Former ambassador shares stories of Nazi war criminals
Hamilton JournalNews, Ohio
HAMILTON, Ohio — The Fitton Center for Creative Arts kicked off its Celebrating Self series Wednesday with a talk by John E. Dolibois, a former vice president of Miami University.
Dolibois graduated from Miami University in 1942, and in 1981, was called by President Ronald Reagan to become U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg. Most of his talk concerned his experience after World War II, when he served as an interrogator in preparation for the famed Nuremberg Trials.
Dolibois came to the United States at the age of 12 with his family and did not speak a word of English, he said.
Consequently, he was placed in a kindergarten. He joked that he was by far the biggest child and didn’t have to worry about being beaten up as the new kid.
He progressed quickly, however, and advanced quickly, several grades at a time, and it was only a matter of months before he was with his own age group.
A friend of the family suggested Miami University to him when he was ready for college, so he came to Butler County and has made his home here ever since.
In 1942, however, he was drafted into the U.S. Army. He said when they asked if he had any special skills, he told the inductors that he could speak French and German and would like to join Military Intelligence.
“Can you drive a truck?” they asked him, and he ended up in training as a tank driver.
It wasn’t long before Dolibois began to shine — “a 90-day wonder,” he said — and went to Officer Candidate School, where he was commissioned by Gen. George S. Patton himself.
“I finally got to Military Intelligence where I wanted to be in the first place,” he said. “I learned how to interrogate prisoners of war.”
He was so good at it that he became an instructor and an expert in such interrogations, so after the war he was assigned to question captured 60 high-ranking German officers and government officials, including Hermann Goering, who was personally tapped by Hitler to be his replacement, and Albert Speer, the “Nazi architect.”
The interrogations took place in the Palace Hotel in Luxembourg, code named “Ashcan,” a luxury hotel that had been converted to a prison. The Nazis were housed on the second and third floors and were given the freedom to move around the hotel and speak to each other.
This freedom, however, was calculated to take advantage of their jealousies and rivalries.
“They were quite willing to talk about each other and squeal on each other,” Dolibois said. “All we had to do was collect gossip that we collected and put it in our reports to the War Crimes Commission.
“They were all interesting personalities,” he said. “Some were real criminals,” but some were just ministers of the government who felt they were just doing their jobs.”
Goering, Dolibois said, was “a dope fiend,” addicted to morphine as a result of an early injury.
“From the standpoint of personality, he was charming and had a terrific sense of humor,” he said. “If he was in a good mood he would tell jokes about himself and Hitler, and we got a lot of information from him.
“As a result of our interrogation, 24 of these high-ranking Nazis were sent to Nuremberg to be tried in an international tribunal,” Dolibois said. “Eleven of them were sentenced to death and died by hanging and three were acquitted.”
Although Goering was found guilty and sentenced to death, he escaped hanging by taking potassium cyanide capsules three hours before the scheduled execution, Dolibois said.
He said that as a historian, he likes to share his experience, but that a lot of his work was classified top secret, and he had been advised to shred his reports he kept copies of even though the information is available in books and other documents.
“They only way you’ll get to hear the whole story is by reading my book,” he said.
The book is titled “Patterns of Circles: An Ambassador’s Story.”