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Valley City woman was Nuremberg trial lawyer

Harriet (Zetterberg) Margolies from Valley City was an attorney for the War Crimes Commission in 1945. Special to The Forum1 / 2
Bob Lind, Neighbors columnist2 / 2

A woman from Valley City, N.D., was a lawyer at one of the most significant trials of all time: the Nuremberg trial, in which top German Nazis were tried after World War II.

She was Harriet (Zetterberg) Margolies, whose story was sent to Neighbors by Allison Veselka, Valley City, of the Barnes County Museum.

"Harriet was a remarkable and incredibly smart woman," Allison writes."To be a woman in the legal profession was uncommon in those days."

Harriet and her husband Dan Margolies were members of the War Crimes Commission. As such, they weren't supposed to fraternize with one another, but they didn't follow the rules; they were married in England in 1944.

As an attorney for the commission, Harriet was to assemble data from the diary, speeches and other records of Hans Frank, Hitler's personal lawyer who became governor of a part of Poland, to support the prosecution's guilt charges.

In January 1945, Harriet wrote her mother, Mary Zetterberg, of her experiences at the trial.

Frank, she wrote, "was a pretty frightful character. I've been stringing together passages from the diary to prove that he advocated and supported all the criminal policies of his administration. You might say he dug his own grave with his fountain pen. "

Harriet told of the first days she sat at the prosecution's table, giving her a good view of the proceedings.

"The defendants are beginning to look quite haggard," she wrote her mother; "Even (German Gen. Hermann Göring) shows signs of wear and tear; not at all the cheerful cherub he was when I watched him (being interrogated) six weeks ago.

"(Rudolf) Hess is thin and nervous, with a greenish pallor.

"They are all a thorough contrast to the pictures that were shown yesterday of the Nazi hierarchy at the height of its power.

"Nuremberg (the city in Germany where the trials were held) is getting colder and colder. I'm wearing my trench coat to keep warm while I wait for Dan to finish up some work he's doing on the concentration camp brief. I bought a pair of combat boots at the quartermaster stores.

"Travel is very difficult, since all the facilities are pretty much broken down and plane travel out of Nuremberg is sketchy. The ruins get a bit depressing.

"If you have any extra clothing you don't need." Harriet wrote her mom, "you might bundle them up and send them over to me. The concentration camp victims who are all filtering back into Nuremberg have simply nothing in the world, and we are all doing what we can to get warm clothes together for them."

In conclusion, Harriet wrote her mother that "it makes me feel inadequate trying to put something of Hans Frank's crimes into record; it's too vast ever to condense into a trial brief.

"In fact, what is said in Nuremberg can only be illustrative. The terror and tragedy of Nazi oppression is beyond imagination and certainly beyond the powers of anyone here to adequately describe."

Frank was found guilty and was executed.

Harriet died in the 1980s.

3-lettered towns' names

Neighbors once carried a note from a man who had noticed that North Dakota has six towns with names containing just three letters.

That brought a note from Tom Hintgen, Fergus Falls, Minn., who had connections with two of those towns: Zap and Max.

Tom's Zap connection came via the New York Times.

In May of 1969, Tom, who then was a student at Minnesota State University Moorhead, attended the wedding of his sister Mary in Baltimore. It occurred on the same weekend that a bunch of college students descended on Zap in a hoopla that was known as the Zip to Zap.

When he returned to his dorm room, he had something special to show other guys there: a copy of the Times on the front page of which was a photo of the mayor of Zap with a T-shirt reading "Zap, N.D., or bust."

And Max? Well, Tom wound up working for the Otter Tail Power Co. in that town.

And in case you're wondering, the other four North Dakota towns with three letters in their names are Ayr, Jud, Ray and Orr.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 241-5487 or email blind@forumcomm.com.

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