A Michigan Eyewitness to the Nuremberg Trials

Categories: Blog, Reading Room

By: HMC Editorial Staff –

Sadie Ruth Tryon

The HMC Library Archives include a multitude of interesting and unique collections. One of those is the papers of Ruth Tryon, secretary to Chief Justice Robert H. Jackson and a court reporter at the International Military Tribunal trials in Nuremberg. The Nuremberg Trials saw leading Nazis indicted on charges of crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Ms. Tryon, whose children generously donated her photos, documents and personal notes to us, lived in Clio, Michigan. Her papers give us an inside look at the International Military Tribunal from the viewpoint of a participant in the most important trials of the 20th Century.

In the mid-1940s, fun-loving Ruth Tryon became bored with her work at A.C. Spark Plug and decided to apply for overseas service. She had no legal experience but said that she did. She passed the test, and was shipped to Nuremberg, where she was housed with 23 other women. She ate in a mess hall, escorted by a guard for security purposes. U.S. civilians were always worried that they would be poisoned, so it was common practice to eat only American prepared food, under American supervision. Once, she disguised herself to go with her friends to a local beer garden, as Americans were not welcomed in Germany. On numerous other occasions, she went on excursions all over war-torn Europe.

Ms. Tryon worked diligently during the day in the half blown up court house in Nuremberg and then typed her notes at night, often until 2 a.m. She told her children she took notes when Hermann Goering and the other defendants spoke.

Left: Detail from an article about the Nuremberg Trials from Tryon’s collection. Right: The English translation of Adolf Hitler’s “My Private Will and Testament”, typed by Ruth Tryon.

She called the defendants “arrogant” and “lacking humanity” and she felt that they thought they had “done nothing wrong.” She saw trainloads of incriminating evidence brought to the courthouse that did not allow the defendants to deny the allegations made against them because they, themselves, had signed the documents and orders. Even though she did not like to talk about her experiences in Nuremberg, she requested that her children “make sure that people know that this really happened.”

Her son, John Bond, says of her time when she returned to Michigan, “Most people in their community had no idea of what she had seen or where she had been. She was ‘just a housewife’ raising four children in Clio.”

This article is from the Summer 2014 Newsletter from the Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus.