15 Wesleyan Methodists. John Clifford never went to prison but he appeared in court on 41 different occasions over the next ten years.

The father of Kingsley Martin, was one of those who refused to pay: "Each year father and the other resisters all over the country refused to pay their rates for the upkeep of Church Schools. The passive resistors thought the issue of principle paramount and annually surrendered their goods instead of paying their rates. I well remember how each year one or two of our chairs and a silver teapot and jug were put out on the hall table for the local officers to take away. They were auctioned in the Market Place and brought back to us."

In the period leading up to the First World War Clifford supported W.T. Stead and his Peace Crusade and condemned the press for its open hostility towards the Germans. However, once war was declared, Clifford supported British participation because of Germany's violation of Belgian neutrality.

Clifford supported the right of the individual to develop their own moral views on the war and was totally opposed to conscription and the punishment of conscientious objectors. Clifford now became a Christian Socialist and in the 1918 General Election Clifford deserted the Liberals and instead supported the Labour Party. Clifford was especially critical of the nationalist speeches made by David Lloyd George during the election campaign.

Clifford retired as pastor of Westbourne Park in 1915. He continued his campaign against the 1902 Education Act and in December 1922, received his fifty-seventh summons to appear before the magistrates for refusing to pay his education rate.

John Clifford died on 20th November, 1923. Since his death historians have accepted that Clifford played an important role in the development of the passive resistance movement. Mahatma Gandhi quoted Clifford as one of the early models of passive resistance and his influence was acknowledged by Martin Luther King, the leader of the civil rights movement in America.

Dr. Clifford: The Modern John Knox, Westminster Gazette (5th December 1902)
Dr. Clifford: The Modern John Knox, Westminster Gazette (5th December 1902)

On this day in 1925 Robert F. Kennedy, the son of Joseph Patrick Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald, was born in Brookline, Massachusetts. His great grandfather, Patrick Kennedy, had emigrated from Ireland in 1849 and his grandfathers, Patrick Joseph Kennedy and John Francis Fitzgerald, were important political figures in Boston. Kennedy's father was a highly successful businessman who later served as ambassador to Great Britain (1937-40).

Kennedy went to Harvard University but his studies were interrupted by the Second World War. In November 1944 he joined the United States Navy but the war finished before he was called into action. He returned to Harvard and graduated in 1948. This was followed by a law degree from the University of Virginia.

In 1950 Kennedy married Ethel Shakel and their first child, Kathleen, was born on 4th July, 1951. Joe McCarthy, the controversial senator from Wisconsin, was asked to be the child's godfather. Over the next few years Ethel gave birth to eleven children.

In 1951 Kennedy joined the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice but resigned the following year to help his brother, John F. Kennedy, in his successful campaign to be elected to the Senate. Kennedy returned to legal work in 1953 when Joe McCarthy appointed him as one of the 15 assistant counsels to the Senate subcommittee on investigations.

Kennedy's first task was to research Western trade with China. He discovered that Western European countries accounted for around 75 per cent of all ships delivering cargo to China. In an interview with the Boston Post Kennedy argued that: "it just didn't make sense to anybody in this country that our major allies, whom we're aiding financially, should trade with the communists who are killing GIs".

In a speech in the Senate Joe McCarthy praised Kennedy's research. He also controversially called for the United States Navy "to sink every accursed ship carrying materials to the enemy and resulting in the death of American boys, regardless of what flag those ships may fly."

On 29th July, 1953, Kennedy resigned from McCarthy's office. There is some dispute about why he took this action. In his book, The Enemy Within, Kennedy claimed he resigned because he "disagreed with the way that the Committee was being run". However, other accounts suggest that it was the result of a dispute with Roy Cohn. When McCarthy supported Cohn in the dispute, Kennedy resigned.

In 1954, after the demise of Joe McCarthy, Kennedy rejoined the Senate's permanent subcommittee on investigations. The following year he became chief counsel and staff director and in 1957 was appointed as head of the team investigating the Trade Union movement. Kennedy emerged as a national figure when his investigation of James Hoffa was televised.

Hoffa was eventually charged with corruption. Kennedy claimed that Hoffa had misappropriated $9.5 million in union funds and had corruptly done deals with employers. However, the jury found Hoffa not guilty. George Meany, president of the AFL-CIO, did not agree with the verdict and Hoffa and the Teamsters Union were expelled from the association.

When John F. Kennedy was elected he appointed his brother as U.S. Attorney General. The first issue he had to deal with was civil rights. The Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) began to organize Freedom Rides in an attempt to bring an end to segregation in transport. After three days of training in non-violent techniques, black and white volunteers sat next to each other as they travelled through the Deep South.

