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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tales from Spandau by Norman J.W. Goda

30. - 543.) Tales from Spandau by Norman J.W. Goda – Michael supplied me with this history of Spandau. I was surprised at how little preparation had gone on prior to the sentencing at Nuremburg with regard to a prison for Nazi war criminals not being executed. Once there were 7 prisoners the four powers – U.S.A., Great Britain, France and the U.S.S.R. - scrambled to find a prison. Spandau was the best of poor alternatives and became one of the Four-Power agreements. Guards and soldiers and governance were rotated. It was incredible how much time was spent in petty arguments over the prisoners’ routine, food, privileges and visiting rights. The Soviets consistently sought harsher punishment. Inevitably, sympathetic warders relaxed the rules. There was massive angst over how to deal with the bodies of deceased prisoners. The most interesting part of the book involved the efforts to free the prisoners before the expiry of their terms. Every prisoner sought clemency. Several lawyers and advocates did not aid their clients when they continually challenged the validity of the Nuremburg trials and punishments. Family members devotedly sought out sympathetic ears in German and foreign governments. Initially, the Soviets had no sympathy. When it became clear prisoners such as Van Neureth and Raeder were likely to die in prison the Soviets agreed to releases to avoid the risk of Spandau becoming a shrine for the far right.
            Albert Speer had the most concentrated set of appeals. Several lawyers were employed. Former colleagues and business connections provided substantial sums. His daughter, Hilde, was enlisted as the family advocate. Goda calls Speer a liar. In his memoirs Speer presents himself as indifferent to efforts to free him. The book establishes he was deeply and continually involved in the unsuccessful succession of petitions and appeals. Speer comes across as a master amoral manipulator.
            Curiously, there was never a co-ordinated effort by the families and advocates on behalf of the prisoners. Each prisoner had his own supporters. None seem to have realized a co-ordinated effort was likely to be more successful.
            The West German government is often ambivalent about the Spandau prisoners. Occasionally efforts are made to gain their freedom but there is never a sustained campaign.
            Even after Rudolph Hess is the sole prisoner Spandau endures. Despite the massive cost of maintaining the facility, borne by West German Berlin, there is no way to close the prison. No one wants to end one of the few enduring quadripartite agreements. Neither the Western powers nor the Soviets are willing to see Hess go into a prison that does not have shared control. More important the Allies want to preserve Four-Power agreements that justify the existence of West Berlin. Once it is agreed he will not be cremated Hess is doomed to die in Spandau. The Soviets have lost the one fear that could have persuaded them to agree to his release. He will not be a martyr. Finally Hess, at 93, abandons hope and kills himself.
            The book provoked thoughts on what will become of those convicted in the ICCJ. Who will be their jailers? How will illness, death and clemency be handled? Are we bound for an international prison? Spandau would suggest it is a very difficult arrangement. Those convicted of war crimes inevitably become political prisoners. It is easier to understand Churchill’s position that the top leadership of the Nazis should have been quietly and summarily executed after World War II. That Spandau existed gives hope there is an alternative to such brutal solutions of war time justice. (July --/10)

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