The Nuremberg Trials:  Newspaper Accounts

Sunday, June 27, 1999

Original text of Nuremberg Laws to be exhibited for first time

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- To the surprise of Jewish scholars and theologians, a small California library announced it possesses the original text of the Nuremberg Laws, the decrees signed by Adolf Hitler that made discrimination against Jews part of Germany's national policy.

The documents, which have been tucked away for more than 50 years inside a vault at Huntington Library in suburban San Marino, will go on display indefinitely beginning Tuesday at the Skirball Cultural Center, a Jewish cultural museum, Skirball president Uri Herscher said Saturday.

"I was surprised to learn that they were there, but I was looking forward, with some trepidation, to seeing the documents," said Herscher, who lost 18 members of his family in the Holocaust.

"The original documents were meant to be the blueprint of the extermination of the Jewish people," he said. "But it signifies that Hitler's Final Solution was not the final word."

The Nuremberg Laws, signed by Adolf Hitler on Sept. 15, 1935 "for the safeguard of German blood of German honor," prohibited relations, marriage and cohabitation between "Aryans" and Jews. They also defined citizenship in the German Reich and mandated loyalty to the Nazi flag.

The text, wrapped in brown paper and sealed with swastikas stamped in red wax, has been hidden inside a vault since 1945, when Army Gen. George S. Patton Jr. presented the artifacts to the chairman of the library's board of trustees.

Scholars were pleased that the documents will be displayed, but they questioned the delay of the disclosure.

"As to its being concealed for more than 50 years, I think we're going to have to find out what was going on," Jewish theologian Michael Berenbaum said. "I think we'll find it was a case of nobody really gave a damn."

Robert Skotheim, president of the Huntington Library, said he was told about the documents when he took the position 11 years ago.

Skotheim said he chose to keep them locked away because German history is irrelevant to the library, which showcases British and American art and antiques at the one-time estate of railroad magnate Henry E. Huntington.

"They don't have anything to do with the kind of research that goes on here," he said.

Army Maj. Gen. J.A. Van Fleet, whose troops had seized the papers in the closing days of World War II in 1945, gave the documents to Patton after his men found them in a vault during a siege of Eichstadt, near Nuremberg.

Patton, who was born and raised in nearby Pasadena, was a friend and next-door neighbor of Huntington.

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