James Farmer, national director of CORE, and thirteen volunteers left Washington on 4th May, 1961, for Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. Governor James Patterson commented that: "The people of Alabama are so enraged that I cannot guarantee protection for this bunch of rabble-rousers." Patterson, who had been elected with the support of the Ku Klux Klan added that integration would come to Alabama only "over my dead body."

The Freedom Riders were split between two buses. They travelled in integrated seating and visited "white only" restaurants. When they reached Anniston on 14th May the Freedom Riders were attacked by men armed with clubs, bricks, iron pipes and knives. One of the buses was fire-bombed and the mob held the doors shut, intent on burning the riders to death.

The surviving bus travelled to Birmingham, Alabama. A meeting of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee decided to send reinforcements. This included John Lewis, James Zwerg, and eleven others including two white women. The volunteers realized their mission was extremely dangerous. Zwerg later recalled: "My faith was never so strong as during that time. I knew I was doing what I should be doing." Zwerg wrote a letter to his parents that stated that he would probably be dead by the time they received it.

During the Freedom Riders campaign Robert Kennedy was phoning Jim Eastland “seven or eight or twelve times each day, about what was going to happen when they got to Mississippi and what needed to be done. That was finally decided was that there wouldn’t be any violence: as they came over the border, they’d lock them all up.” When they were arrested Kennedy issued a statement as Attorney General criticizing the activities of the Freedom Riders.

Robert F. Kennedy sent John Seigenthaler to negotiate with Governor James Patterson of Alabama. Harris Wofford, the president's Special Assistant for Civil Rights, later pointed out: "Seigenthaler arrived in time to escort the first group of wounded and shaken riders from the bus terminal to the airport, and flew with them to safety in New Orleans."

The Freedom Riders now traveled onto Montgomery. One of the passengers, James Zwerg, later recalled: "As we were going from Birmingham to Montgomery, we'd look out the windows and we were kind of overwhelmed with the show of force - police cars with sub-machine guns attached to the backseats, planes going overhead... We had a real entourage accompanying us. Then, as we hit the city limits, it all just disappeared. As we pulled into the bus station a squad car pulled out - a police squad car. The police later said they knew nothing about our coming, and they did not arrive until after 20 minutes of beatings had taken place. Later we discovered that the instigator of the violence was a police sergeant who took a day off and was a member of the Klan. They knew we were coming. It was a set-up."

The passangers were attacked by a large mob. They were dragged from the bus and beaten by men with baseball bats and lead piping. Taylor Branch, the author of Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63 (1988) wrote: "One of the men grabbed Zwerg's suitcase and smashed him in the face with it. Others slugged him to the ground, and when he was dazed beyond resistance, one man pinned Zwerg's head between his knees so that the others could take turns hitting him. As they steadily knocked out his teeth, and his face and chest were streaming blood, a few adults on the perimeter put their children on their shoulders to view the carnage." Zwerg later argued: "There was noting particularly heroic in what I did. If you want to talk about heroism, consider the black man who probably saved my life. This man in coveralls, just off of work, happened to walk by as my beating was going on and said 'Stop beating that kid. If you want to beat someone, beat me.' And they did. He was still unconscious when I left the hospital. I don't know if he lived or died."

Some of the Freedom Riders, including seven women, ran for safety. The women approached an African-American taxicab driver and asked him to take them to the First Baptist Church. However, he was unwilling to violate Jim Crow restrictions by taking any white women. He agreed to take the five African-Americans, but the two white women, Susan Wilbur and Susan Hermann, were left on the curb. They were then attacked by the white mob.

John Seigenthaler, who was driving past, stopped and got the two women in his car. According to Raymond Arsenault, the author of Freedom Riders (2006): "Suddenly, two rough-looking men dressed in overalls blocked his path to the car door, demanding to know who the hell he was. Seigenthaler replied that he was a federal agent and that they had better not challenge his authority. Before he could say any more, a third man struck him in the back of the head with a pipe. Unconscious, he fell to the pavement, where he was kicked in the ribs by other members of the mob. Pushed under the rear bumper of the car, his battered and motionless body remained there until discovered by a reporter twenty-five minutes later."

Harris Wofford, the president's Special Assistant for Civil Rights, pointed out: "Seigenthaler went to the defense of a girl being beaten and was clubbed to the ground; he was kicked while he lay there unconscious for nearly half an hour. Again FBI agents present did nothing, except take notes." Robert Kennedy later reported: "I talked to John Seigenthaler in the hospital and said that I thought it was very helpful for the Negro vote, and that I appreciated what he had done."

