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Courtroom portrait of Hermann Göring listening on headphones created during the Trial of German Major War Criminals at Nuremberg

Object | Accession Number: 2003.435.7 a-b

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    Courtroom portrait of Hermann Göring listening on headphones created during the Trial of German Major War Criminals at Nuremberg


    Brief Narrative
    Portrait of Field Marshall Hermann Göring (Goering) created by 24 year-old Edward Vebell, illustrator and US soldier, from the press gallery during the first months of the 1945 Trial of German Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany. Ed sat in the gallery for three days and used field glasses to capture the details of the defendant's faces. He had no water, so he had to use spit to create the halftones that add detail and nuance. Ed did 90% of his drawing in the courtroom, seeking to bring intimacy to the historical proceedings. The sketches were published in the US Army newspaper Stars and Stripes on December 9, 1945. The Waterman fountain pen he used for the drawings is record 2005.426.1. Ed was drafted into the US Army in 1942, and was the first staff illustrator for Stars and Stripes. His other assignments included combat zones in Italy and France. Soon after the defeat of Nazi Germany on May 7 in western Europe and May 9, 1945, in eastern Europe, the Allies: Great Britain, France, Soviet Union, and the United States convened an International Military Tribunal (IMT) at Nuremberg, Germany. Its purpose was to seek justice for crimes against humanity, evidenced by the Holocaust, perpetrated by Nazi Germany. In October 1945, the IMT formally indicted the Nuremberg defendants on four counts: crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and conspiracy to commit these crimes. The verdicts were delivered on October 1, 1946. Twelve defendants were sentenced to death; three to life imprisonment; four to prison terms ranging from 10-20 years; three were acquitted.
    Artwork Title
    Field Marshal Goering, Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, 1945
    creation:  after 1945 November 20-before 1945 December 09
    publication/distribution:  1945 December 09
    creation: courtroom, Trial of German Major War Criminals; Nuremberg (Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Sheila C. Johnson
    Artist: Edward Vebell
    Subject: Edward Vebell
    Subject: Hermann W. Göring
    Edward (Ed) Joseph Vebell was born on May 25, 1921, in Chicago, Illinois, to Joseph and Helen Rubeckas Vebell. His father was born in 1888 in Pasvitinys, Lithuania. His mother was born in 1897, also so Lithuania. He had two sisters. Edward’s talent for drawing was recognized at an early age and, as a teenager, he attended the Harrison Art School. By the age of eighteen, he was working as an illustrator. On graduating high school, he won scholarships to 3 art schools in Chicago, and he later studied in Paris, France. In December 1941, when the United States entered World War II, Edward was working as a commercial artist in Chicago, creating illustrations for the catalog companies Sears and Montgomery Ward.

    Edward was drafted into the US Army on October 24, 1942. He was deployed to Casablanca in North Africa with the 904 Camouflage Engineers, where he painted desert camouflage on Army equipment. In February 1943, the Army newspaper Stars and Stripes opened an office in Algiers. Edward was transferred there as the first staff illustrator. A few months later, the paper added Stan Meltzoff and Bill Mauldin. Edward worked as a combat artist and correspondent and beginning in late 1943/1944, also did illustrations for Yank, a magazine published by and for enlisted men. Edward learned to capture the battles in ink and pencil on the job: “To be a good combat artist, you have to stand up and face in the enemy's direction. You can't do that for very long, or you'll be dead.” He was influenced by photography, but felt that drawing allowed him to impart a searching personal quality to the image. His assignments included frontline sketching in Italy for six months during the spring 1944 Monte Cassino campaign, with French troops in the Alps, and with French resistance fighters in the Pyrenees. He was sketching Russian forces a few days after the May 2, 1945, fall of Berlin. Germany surrendered on May 7. Edward then was based in Paris where he began doing freelance work for several French publications.

    On December 17, 1942, the leaders of the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union had issued a joint declaration resolving to prosecute those responsible for the mass murder of European Jewry. Six and a half months after the war ended, the Trial of German Major War Criminals before the International Military tribunal opened in Nuremberg on November 20, 1945. Edward was assigned by Stars and Stripes to create courtroom sketches at the trial. For three days, he sat in the press gallery and used binoculars to focus on the faces of the defendants, including Rudolf Hess and Hermann Goering. The field glasses reversed the images, which was an annoyance, but bearable for the detail they provided. Edward sketched directly in fountain pen, from right to left, using a moistened thumb to create tonal values. He did 90% of his drawing in the courtroom, seeking to bring intimacy to the historical proceedings. Ten drawing were published in the December 9, 1945, European issue of Stars and Stripes, his last assignment.
    After his discharge from the military in late 1945, Edward established a commercial studio in Paris. He returned to the US in 1947 and continued his career as a commercial artist. His illustrations have appeared in books and periodicals, and clients have included Reader’s Digest, Life, Time, and Sports Illustrated. Edward also created murals for the National Park Service and sixteen stamps for the US Postal Service. He was especially sought after for his historical works, with their knowledgeable attention to detail and accuracy. Vebell also had an exceptional competitive fencing career. He was an international champion and member of the 1952 US Olympic team, and was named to the US Fencing Hall of Fame in 2014. He was married for nearly sixty years to Elsa Cerra (1926-2004), with whom he settled in Westport, Ct., and had three daughters.
    Hermann Wilhelm Göring (1893-1946) was born in Rosenheim, Germany, to Heinrich Ernst (1839-1913) and Franziska (Fanny) Tiefenbrunn (1859-1923). He had three siblings, Karl Ernst, Albert, and Olga and one half-sister, Paula, from his father’s first marriage. Göring’s father Heinrich was born to an upper-class family. Heinrich was a judge and the first Governor-General of the German protectorate of South West Africa, as well as a cavalry officer. Göring’s mother, Fanny, was born to a Bavarian peasant family. Göring attended a military academy from 1905 to 1911. He was a fighter pilot in World War I (1914-1918), and was awarded the Pour Le Merite and Iron Cross, First Class. In 1921, he began studying history and political science at a university in Munich. In February 1922, Göring married Swedish Baroness Carin von Fock-Kantzow (1888-1931).

