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Witnessing the Nuremberg Trials

Mount Vernon resident Ann Stover witnessed the famed Nuremberg Trials which prosecuted top Nazi officials for war crimes during World War II.

Little did Annabel Stover, whose nickname is "Ann," know that she would be a part of history in the making during World War II. Stover grew up in a small town in North Dakota and later attended business school. After taking the civil service exam, she moved to Washington, D.C. and ended up working at the newly-built Pentagon. Eventually, Stover was assigned to a Special Branch of the Defense Department, which was an intelligence group. "We were very hush-hush," she described of the top secret operations at the time.

She was eventually assigned to go to London to support the U.S. government in World War II. "I was very fortunate, I was just at the right place at the right time," she said. Stover left the States on her 23rd birthday and arrived in Scotland on D-Day, June 6, 1943. Taking a train down to London, she embarked on her new wartime duties.

She was assigned to work at Bletchley Park in London as a secretary for General Telford Taylor. Stover stayed there for a year and a half until the war ended on May 8, 1945. Thereafter, American Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson asked General Taylor to assist with the Nuremberg trials. The trials were intended to prosecute 21 top Nazi officials.

She then moved to Nuremberg, Germany where she was given an assignment to help the American judicial team during the trials. Stover recalled that the "Nuremberg was almost completely destroyed."

She was assigned to work for Sydney Alderman, assistant prosecutor for the United States. His duty was to prosecute the Nazis for invading Czechoslovakia before the war. Two judges from each country: United States, Britain, France and Russia were present. Each nation presented its case and accused the Nazis of committing crimes against humanity.

"I went to trials whenever something interesting was happening, and did secretarial work the rest of the time," Stover recalled. "I listened mostly to when they were interviewing [Herman] Goering. I would go in whenever there was something interesting coming up. Otherwise I would stay at my desk and type a lot of letters to my mother and father," she said. Goering, commander in chief of the Luftwaffe, was later convicted of "conspiracy, crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and was sentenced to death," according to a copy of the verdict. "Thousands of captured documents were sifted and translated into four languages" to be used for the trial, Stover wrote in her notes. "There was a special section for translators, [and one] could listen using headphones, much like the United Nations," she said. She also remembered seeing the Nazis defendants, and thinking how some of them were "mean-looking."

However, there were horrific segments of the trials that she did not want to attend. "When they showed the pictures of the atrocities, [such as] making lampshades out of people's skin, I didn't want to go in and see stuff like that," she said. At the time, Stover was not aware that the Nuremberg trials would play such a large part in world history. "I didn't realize that it was going to be such a historical thing at the time," she commented.

On a lighter note, Stover remembered some fun aspects. "Whenever there was someone of importance, Justice Jackson felt like he had to entertain the visiting VIPs. He would ask the girls to dance with them," she laughed. There was plenty of entertainment to amuse the guests, she recalled, including fancy dinners, acrobatic performances and other forms of amusement.

Stover traveled to parts of Europe in her free time. "I got to see the surrounding area and got to Switzerland and France. I was a young unattached girl. It was a wonderful experience," she said. She went skiing with a few friends on a trip to Berchestgarden for skiing, recreation and rest. There she also visited Eagle's Nest, a house on a nearby mountain. It had been Hitler's hideaway and still contained an intact bomb shelter, which she photographed.

After the American part of the trial was over, Stover and a few others joined U.S. Assistant Prosecutor Sydney Alderman on a trip to visit the president of Czechoslovakia. "We went to the president's palace and we had to wait in the waiting room because they thought that women took up too much of his time," she said jokingly.

Stover has kept in touch with three friends who worked at the trials. They would meet on Nov. 20, the anniversary of when the trials began, for a number of years.

She returned home to North Dakota after the trials were over. Through another series of coincidences, she moved to Washington, D.C., where she met her late husband, Joel Smokey Stover, through a good friend. "He worked for a private company called Dynalectron for over 40 years. He had contracts with various airports and serviced the airlines and sold surplus airplanes. He was an only child and his father was a dentist," she said. She enjoyed traveling with her husband to Alaska, Brazil, and the Far East on his business trips. They were married for about 57 years and had two children, Joe and Peggy Ann, and two granddaughters, Kelly and Amanda.

Stover raised her children and has volunteered at the Mount Vernon Hospital for 27 years. She also volunteers at Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church. "I thoroughly enjoy volunteering at Mount Vernon Hospital. I enjoy the people I work with and I think it's very rewarding," she smiled.

Leslie Paige is a neighbor of Stover. "I have a huge respect for her. She came from a small town in the Dakotas during World War II. It’s a pretty amazing testament to how far people can go in this country. She was smart and put all of her skills to work in the service of her country at a crucial time… and we’re better for it," said Paige.

Stover is still as active as she was during the Nuremberg Trials.

Linda Chapman, a longtime friend and neighbor, says that Stover is involved in neighborhood functions. "She clearly is a very important part of this neighborhood and always wants to participate and is always included… friendly, always with a smile, ready help anyone who needs it, very active and still involved in the community."