The Ku Klux Klan hoped that this violent treatment would stop other young people from taking part in freedom rides. However, over the next six months over a thousand people took part in freedom rides. With the local authorities unwilling to protect these people, President John F. Kennedy sent Byron White and 500 federal marshals from the North to do the job.

Robert F. Kennedy was a close friend of Governor John Patterson of Alabama. Kennedy explained in his interview with Anthony Lewis: “I had this long relationship with John Patterson (the governor of Alabama). He was our great pal in the South. So he was doubly exercised at me – who was his friend and pal – to have involved him with suddenly surrounding this church with marshals and having marshals descend with no authority, he felt, on his cities… He couldn’t understand why the Kennedys were doing this to him.”

Robert Kennedy petitioned the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to draft regulations to end racial segregation in bus terminals. The ICC was reluctant but in September 1961 it issued the necessary orders and it went into effect on 1st November. However, James Lawson, one of the Freedom Riders, argued: "We must recognize that we are merely in the prelude to revolution, the beginning, not the end, not even the middle. I do not wish to minimize the gains we have made thus far. But it would be well to recognize that we have been receiving concessions, not real changes. The sit-ins won concessions, not structural changes; the Freedom Rides won great concessions, but not real change."

The two brothers worked closely together on a wide variety of issues including the Cuban Missile Crisis, the struggle to get Civil Rights legislation passed by Congress and the Vietnam War. Kennedy also attempted to tackle organized crime but found working with J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, difficult.

After the assassination of John F. Kennedy, he worked briefly under Lyndon B. Johnson before resigning to begin his successful campaign to be elected to the Senate. As a New York senator, Kennedy was popular with young people and minority groups, but was distrusted by the business world.

On 3rd April, 1967, Martin Luther King. made a speech where he outlined the reasons why he was opposed to the Vietnam War. After he made this speech, the editor of The Nation, Carey McWilliams and the Socialist Party leader, Norman Thomas, urged King to run as a third-party presidential candidate in 1968.

William F. Pepper suggested that King should challenge Lyndon B. Johnson for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. King rejected this idea but instead joined with Pepper to establish the National Conference for New Politics (NCNP). “From this platform, Dr King planned to move into mainstream politics as a potential candidate on a presidential ticket with Dr Benjamin Spock in order to highlight the anti-poverty, anti-war agenda.”

In June, 1967, J. Edgar Hoover had a meeting with fellow gambler, close friend, and Texas oil billionaire, H. L. Hunt in Chicago. Hunt was very concerned that the activities of King might unseat Lyndon B. Johnson. This could be an expensive defeat as Johnson doing a good job protecting the oil depletion allowance. According to William Pepper: “ Hoover said he thought a final solution was necessary. Only that action would stop King.”

It was King’s opposition to the Vietnam War that really upset J. Edgar Hoover. According to Richard N. Goodwin, Hoover told Lyndon B. Johnson that “Bobby Kennedy was hiring or paying King off to stir up trouble over the Vietnam War.” It is true that Robert Kennedy, like King, was growing increasingly concerned about the situation in Vietnam. Johnson became convinced that Kennedy was leaking information to the press about his feelings on the war. At a meeting on 6 th February, 1967, Johnson told Robert Kennedy: “I’ll destroy you and everyone one of your dove friends. You’ll be dead politically in six months.”

The following month Kennedy made a speech where he raised the issue of morality and the Vietnam War: “Although the world’s imperfection may call forth the act of war, righteousness cannot obscure the agony and pain those acts bring to a single child. It is we who live in abundance and send our young men out to die. It is our chemicals that scorch the children and our bombs that level the villages. We are all participants.”

In an television interview later that year Kennedy again returned to the morality of the war: “We’re going in there and we’re killing South Vietnamese, we’re killing children, we’re killing women, we’re killing innocent people because we don’t want a war fought on American soil, or because (the Viet Cong are) 12,000 miles away and they might get 11,000 miles away. Do we have the right, here in the United States, to say we’re going to kill tens of thousands, make millions of people, as we have, millions of people refugees, killing women and children, as we have.”

On 19th February, 1968, Cesar Chavez, the trade union leader, began a hunger strike in protest against the violence being used against his members in California. Robert F. Kennedy went to the San Joaquin Valley to give Chavez his support and told waiting reporters: “I am here out of respect for one of the heroic figures of our time – Cesar Chavez. I congratulate all of you who are locked with Cesar in the struggle for justice for the farm worker and in the struggle for justice for Spanish-speaking Americans.”