    Göring met Adolf Hitler at a Nazi party rally in November 1922, and joined the Nazi Party. In December, Hitler appointed Göring to command the Sturmabteilung (SA) Brownshirts, the party's paramilitary wing. On November 9, 1923, Göring marched with Hitler during the Beer Hall Putsch, an attempted coup against the Weimar government. Göring was severely wounded in the hip and fled with his wife to Italy, where he developed a morphine addiction while recovering from his wounds. In 1927, Göring returned to Germany after the government declared amnesty for political refugees. In 1928, Göring was elected to the Reichstag (German parliament). Göring’s wife died in October 1931, after suffering from epilepsy and tuberculosis. After the Nazi party won 230 seats in July 1932, Göring became president of the Reichstag. Göring was Hitler’s adviser and political deputy, and he was instrumental in establishing the Nazi dictatorship. On January 30, 1933, Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany. Göring was given several major positions: Minister of the Interior of Prussia, Commander-in-Chief of the Prussian police and Gestapo, and Commissioner for Aviation. Along with Himmler and Heydrich, Göring set up the early concentration camps for political opponents. In March 1935, Göring became Commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe (German Air Force). On April 10, Göring married Emmy Sonnermann, a theater actress. In 1936, he was appointed Commissar for Raw Materials and Foreign Currency and Commissioner of the Four Year Plan, an economic plan with the goal of preparing the country for war. He had almost complete control over the German economy. He created the state-owned Hermann Göring Works in 1937, and amassed a large fortune. On June 2, 1938, Göring’s daughter Edda was born. Göring was integral in removing Jews from the German economy. Following the Kristallnacht pogrom on November 9 and 10, 1938, Göring fined the German Jewish community one billion marks. On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Göring was closely involved in overall military planning and directed the successful Luftwaffe campaign. On May 10, 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands, Belgium, and France, and Göring directed the Luftwaffe campaign. On July 19, Hitler named Göring his formal successor and promoted him to Reich Marshall of the Greater German Reich, the highest military rank in Germany. On July 31, 1941, Göring ordered Security Police chief Reinhard Heydrich to organize and coordinate a “final solution to the Jewish question.” Göring had an enormous art collection at his estate that included art looted from museums and Jewish collectors before and during the war.

    Göring lost Hitler’s favor with every failure of the Luftwaffe. Hitler blamed Göring personally when the Luftwaffe failed to subdue the Soviet Air Force and adequately defend Germany from Allied attacks. On April 23, 1945, Hitler was cut off in Berlin when Soviet forces surrounded the city. Göring sent a telegram to Hitler, requesting authorization to take over as Hitler’s successor. Hitler declared Göring a traitor, stripped him of his positions, and ordered his arrest. On May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered to the Allies. Göring was arrested by American troops southeast of Salzburg, Austria.

    In August 1945, Göring was brought to Nuremberg, Germany, to be tried in the International Military Tribunal (IMT). The IMT was convened by eighteen Allied Nations and conducted by the four major powers, the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. The first trial, the Major German War Criminals Trial began on November 20. Göring was the highest-ranking Nazi official tried at Nuremberg. The 22 defendants were charged with crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and conspiracy to commit these crimes, as evidenced by the Holocaust. The verdicts were delivered on October 1, 1946. Twelve defendants, including Göring, were sentenced to death by hanging. On October 15, the night before his scheduled execution, Göring committed suicide by cyanide in his prison cell.

    Physical Details

    Object Type
    Courtroom art (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Black ink portrait drawing on offwhite paper depicting a man, Herman Goering, in left profile, seated in the corner of a booth. He looks straight ahead and appears lost in thought, with folds and wrinkles in his cheeks and forehead. He wears headphones over his slicked back hair and a buttoned, double breasted, collared jacket. His right elbow is raised and rests upon the top edge of the box; his left elbow is bent and he hold papers in his hand. There are papers on a flat surface in front of him. The artist's name, the date, and an inscription are in the lower right.
    overall: Height: 14.000 inches (35.56 cm) | Width: 18.000 inches (45.72 cm)
    pictorial area: Height: 7.000 inches (17.78 cm) | Width: 8.250 inches (20.955 cm)
    overall : wove paper, ink
    front, bottom right, cursive, black ink : Field Marshal / Goering - / Vebell '45

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The drawing was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2003 by Sheila C. Johnson.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2022-09-09 11:30:17
    This page:

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