SUNY Fredonia President Virginia Horvath presents an inscribed copy of “The Case Against the Nazi War Criminals,” to President & CEO James Johnson of the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown. The two met at Reed Library's Archives and Special Collections, where the original signed copy was discovered.
A first edition of “The Case Against the Nazi War Criminals,” written more than a half-century ago by Robert H. Jackson, lead prosecutor in the historic, post-World War II Nuremberg Trials, was recently donated by SUNY Fredonia to the Robert H. Jackson Center. The book included an inscription by the author.
Jackson Center president and CEO James C. Johnson accepted the book from SUNY Fredonia President Virginia Horvath at a brief ceremony held Oct. 25 at Reed Library’s Archives and Special Collections. Mr. Johnson also presented a first edition of the last book Jackson wrote, “That Man: An Insider’s Portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt,” which wasn’t published until 2003, to Dr. Horvath.
While “The Case Against the Nazi War Criminals” itself is not rare – there’s a copy in circulation at Reed Library – the Jackson inscription makes this copy, given to Jackson’s secretary, Ruth Sternberg, a treasure.
Randy Gadikian, director of Reed Library, said he was thrilled when Barbara Kittle, archives reference librarian, discovered the book while processing some of the backlog of materials in the Archives Collection. There is no record of the book, which Gadikian reports as being in wonderful condition and having its original dust jacket, being purchased by the library. He suggests it may have been donated by someone who purchased it from a rare book dealer.
“The librarian in me wanted to keep the book, but from the perspective of an archivist you want to put things where they belong,” Gadikian said. And the Jackson Center, located in nearby Jamestown, where Jackson lived and practiced law for 22 years, was the obvious choice for the book’s new home.
Sternberg was Jackson’s personal secretary from 1938 to 1945, the years Jackson served in Washington, D.C. as U.S. Solicitor General, U.S. Attorney General and associate justice of the Supreme Court. She also accompanied him to London to prepare the London Agreement, which established the laws and procedures for the Nuremberg Trials. Jackson gave the book to her as a birthday gift.
The inscription reads: “R.M.S. from R.H.J. ‘as of’ Sept. 1st, 1946. And as Shakespeare said ‘a poor thing – but mine own.’” The “as of” was intended as a joke, meaning that the gift was to take effect on Sternberg’s birthdate.
“While it was not common for Jackson to write these personal notes, he often did when the book was being given to friends and associates with whom he felt close,” said Debra Pacos, development coordinator of the Jackson Center. “I thought the inscription was pretty indicative of the Jackson I have come to know through his writings,” Pacos said.
“The Case Against the Nazi War Criminals” spans more than 210 pages and includes Jackson’s opening statement, which itself runs 33 pages. It was one of two books written by Jackson that were published by Alfred A. Knopf and based on his Nuremberg experience, which set the standards for modern international law.
Jackson, who did not attend college or graduate from law school, rose from a humble beginning to become a prominent trial lawyer in Western New York before being appointed U.S. Solicitor General, U.S. Attorney General and then, in 1941, U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Following the Nuremberg Trials, he returned to the Supreme Court and expanded his reputation as one of the brightest, most articulate judges to serve on the high court. He suffered a fatal heart attack in 1954, shortly after participating in the unanimous decision in the Brown vs. Board of Education desegregation case.
Legislation naming the new U.S. Federal Courthouse in downtown Buffalo in honor of Jackson was signed Oct. 12 by President Barack Obama. The 10-story courthouse, which opened last fall, houses U.S. District Court and Court of Appeals as well as offices for U.S. Attorneys, Marshalls and Probation.
More than a dozen items written by or about Jackson, beginning with the 1941 edition of his “The Struggle for Judicial Supremacy” to the recently published children’s book by Gail Jarrow, simply titled “Robert H. Jackson,” are part of the Reed Library collection.
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