Chavez was also a strong opponent of the Vietnam War. Kennedy had begun to link the campaign against the war with the plight of the disadvantaged. Martin Luther King was following a similar path with his involvement in the Poor People’s Campaign. As William F. Pepper has pointed out: “If the wealthy, powerful interests across the nation would find Dr King’s escalating activity against the war intolerable, his planned mobilization of half a million poor people with the intention of laying siege to Congress could only engender outrage - and fear.”

On 16 th March, 1968, Robert Kennedy announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States. “I do not run for the presidency merely to oppose any man but to propose new policies.” As Richard D. Mahoney points out in his book, Sons and Brothers: “If there was one reason why Bobby was running, it was to end America’s war in Vietnam…. Politically, however, this looked self-destructive. A substantial majority of Americans supported the president’s policy. The antiwar movement, though a significant new factor in American politics, was not yet a defining factor.” That was true, but that now had the potential to change. Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King joining forces against the Vietnam War posed serious problems for Lyndon Johnson.

This decision by Robert Kennedy to take on Lyndon B. Johnson caused Jackie Kennedy great concern. A few days after Kennedy announced his candidacy, Jackie said to Arthur Schlesinger at a dinner party in New York: “Do you know what I think will happen to Bobby?” When Schlesinger replied that he didn’t, she said: “The same thing that happened to Jack.”

It is the view of William W. Turner that Robert Kennedy intended to reopen the investigation into the death of his brother once he had been elected president: “Throughout the primary (in California), Bobby Kennedy was asked by audiences whether he would reopen the investigation of his brother’s death if elected. He hedged, saying he would not reopen the Warren Report, but remained silent on the question of whether he would take action on his own. RFK was a pragmatist, if anything, knowing that he had to control the Justice Department to launch a new probe.”

Kennedy was deeply shocked by the assassination of Martin Luther King. Later that day he spoke in Indianapolis about the killing. He referred to the assassination of John Kennedy. When that happened he was “filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act” but pleaded with the black community not to desire revenge but to “make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love.”

The assassination of King further radicalized Robert Kennedy. During a speech at the Indiana University Medical Center, one of the students called out: “Where are we going to get the money to pay for all these new programs you’re proposing?” Kennedy replied: “From you. I look around this room and I don’t see many black faces who will become doctors. Part of a civilized society is to let people go to medical school who come from ghettos. I don’t see many people coming here from the slums, or off of Indian reservations. You are the privileged ones here. It’s easy for you to sit back and say it’s the fault of the Federal Government. But it’s our responsibility too. It’s our society too… It’s the poor who carry the major burden of the struggle in Vietnam. You sit here as white medical students, while black people carry the burden of the fighting in Vietnam.”

The students reacted by hissing and booing Kennedy. His advisors warned him that if he was perceived as an extremist he would never win the election. However, Kennedy was no longer thinking like a politician trying to maximize his vote. Instead he was determined to say what he believed. Kennedy told Jack Newfield that he would probably not win the nomination but “somebody has to speak up for the Negroes and Indians and Mexicans and poor whites.” Despite this pessimism, Kennedy won the Indiana primary with 42% of the vote.

In an attempt to prevent Kennedy from being elected, J. Edgar Hoover leaked a report to Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson that when Kennedy was attorney general he had authorized the FBI to wiretap Martin Luther King. Despite this news, Kennedy continued to get the vote of the black community and his campaign went well in California.

However, rumours were already spreading that Kennedy would die during the campaign. The FBI had picked up reports of an overheard conversation between Jimmy Hoffa and a fellow prisoner in the Lewisburg penitentiary about a contract to kill Kennedy.

One of the more chilling stories appeared in American Journey. Jimmy Breslin asked several reporters around a table whether they thought Kennedy had “the stuff to go all the way”. One of the men at the meeting, John J. Lindsay replied: “Yes, of course, he has the stuff to go all the way, but he’s not going to go all the way. The reason is that somebody is going to shoot him. I know it and you know it, just as sure as we’re sitting here. He’s out there waiting for him.”

On 4th June, 1968, Harold Weisberg appeared on television in Washington where he discussed the possibility of Robert Kennedy being assassinated. Weisberg recalled a meeting with a Kennedy aide. Weisberg asked why Kennedy had supported the conclusions of the Warren Commission Report. He replied: “it is simple, Bobby wants to live.” Kennedy’s friend added that there were “too many guns between Bobby and the White House”. Weisberg asked who controlled these guns. The friend replied in such a way that Weisberg got the impression that he meant the CIA.

