Richard W. Sonnenfeldt
Richard Sonnenfeldt will talk about his life and the Nuremberg Trials on April 22, Sunday, in connection with Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom Hashoah, at the Knickerbocker Yacht Club (KYC) starting at 2:30 p.m.
Recently, Sonnenfeldt was interviewed by a New York Times columnist who wrote a feature article that appeared March 14.
His memoir, Witness to Nuremberg, was published in the fall of 2006. A previous book about his life became a best seller in Germany in 2003. This book was an outgrowth of questions from his many grandchildren and of his lectures in 2002-2003 to Germans when he revisited the country where he lived the first 15 years of his life. Young people, particularly, wanted to know about the Nazi leaders, how they became so powerful and how the Holocaust was organized. Sonnenfeldt's experiences were featured in numerous documentaries in Germany and the U.S., and covered by the Baltimore Sun, NBC Nightly News, ABC National Radio, C-Span and an interview by Leonard Lopate on NPR. Three years ago he spoke at the Port Jewish Center and in January at the Port Public Library.
So what stories will Richard Sonnenfeldt relate to his audience at the Knickerbocker Yacht Club? His most unique experience was as chief interpreter and interrogator for the prosecution at the original Nuremberg trials when he became familiar with all of the defendants and principal witnesses. He is a primary source of information about the leaders of Nazi Germany. Many of his stories describe encounters with Hermann Goring, Hitler's second in command; Albert Speer, the architect who ran Germany's war production operation; Joachim von Ribbentrop, the onetime Champagne salesman who became Hitler's foreign minister; Julius Streicher, publisher of the fanatically anti-semitic Nazi newspaper DER STURMER and others.
Sonnenfeldt quotes Goring in his book: "The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and for exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country." Sonnenfeldt discovered that Hans Frank, the Nazis' chief legal officer, said in 1934, "Previously, when we had to make a legal decision, we had to ask, what does the law say we should do? Now we only ask, what would the Fuhrer want us to do, and we decide accordingly."
Sonnenfeldt will also talk about growing up in Nazi Germany, going to school in England, how he was deported as an enemy alien to Australia and India, his arriving in the U.S. in 1941, and his experience as a combat soldier in Europe.
Judy Hirschmann, who invited him to speak at KYC said, "Richard has led an extraordinary life and has spoken before at the club where he is a longtime member." In more recent years he has sailed across the Atlantic three times aboard the Peregrine, his 45-foot sloop. Other seafaring adventures occurred in the Baltic, Pacific, Mediterranean, Caribbean and the South Seas.
The public is cordially invited to attend. Call KYC at 883-7655 if you have any questions or if you are thinking of making a reservation.