Last Jackson Nuremberg Team Member Passes Away

The last surviving member of Robert H. Jackson’s Nuremberg Trial team that prosecuted Nazi war criminals after World War II has died.

Alma Soller McLay died Wednesday, April 5, in Torrance, Calif. McLay is best known for compiling the official U.S. record of the trials, a collection that offered many Americans their first look at the crimes committed by the Nazis.

John Q. Barrett, Jackson Center board member and St. John’s University professor of law, said in The Jackson List, which is an email he sends periodically about Jackson, that McLay became an unexpected member of Jackson’s team in June 1945. She was a war department secretary, just back in Washington, D.C., after two years of service in Alaska, Barrett said. At the Pentagon, she was assigned to be one of Secretary of War Henry Stimson’s stenographers.

”Then a personnel supervisor asked Alma if she was willing to accept an overseas assignment. She said ‘yes,’ and soon she was assigned to the war crimes branch and to the Jackson project — the Office of United States Chief of Counsel for Prosecution of Axis Criminality,” Barrett said. ”Less than two weeks later, on June 18, 1945, Alma Soller flew from Washington to London with Justice Jackson and others who became his core team at the London Conference — the U.S., U.K., U.S.S.R. and French conference that, after weeks of negotiation, reached agreement that August and created the International Military Tribunal.”

Greg Peterson, Jackson Center co-founder and board member, said the London Agreement was the bedrock for which the trial was created. He said McLay was instrumental in being at the trial in the early stages and transcribing notes with the help of Jackson’s other secretary, Elsie L. Douglas.

”As for historical document, (the London Agreement) is a spectacular thing. It shows all the interplay about the Allies as a forbear to the trial. You don’t have the Nuremberg Trial without the London Agreement,” Peterson said.

Peterson said he had a chance to interview McLay in 2004 in Albany at an event honoring Jackson.

”She was a wonderful lady,” Peterson said. ”She was delightful. We occasionally stayed in touch thereafter. She was very interested and supportive of the activities at the Jackson Center.”

Barrett wrote that McLay was in Nuremberg from September 1945 through the start of the trial in November and then through the completion of the U.S. case in January 1946. He said in January 1946, Jackson sent McLay back to Washington, D.C., to work at the Pentagon. During the next four years, McLay worked hard and meticulously and full time to assemble, to edit and to publish volumes of documentary evidence of Nazi conspiracy and aggression. The world, which has learned from these vital books about the Third Reich, the War and the Holocaust, knows them as the Nuremberg ”Red Set” or ”Red Series,” Barrett said.

McLay began work with the Department of Defense in 1941 and moved to Rancho Palos Verdes in 1954 with her husband, Stanley, an Air Force colonel. She retired from government work in 1984. She is survived by her son Derek; a daughter, Alma; and three grandchildren. She is predeceased by her husband and a son, Murdoch

COMMENTS