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Whitney Harris, Nuremberg Prosecutor Who Yearned For Peace, Has Died

Whitney Harris , former U.S. prosecutor during the Nazi trials, is seen in the historic courtroom in i

Harris, visiting Nuremberg in 2005. (Diether Endilcher/AP) hide caption

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Whitney Harris , former U.S. prosecutor during the Nazi trials, is seen in the historic courtroom in

Harris, visiting Nuremberg in 2005. (Diether Endilcher/AP)

"The world has lost a key player in an event that reshaped modern international law," Matt Sepic of St. Louis Public Radio reports. "Whitney Harris was the last surviving courtroom prosecutor from the first Nuremberg Trial after World War II. He died Wednesday in St. Louis at the age of 97."

Matt, who is preparing an additional report about Harris for tonight's edition of All Things Considered, says that Harris was a 33-year-old lawyer and U.S. Navy officer when the Nuremberg Trial began. Harris made the opening statement in the trial of Ernst Kaltenbruner, a high-ranking member of the SS.

"Kaltenbruner joined the Nazi Party and the SS in Austria in 1932," Harris said as the trial got underway. "He was party member 300179, and SS member 13039":

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According to Matt, "Harris went on to draw wrenching testimony from the commandant of Auschwitz and other top Nazis, many of whom spoke unemotionally of their roles in atrocities."

And, says Matt, "this experience made Harris a leading advocate for international law and the modern war crimes tribunals that are Nuremberg's legacy."

In June 2006, Harris recorded an essay for NPR's "This I Believe" series. In it, as you can hear, he speaks of his belief in God — but his fear that because "man holds his destiny in his own hands," even a "merciful and just" God will not interfere "if man desires to destroy himself."

"We must learn to end war and protect life," said Harris. "To seek justice and find mercy. To help others and embrace compassion":

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Wise words from someone who knew full well about the evil some men are capable of.

Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams All Things Considered. Later, Matt's ATC report will be posted here.

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