Last Living American Typist During Nazi War Crimes Trials Tells His Story [VIDEO]
ST. JOSEPH - Over ten million people were murdered by the Nazis in World War II, and a St. Joseph man is one of the last remaining American Veterans able to give a first-hand account of the moments when the United States Army handed down justice to the war criminals of the world famous Nuremberg Trials.
65 years ago, Larry Tillemans played a key role in these trials as an evidence clerk and typist. Now, at the age of 85, Tillemans is determined to continue telling the story of what he saw and heard during that year.
Tillemans grew up in the small Minnesota town of Minneota. From an early age, he wanted to become an army soldier. He never predicted that a few typing classes in high school would influence his role in the armed forces, and change his life forever.
I was just out of high school, and they asked, "Well, what do you know how to do?" So, I put down 'expert typist.
Following the completion of the War, Tillemans was given the very important duty of clerk and typist to assist in reviewing, documenting and archiving 360 Holocaust witness testimonies, complete with over 200,000 pieces of evidence illustrating the genocide of over 10 million Europeans. Tillemans said the high volume of evidence made the trials a long affair.
They went from October to October, 216 days or about 11 months. I was on duty for 9 of those months at both Dachau and Nuremberg.
Through these trials, 22 of 24 major Nazi War criminals were convicted of crimes against humanity, 12 of whom were sentenced to death by hanging. Tillemans says the stories and pictures he hear and saw in his 9 months of work, including images of prisoners being taken away to gas chambers, have haunted him through his whole life.
There were men, women, children, all naked, waiting for a shower when they got off those cattle cars. But, instead, they got "a shower." There were many nights I would go to sleep, crying.
Over time, these memories took a toll on Tillemans' emotional health. A recovered alcoholic of 20 years, Tillemans continuously speaks to schools, churches and community groups on the harrowing details of the Nazi genocide. He's delivered his presentation over 400 times in the last 20 years.
As the last living American veteran to archive these harrowing trials , Tillemans feels it is his responsibility to share his first-hand account of the horrible and hateful acts humankind can commit with the hope that it will never happen again.
And frankly, there's no better day than today to thank veterans like Tillemans who have devoted their lives to fighting for justice.
Here's a video of short highlights from our visit with Larry Tillemans.