Claude Pepper in Nuremberg

The Florida State University Digital Library currently contains over 7,500 photographs from Claude Pepper’s life and career in public service. At the Claude Pepper Library we are regularly making more images available and each new batch provides a glimpse into history through Pepper’s eyes.

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Claude Pepper attending a press conference before the trial (November 13, 1945)

Claude Pepper witnessed the build-up to, and aftermath of, World War II while travelling through Europe in 1938 and 1945. The stark differences he encountered are demonstrated in the photographs from his parallel visits to Nuremberg, Germany. In 1938, Pepper made a short detour in his trip to see the 10th Party Congress of the Nazis, the last of what is now called the Nuremberg Rallies. He returned to Nuremberg in the fall of 1945 to watch the preparations for international tribunal, meet with the American and British prosecutors, and attend the opening days of the trial.

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The parade grounds at the 1938 Nuremberg Rally

Claude Pepper, along with his wife Mildred, took a long trip through Europe during August and September of 1938. They were not merely tourists, but met with political leaders and participated in Inter-parliamentary Union events while touring England, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. The Peppers paid close attention to the military buildup and preparations for war they saw as they traveled through each nation. Simultaneously, the Senator watched with optimism as the major powers attempted to negotiate for peace and placed his hope in the most recent agreement between England and Germany.

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Crowd saluting Nazi officials at the 1938 Nuremberg Rally

Once in Germany, Pepper determined to attend the Party Congress in Nuremberg on September 7 and 8. He watched the precision marching of troops as well as thousands of “labor boys and girls” in front of the podium where Hitler and Deputy Chancellor Hess gave their speeches. From his place in the stands, facing the crowd, Pepper was able to feel the effect of this “display of mass movement and mass emotion”. (Claude Pepper Diary, 09-07-1938) Pepper would encounter these party leaders again in Nuremberg seven years later when he attended their trials on war crimes charges.

Within months of the end of World War II, Claude Pepper planned a wide-ranging tour of Europe and the Middle East. He arrived in England in August 1945 and traveled through nations including Germany, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Italy, Austria, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia before returning home in mid-December. Pepper dedicated two weeks, from November 9 to 23, to his stay in Nuremberg.

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Justice Robert H. Jackson giving his opening address (November 20, 1945)

As a senator, he was given access to observe final arrangements for the trial, hear the prosecution’s evidence, and record of his impressions of the accused. He attended an interrogation of former Deputy Hess, now “thin and…peculiar”, whom he had last heard speak in 1938. (Claude Pepper Diary, 11-15-1945) Pepper spent considerable time with the chief prosecutor for the United States, Justice Robert H. Jackson, and was in the court room for his powerful speech on the second day of the trial. These events allowed Pepper to reflect on his memories of Germany in 1938. After viewing evidence from concentration camps and footage of the Nuremberg Rallies, he asked in his diary “Why couldn’t we all see it?” (Claude Pepper Diary, 11-13-1945)

More images of Nuremberg and other destinations from Claude Pepper’s trips through Europe are available at the Florida State University Digital Library. Documents from these tours as well as diary transcripts can be found at the Claude Pepper Library.

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