Celoron Veteran Donates Handcrafted Plaque To Robert H. Jackson Center
Local World War II veterans Dick Kogut and Cecil Wright have contributed to the documentation of 20th century war stories.
Both men gathered at the Robert H. Jackson center on Fourth Street in Jamestown on Friday morning for an interview with Greg Peterson, co-founder and board member for the Robert H. Jackson Center.
Kogut, a World War II, Korean and Vietnam War veteran from Celoron, dedicated a handcrafted wooden plaque he made for the Jackson Center – a replica of a patch worn by guards stationed in Nuremberg during the Nazi war crimes trials.
The event was suitable for Wright, as he guarded major war criminals tried in the first round of the Nuremberg Trials.
“I had a lot of trouble convincing people that the war wasn’t over until 1947. I was there in 1946 our occupation of Germany was part of World War II,” Wright said. “Many people didn’t recognize it that way and they still don’t.”
Twenty-one Nazi leaders, including Hermann Goering, one of Hitler’s sidekicks, made up the group of defendants he guarded.
The group would have been composed of 22, had one not committed suicide upon arrival at Nuremberg. For every day thereafter, the guards would be on constant watch of the criminals.
“He is the only man that I know who actually met those defendants,” Peterson said of Wright.
“I met them and I saw their empty cells the next morning,” Wright said, after all had been removed for life imprisonment or death sentences.
Goering committed suicide the night before he was to be hanged by ingesting a cyanide pill. It remains unknown how he smuggled the capsule into his cell.
Of the atmosphere in Germany, Wright said it wasn’t one of defeat.
“A lot of people didn’t believe in the Nazis and Hitler’s gang. We could talk some to them, and we learned a little of their language and they learned a little of ours,” he said, adding that many of the business districts of the city had been destroyed, but residential areas had not.
James Johnson, president of the Robert H. Jackson Center said Wright and Kogut have been interviewed before, but are also part of an ongoing project called “Defenders of Freedom.”
More than 60 veterans have been interviewed as part of the project.
“We will interview for as long as it takes to preserve these stories, and our desire is to be able to make them available for everyone,” Johnson said. “It is an honor to interview them and hear their stories.”
For more information, visit www.roberthjackson.org or call 483-6646.