Former Ambassador John E. Dolibois spent a lot of time with Nazi war criminals in the years following the end of World War II, and he told stories about them to a standing-room only audience at Xavier's Kennedy Auditorium on Tuesday, Oct. 23.
“People ask where the Nazis were before the trial, and they say the Nazis were in South America, Africa and the Alps planning World War III,” Dolibois said. After a short pause, he smiled and pointed at himself.
“No, they were with me.”
Dolibois, the third speaker in the Touching History series sponsored by the Office of Interfaith Community Engagement, served in military intelligence during World War II. When the war ended, he was one of five Americans selected to interrogate high-ranking Nazis.
“I’m not a lecturer,” Dolibois said. “I’m not going to give a speech. I’m here to tell a story and the truth.”
Dolibois emigrated to the United Sates in 1931 from Luxemburg when he was 13. In 1942, when the United States entered World War II, he was drafted into the Army. Dolibois was trained as a tank driver, but when his superiors discovered he spoke fluent German and French, Dolibois was transferred to military intelligence and trained as an interrogator.
When the war ended, the Allied commanders wanted to place the Nazi leadership on trial. Dolibois’s job was to determine which Nazis were responsible for which crimes and who would eventually go to trial at Nuremberg.
Dolibois interrogated several high-ranking Nazis including Herman Goering, Julius Streicher and Rudolf Hess. He pretended to be the welfare officer, who was responsible for all of the amenities like soap and shampoo. Prisoners freely talked, gossiped and complained to their welfare officer. Dolibois clearly recollects his conversations with Goering.
“When he was in a good mood, he was fun to interrogate.” Dolibois said. “He would tell jokes about the Nazis, Hitler and himself.”
Dolibois received a standing ovation. During a question-and-answer session, he was asked what was the most surprising thing he learned.
Without skipping a beat Dolibois responded, “The most reasonable way to answer that: the whole damn thing.”
Previous Touching History events featured Franklin McCain of the Greensboro Four lunch counter sit-in and Sarah Niemoeller, whose family was involved in a plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler.