The 3rd Baron Trevethin, commonly called Geoffrey Lawrence, was the main British judge during the Nuremberg trials following World War II. His was the extraordinary job of passing judgement and a sentence of death on one of the most unspeakable monsters of the 20th century, the Nazi Hermann Goering.
It was Lawrence who characterised Goering’s evil with such explicitly superb elegance. “[Goering’s] guilt,” Lawrence proclaimed, “is unique in its enormity.”
Goering was a famously pompous drug addict, fat and ungainly, Hitler’s buffoon, who paraded about in ostentatiously bemedaled Wehrmacht uniforms of his own design. By some means (to this day we don’t know precisely how) he smuggled cyanide into his Nuremberg cell and killed himself before the allied nations could present him to the gallows to be hanged.
Before he was imprisoned, and in the immediate aftermath of Hitler’s death, Goering deluded himself into thinking he could represent Germany to the Allies as a cooperative equal, as Germany’s new, sane Fuhrer. In expecting to meet Eisenhower Goering famously wondered if he should salute or shake hands. Instead, an ordinary allied soldier roughly slapped handcuffs on him and took him to prison.
Before Donald Trump came along, Hermann Goering was my model for history’s biggest fall. He was once a master of Germany with enormous power and wealth at his fingertips. He was reduced in a very short time to a pauper’s life in a closely guarded cell where he awaited the ignoble sentence of death by hanging.
To my mind Donald Trump’s fall from power is now further than Goering’s. Trump once commanded the largest military force in history, walked with kings and prime ministers and dictators, was followed by and worshipped by millions of fools. By dint of the office he so rudely usurped, Trump became the most powerful man on earth.
Today Trump’s guilt is “unique in its enormity” in American history. For a man who speaks in superlatives when referencing himself, it may or may not please him to know that he could be the most prolific criminal in American history. Thanks to his lies and ineptitude he is responsible for more deaths than just about any other leader except Hitler, Stalin or Mao. He is also a rapist, a thief, a tax cheat, a money launderer, a traitor, and an embezzler.
Trump is only now coming to grips with his fate. It’s reported that he recently asked, if convicted and sent to jail, will he be required to wear an orange jumpsuit? He also wanted to know if he would have to stay in an ordinary cell in a “bad” prison or in some cushy Club Fed reserved for white collar criminals.
Trump is finally coming to terms with reality. Whether he agrees with it or not his crimes are unique in their enormity. He has only one superlative left to look forward to, whatever prison he is sentenced to, he will be its most famous resident. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.