Oral History

Belle Mayer Zeck describes difficult working conditions during the Nuremberg trials

Belle Mayer trained as a lawyer and worked for the General Counsel of the US Treasury, Foreign Funds Control Bureau. This bureau worked to enforce the Trading With the Enemy Act passed by Congress. In this capacity, Mayer became familiar with the German I. G. Farben chemical company, a large conglomerate that used slave labor during World War II. In 1945, Mayer was sent as a Department of Treasury representative to the postwar London Conference. She was present as representatives from the Allied nations outlined the principles of law for the prosecution and trial of Europe's major war criminals. Mayer reported to this commission as it prepared for upcoming war crimes trials. She was then among the attorneys (including her future husband William Zeck) who prepared the indictment against the I. G. Farben company at the Nuremberg trials.


So I would like to comment on something else, because I don't think that young people today, even lawyers, can begin to visualize the mechanical difficulties under which we were operating. We did not have modern Xerox machines, copying machines. We had these old photocopiers, which were a wet process and they had to, you had to use this thin copy paper which came out and curled at the edges. Now we were required to give the defendants copies of all of our exhibits 24 hours in advance of their introduction. This called for a very strict timetable. In the meantime the mimeograph people -- I didn't mean photocopying, I meant mimeographing -- the mimeograph people were working double shifts, but even so, they couldn't handle this volume of business. We never were able to get things from them on time. Instead of having our own duplicating machines, we had to rely on this pen. The mimeograph -- pen is not the right word for it -- but they were in isolation and somebody would hand them something, it could be a Rand McNally atlas with a hundred pages of charts. We also had to assist the defendants in locating things they considered material to their defense, which they did not have the means to locate, so that half the time we were working for the defendants, assisting them. I felt these were the only brawls we had, that we were leaning backwards to show how fair we were being.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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