Robert Kennedy won the primary in California obtaining 46.3% (Eugene McCarthy received 41.8%). On hearing the result Kennedy went down to the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel to speak to his supporters. He commented on “the divisions, the violence, the disenchantment with our society; the divisions, whether it’s between blacks and whites, between the poor and the more affluent, or between age groups or on the war in Vietnam”. Kennedy claimed that the United States was “a great country, an unselfish country and a compassionate country” and that he had the ability to get people to work together to create a better society.

Robert Kennedy now began his journey to the Colonial Room where he was to hold a press conference. Someone suggested that Kennedy should take a short cut through the kitchen. Security guard Thane Eugene Cesar took hold of Kennedy’s right elbow to escort him through the room when Sirhan Sirhan opened fire. According to Los Angeles County coroner Thomas Noguchi, who performed the autopsy, all three bullets striking Kennedy entered from the rear, in a flight path from down to up, right to left. “Moreover, powder burns around the entry wound indicated that the fatal bullet was fired at less than one inch from the head and no more than two or three inches behind the right ear.”

An eyewitness, Donald Schulman, went on CBS News to say that Sirhan “stepped out and fired three times; the security guard hit Kennedy three times.” As Dan E. Moldea pointed out: “The autopsy showed that three bullets had struck Kennedy from the right rear side, traveling at upward angles – shots that Shiran was never in a position to fire.”

Kennedy had been shot at point-blank range from behind. Two shots entered his back and a third shot entered directly behind RFK’s right ear. None of the eyewitness claim that Sirhan Sirhan was able to fire his gun from close-range. One witness, Karl Uecker, who struggled with Shiran when he was firing his gun, provided a written statement in 1975 about what he saw: “There was a distance of at least one and one-half feet between the muzzle of Shiran’s gun and Senator Kennedy’s head. The revolver was directly in front of my nose. After Shiran’s second shot, I pushed the hand that held the revolver down, and pushed him onto the steam table. There is no way that the shots described in the autopsy could have come from Shiran’s gun. When I told this to the authorities, they told me that I was wrong. But I repeat now what I told them then: Shiran never got close enough for a point-blank shot.”

Chief of Detectives Robert Houghton asked Chief of Homicide Detectives Hugh Brown to take charge of the investigation into the death of Robert Kennedy. Code-named Special Unit Senator (SUS). Houghton told Brown to investigate the possibility that there was a link between this death and those of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

As William Turner has pointed out in The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy: "Houghton assertedly gave Brown free reign in electing the personnel for SUS - with one exception. He specifically designated Manny Pena, who was put in a position to control the daily flow and direction of the investigation. And his decision on all matters was final." Lieutenant Manuel Pena was an interesting appointment. In November 1967 Pena resigned from the LAPD to work for the Agency for International Development (AID). According to the San Fernando Valley Times: "As a public safety advisor, he will train and advise foreign police forces in investigative and administrative matters. Over the next year he worked with Daniel Mitrione in Latin and South America.

Charles A. O'Brien, California's Chief Deputy Attorney General, told William Turner that AID was being used as an "ultra-secret CIA unit" that was known to insiders as the "Department of Dirty Tricks" and that it was involved in teaching foreign intelligence agents the techniques of assassination.

FBI agent Roger LaJeunesse claimed that Manuel Pena had been carrying out CIA special assignments for at least ten years. This was confirmed by Pena's brother, a high school teacher, who told television journalist, Stan Bohrman, a similar story about his CIA activities. In April 1968 Pena surprisingly resigned from AID and returned to the LAPD.

According to Dan E. Moldea (The Killing of Robert F. Kennedy), Houghton told the SUS team working on the case: "We're not going to have another Dallas here. I want you to act as if there was a conspiracy until we can prove that there wasn't one."

Lieutenant Manuel Pena argued that Sirhan Sirhan was a lone gunman. Shiran’s lead attorney, Grant Cooper, went along with this theory. As he explained to William W. Turner, “a conspiracy defence would make his client look like a contract killer”. Cooper’s main strategy was to portray his client as a lone-gunman in an attempt to spare Sirhan the death penalty by proving “diminished capacity”. Sirhan was convicted and sentenced before William W. Harper, an independent ballistics expert, proved that the bullets removed from Kennedy and newsman William Weisel, were fired from two different guns.

After Harper published his report, Joseph P. Busch, the Los Angeles District Attorney, announced he would look into the matter. Thane Eugene Cesar was interviewed and he admitted he pulled a gun but insisted it was a Rohm .38, not a .22 (the caliber of the bullets found in Kennedy). He also claimed that he got knocked down after the first shot and did not get the opportunity to fire his gun. The LAPD decided to believe Cesar rather than Donald Schulman, Karl Uecker and William W. Harper and the case was closed.

