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Remember Nuremberg Prosecutor Robert Jackson

By Nancy Bargar

Jamestown, NY – Country lawyer Robert H. Jackson's hometown was Jamestown. He passed the bar without having gone to college. He rose to become a Supreme Court Justice and made his mark on the world as Chief American Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials. Just over a year ago a center for justice was founded in Jamestown in his memory.

Many Chautauqua County locals were connected with Bob Jackson, through his love of the law or his passion: horseback riding. But it is only recently that people who knew him at Nuremberg in 1945 and 1946 are coming to Jamestown to share their recollections. Their numbers are diminishing. Their stories are haunting. Their voices are central to developing an institution that just over a year ago did not exist. Leaders of the Robert H. Jackson Center started it to be a place that encourages the advancement of his ideas on international justice as they apply to conditions in today’s world.

One of Jackson’s colleagues was fellow prosecutor 82-year-old Henry King. He remembers the work they did to bring the Nazis to justice.

"The Nazis convicted themselves at Nuremberg," King said. "Jackson wanted the whole trial to be documentary rather than to be witnesses because he said you could attack the credibility of witnesses…documents speak for themselves…The Nazis were the greatest document keepers in history."

The pace of scheduled events at the Center indicates the urgency in recording their recollections. The stepped up and recent curiosity after many of their reflections lay dormant for years is overwhelming, yet welcome attention. The priority now is to record these recollections.

More than a history museum, the Center is already a site for advocacy. King criticized America for not signing the treaty to have an international court for war crimes.

"I don’t think the U.S. can go unilateral indefinitely," King said.

Nuremberg photographer Ray D’Addario, a pioneer in the use of color film, presented the Center with 20 of the photos he exhibited during a recent visit to the Center. Professor King is so impressed with the young Center’s efforts that he has decided to donate his papers to its permanent collection. “Tithing a bit for society,” he calls it.

"We must remember his legacy is the rule of law," King continued. "Now we had a rule of law domestically. But we needed a rule of law internationally and he added a new dimension to human rights, an international dimension so everybody in the world has certain human rights. Nobody ever did that before.”

Jackson Scholar John Barrett is writing a book on Jackson. He weighed in on Jackson’s influence as well during a recent visit to Jamstown.

"Law and global justice, the ideals that Robert Jackson stood for, are not things that this country can sit out," Barrett said. "They may not be perfect processes that are going forward but we should be in there arguing, participating, contributing, and shaping, which is what he did with his life."

The Jackson Center hosts assemblies. It continues searching for funds to completely renovate the tired Scottish Rite Consistory it occupies in Jamestown’s downtown. It books as many figures as it can find or can find it to document the first war crimes court and its meaning for future generations.