Cesar admitted that he did own a .22 H & R pistol. However, he claimed that he had sold the gun before the assassination to a man named Jim Yoder. William W. Turner tracked down Yoder in October, 1972. He still had the receipt for the H & R pistol. It was dated 6 th September, 1968. Cesar therefore sold the pistol to Yoder three months after the assassination of Robert Kennedy.

Cesar had been employed by Ace Guard Service to protect Robert Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel. This was not his full-time job. During the day he worked at the Lockheed Aircraft plant in Burbank. According to Lisa Pease, Cesar had formerly worked at the Hughes Aircraft Corporation. Lockheed and Hughes were two key companies in the Military-Industrial-Congressional Intelligence Complex.

Thane Eugene Cesar was a Cuban American who had registered to vote for George Wallace’s American Independent Party. Jim Yoder claimed that Cesar appeared to have no specific job at Lockheed and had “floating” assignments and often worked in off-limits areas which only special personnel had access to. According to Yoder, these areas were under the control of the CIA.

Yoder also gave Turner and Christian details about the selling of the gun. Although he did not mention the assassination of Robert Kennedy he did say “something about going to the assistance of an officer and firing his gun.” He added that “there might be a little problem over that.”

Cesar was afraid that the assassination had been captured on film. It was. Scott Enyart, a high-school student, was taking photographs of Robert Kennedy as he was walking from the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel to the Colonial Room where the press conference was due to take place. Enyart was standing slightly behind Kennedy when the shooting began and snapped as fast as he could. As Enyart was leaving the pantry, two LAPD officers accosted him at gunpoint and seized his film. Later, he was told by Detective Dudley Varney that the photographs were needed as evidence in the Sirhan trial. The photographs were not presented as evidence but the court ordered that all evidential materials had to be sealed for twenty years.

In 1988 Scott Enyart requested that his photographs should be returned. At first the State Archives claimed they could not find them and that they must have been destroyed by mistake. Enyart filed a lawsuit which finally came to trial in 1996. During the trial the Los Angeles city attorney announced that the photos had been found in its Sacramento office and would be brought to the courthouse by the courier retained by the State Archives. The following day it was announced that the courier’s briefcase, that contained the photographs, had been stolen from the car he rented at the airport. The photographs have never been recovered and the jury subsequently awarded Scott Enyart $450,000 in damages.

One possible connection between the deaths of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy is that they were all involved in a campaign to bring an end to the Vietnam War. One man who does believe there is a connection is Edward Kennedy. NBC television correspondent Sander Vanocur, travelled with Edward Kennedy on the aircraft that brought back his Robert’s body to New York. Vanocur reported Kennedy as saying that “faceless men” (Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray and Sirhan Sirhan) had been charged with the killing of his brothers and Martin Luther King. Kennedy added: “Always faceless men with no apparent motive. There has to be more to it.”

Lieutenant Manuel Pena remained convinced that Sirhan Sirhan was a lone-gunman. He told Marilyn Barrett in an interview on 12th September, 1992: "Sirhan was a self-appointed assassin. He decided that Bobby Kennedy was no good, because he was helping the Jews. And he is going to kill him." He also added: "I did not come back (to the LAPD) as a sneak to be planted. The way they have written it, it sounds like I was brought back and put into the (Kennedy) case as a plant by the CIA, so that I could steer something around to a point where no one would discover a conspiracy. That's not so."

Robert F. Kennedy
Robert F. Kennedy

On this day in 1945 trials against Nazi war criminals start at Nuremberg. Several Nazi leaders such as Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels were dead while Martin Bormann and Heinrich Mueller had not been captured. The list of 23 defendants included Hermann Göring, Wilhelm Frick, Hans Frank, Rudolf Hess, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Alfred Rosenberg, Albert Speer, Julius Streicher, Alfred Jodl, Fritz Saukel, Robert Ley, Erich Raeder, Wilhelm Keitel, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Hjalmar Schacht, Karl Doenitz, Franz von Papen, Constantin von Neurath and Joachim von Ribbentrop.

Robert Ley and Hermann Goering both committed suicide during the trial. Michael R. Marrus the author of The Nuremberg War Crimes Trial 1945-46 (1997) has pointed out: "How much did the defendants know about the crimes against humanity, about the murders in the east, about the final solution, the concentration camps, or Auschwitz?" Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the head of the vast Main Office for Reich Security - the vast SS police apparatus - said he did not know of the final solution before 1943. "Immediately after receiving knowledge of this fact I fought, just as I had done previously, not only against the final solution, but also against this type of treatment of the Jewish problem.... I protested to Hitler and the next day to Himmler. I did not only draw their attention to my personal attitude and my completely different conception which I had brought over from Austria and to my humanitarian qualms, but immediately from the first day, I concluded practically every one of my situation reports right to the very end by saying that there was no hostile power that would negotiate with a Reich which had burdened itself with this guilt." Chiefly thanks to his intervention, Kaitenbrunner ventured, the persecution of Jews ended in October 1944.

Telford Taylor, prosecuting counsel, argued that: "In the sterilization experiments conducted by the defendants at Auschwitz, Ravensbrueck, and other concentration camps, the destructive nature of the Nazi medical program comes out most forcibly. The Nazis were searching for methods of extermination, both by murder and sterilization, of large population groups by the most scientific and least conspicuous means. They were developing a new branch of medical science which would give them the scientific tools for the planning and practice of genocide. The primary purpose was to discover an inexpensive, unobtrusive, and rapid method of sterilization which could be used to wipe out Russians, Poles, Jews, and other people. Surgical sterilization was thought to be too slow and expensive to be used on a mass scale. A method to bring about an unnoticed sterilization was thought desirable."

Hans Frank was one of the defendants who accepted his guilt in these war crimes. "Having lived through the five months of this trial, and particularly after having heard the testimony of, the witness Hoess, my conscience does not allow me to throw the responsibility solely on these minor people. I myself have never installed an extermination camp for Jews, or promoted the existence of such camps; but if Adolf Hitler personally has laid that dreadful responsibility on his people, then it is mine too, for we have fought against Jewry for years; and we have indulged in the most horrible utterances.... A thousand years will pass and still this guilt of Germany will not have been erased." However, Wilhelm Frick, refused to accept any responsibility for the crimes: "As far as the charge against me is concerned I have a clear conscience. My whole life was service to people and the Fatherland. By the fulfillment of my legal and moral duty I think I have earned punishment just as little as the tens of thousands of dutiful German officials who have now been imprisoned only because they carried out their duties."

David Low wrote: "Jodl wears a poker face and moves rarely.... The most pitiful figure in the company is Funk. With the earphones clamped like horns to the fat, sick face sagging into the small dumpy body, he is the perfect model for a gargoyle. In colour he is light green. The next most frightened, I should say, is Saukel. He Is the cartoonist's fat-necked, square-headed German, but on a small scale. His uneasiness is painful to see. To make up for him, at his elbow is Baldur von Schirach, the ex-pin-up boy of the Hitler Youth, still good-looking with his scornful, pitiless eye... One for the 'most perturbed person' prize is Schacht, who is worried to pieces, too, but in a more refined way... von Papen looks more than ever like the fox shifting his tiny close-set eyes about the room."

Low wrote down his thoughts about Joachim von Ribbentrop, Julius Streicher, Hans Frank and Karl Doenitz: "Ribbentrop, changed surprisingly into a meek person like a family solicitor, with disordered hair, pursed lips and large spectacles, fussing shakily with a sheaf of papers.... Streicher, the obscene Jew-baiter-no loathsome ape, but another little man with another nervous twitch. He has a trick of throwing his head right back and contemplating the ceiling with an air of preoccupation with Higher Things. In prison Streicher has grown a fluff of hair over his horrible baldness and this catching the light gives him a rind of halo.... Opinions might differ about the award for `nastiest person present', but I should choose unhesitatingly Frank, the butcher of Warsaw. He wears a fixed sneer and mutters... In a corner Doenitz sits impassive like a little acid drop."

Low found Göring a fascinating subject: "Göring turns out to be about 5 feet 8 inches, still fat despite weight lost in prison; jolly, you would say, until you noticed the cruel cut of his mouth; vital, with periods of rumination when the countenance is sicklied over with desperate worry. Göring stands out by a mile as the boss in this company. He is a restless prisoner, leaning this way and that, flapping his pudgy little hands about, patting his hair, stroking his mouth, massaging his cheeks, resting his chin sideways on the ledge of the dock. Goring is not permitted to make speeches, but he manages to get a good deal of expression across with facial action. Nods, shakes and eye play.... Hess, down to skin and bone, going bald, wild eyes set in deep-sunken cavities, he has a nervous twitch and jerky movements. If, as he now insists, he is not mad, he looks it."

Alfred Thoma, who defended Alfred Rosenberg argued that he did use terms such as the "extermination of Jewry." However, he added: "Exaggerated expressions were always part of the National Socialist weapons of propaganda. A Hitler speech was hardly imaginable without insults to his internal or external political opponents, or without threats of extermination. Every one of Hitler's speeches was echoed a million times by Goebbels down to the last speaker of the Party in a small country inn. The same sentences and words which Hitler had used were repeated, and not only in all the political speeches, but in the German press as well, in all the editorials and essays, until, weeks or months later, a new speech was given which brought about a new echo of a similar kind. Rosenberg was no exception. He repeated, as everyone did... Apparently, like Hitler's other supporters, he gave as much or as little thought to the fact that in reality none of those phrases were clear but that they had a sinister double meaning and, while they might have meant real expulsion, they might also have implied the physical annihilation and murder of the Jews."

Wilhelm Frick, Hans Frank, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Walther Funk, Fritz Saukel, Alfred Rosenberg, Julius Streicher, Alfred Jodl, Wilhelm Keitel, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Karl Brandt, Viktor Brack and Joachim von Ribbentrop were found guilty and executed on 16th October, 1946. Rudolf Hess, Erich Raeder, were sentenced to life imprisonment and Albert Speer to 25 years. Karl Doenitz , Walther Funk, Franz von Papen, Alfried Krupp, Friedrich Flick and Constantin von Neurath were also found guilty and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. At other war crime trials Josef Kramer and Irma Grese were also executed.

The historian, Ulf Schmidt, has pointed out: "Speer was personally involved in the Holocaust, that his ministry provided the building materials for an extension of Auschwitz, that he made a substantial fortune with Aryanized property, denounced uncooperative competitors, initiated the construction of concentration camps, and supported the draconian measures used against forced and slave labourers in some of Germany's most horrific underground production facilities. If only a part of this had been known during the International Military Tribunal in 1945, which preceded the trial against Karl Brandt and others, Speer would probably have been sentenced to death. The fact that most of it was unknown at the time gave Speer the possibility of creating his own carefully constructed, but also greatly biased, post-war narrative of himself and the regime, a convenient and plausible story, which scholars and journalists either took for granted or were unable to refute."

In January, 1951, John McCloy, the US High Commissioner for Germany, announced that Alfried Krupp and eight members of his board of directors who had been convicted with him, were to be released. Krupt had been convicted of plundering occupied territories and being responsible for the barbaric treatment of prisoners of war and concentration camp inmates. Documents showed that Krupp initiated the request for slave labour and signed detailed contracts with the SS, giving them responsibility for inflicting punishment on the workers. His property, valued at around 45 million, and his numerous companies were also restored to him.

Others that McCloy decided to free included Friedrich Flick, one of the main financial supporters of Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). During the Second World War Flick became extremely wealthy by using 48,000 slave labourers from SS concentration camps in his various industrial enterprises. It is estimated that 80 per cent of these workers died as a result of the way they were treated during the war. His property was restored to him and like Krupp became one of the richest men in Germany.

Others serving life-imprisonment at Spandau Prison were also released: Erich Raeder (1955), Karl Doenitz (1956), Friedrich Flick (1957) and Albert Speer (1966). However, the Soviet Union and Britain refused to release Rudolf Hess.

Nuremberg War Trial
Nuremberg War Trial

On this day in 1963 Rose Cheramie was found unconsciousness by the side of the road at Eunice, Louisiana. Lieutenant Francis Frugé of the Louisiana State Police took her to the state hospital. On the journey Cheramie said that she had been thrown out of a car by two gangsters who worked for Jack Ruby. She claimed that the men were involved in a plot to kill John F. Kennedy. Cheramie added that Kennedy would be killed in Dallas within a few days. Later she told the same story to doctors and nurses who treated her. As she appeared to be under the influence of drugs her story was ignored.

Following the assassination of Kennedy, Cheramie was interviewed by the police. She claimed that Lee Harvey Oswald had visited Ruby's night club. In fact, she believed the two men were having a homosexual relationship.

Rose Cheramie was found dead on 4th September, 1965. At first it appeared she had been involved in a road accident. Later it was argued that she had been shot in the head before being run over by by a car in order to disguise the original wound. However, the Louisiana State Police Memo reported: "Cheramie died of injuries received from an automobile accident on a strip of highway near Big Sandy, Texas, in the early morning of September 4, 1965. The driver stated Cheramie had been lying in the roadway and although he attempted to avoid hitting her, he ran over the top of her skull, causing fatal injuries. An investigation into the accident and the possibility of a relationship between the victim and the driver produced no evidence of foul play. The case was closed."

Rose Cheramie
Rose Cheramie