Closing Argument: “Who was Howard W. Campbell, Jr.?”


Who was Howard W. Campbell, Jr.? He was a man who was very passive in his own life and encountered numerous misfortunes for doing so. He was a frivolous playwright and happy to like with his wife Helga and care for nothing else, until he was approached to be an American Spy during the Second World War. After the death of his wife, his old identity was gone and he only had his secret life, in which everyone thought he was a criminal. He lived aimlessly after the war until his trial and suicide.

Closing Argument:

Good afternoon Judge Horton, ladies and gentlemen of the court. As you are aware, we have gathered in this courtroom for the past week to determine the morality of Howard W. Campbell Jr., who was “an American by birth, a Nazi by reputation, and a nationless person by inclination,” (1). After much deliberation, I believe it has been made apparent that this man deserves to go to heaven for being of “one of the most effective agents of the Second World War” (267). I will concede that it is easier to hate someone on reputation alone than it is to try and understand them; however, I implore you to see into the heart of our client rather than take the easy route and condemn him without looking at the bigger picture, as the prosecution has. In this argument, I will outline Mr. Campbell’s particular situation, the definition of morality, and the discrepancies in the prosecution’s argument against him.

Before the war, Mr. Campbell enjoyed a peaceful live as a successful and frivolous playwright. He wrote medieval tales of love and heroism and was dedicated to one thing: his lovely wife, the actress Helga Nott. Together, they formed a “Nation of Two” (42) in which they were allied to no country but their own and they cared for nothing but their “uncritical love” (42). From this, one can determine that Mr. Campbell never planned to be a Nazi, nor did he ever truly affiliate himself with their cause. He was first approached to participate in the field of espionage by one of our witnesses, Harold J. Sparrow, alias Frank Wirtanen, alias the “Blue Fairy Godmother.” What Mr. Sparrow offered was the chance to be a hero—a “very useful American spy,” “a hundred times braver than any ordinary man” (39). Our client originally refused, wanting no part in the war and wishing to remain an artist in his “peaceful trade” (38). His trade, however, was the very reason he was selected to be an American spy. Mr. Sparrow was able to appeal to Campbell’s heroic inclination as a playwright, saying and I quote, “You admire pure hearts and heroes… you love good and hate evil” (39). That statement is indeed true, for at this moment, our client was literally caught between the forces of good and evil. Mr. Campbell acted as any moral man would—he accepted the proposal. As a spy, our client transmitted vital information to the United States via propagandist radio broadcasts. These messages were coded as a series of pauses, coughs, and other undetectable utterances that could be sent over air. Mr. Campbell was instructed by his superior Mr. Sparrow to “work [his] way up with the Nazis as high as [he] could go” (38) to eliminate all chances of suspicion and to secure this crucial intel platform. Unfortunately, it is this which has caused those who do not understand the truth behind Mr. Campbell’s actions to incorrectly deem him immoral; however, how he appeared to the rest of the world cannot be taken into account as a determinate of his inner morality.

Now, what is morality? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it is “the degree to which something is right and good.” It’s practical application, however, is much more complex. The best way to look at morality is not through an empirical definition; but rather, take into context the three ways one can perceive morality as was elaborated on by Dr. Jordan K. Justice in testimony. The ways in which Mr. Campbell fulfill these scopes of morality will be broadened upon immediately following this explanation. There is the State of Nature approach, which states that morality can be seen as a state of being that all people are in until they consent to join a society. It is important to note that the rules of that society are nullified in a State of War. There is the Utilitarianism approach, which states that what is moral does the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people. There is also the Rational Self-Interest approach, which states that the individual’s morality is based on making the best decision for themselves, especially in a state of nature. As explained to us in testimony by Dr. Justice, Campbell’s actions agree with the three basic principles of morality; the state of war puts Campbell in a state of nature where he is meant to interpret situations and enforce self-preservation, relating to his rational self-interest. His decision to be an American spy ensured his and his wife’s safety, assuming that he was not found out before the war had ended. His decision was also one that ultimately did the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people. As an American working and living in Germany at the time of the war, a job of espionage was the most logical way for Mr. Campbell to aid the Allies. So, although 10 million people were killed in the Holocaust, there were still 6 billion people total on the earth. Those billions left were the reason that Mr. Campbell continued to broadcast; he worked to stop the genocide through his transmission of secret information to the moral side of the war, the Allied powers. Again, I will remind the court of the concept of Utilitarianism, which defines a person who has morality as one who work towards the greater good.

I am now going to take a look at the prosecution’s attempt to brand Mr. Campbell as immoral through the testimony of Ms. Gretta Rosenthal. It is in retrospect apparent that the common theme of the prosecution’s testimonies was to try and pin our client down as a Nazi while completely disregarding his work as an American spy. First, as the risk of sounding harsh, I will accuse the prosecution of using the witness Ms. Rosenthal’s struggle as a blatant sympathy card, despite the fact that her testimony had no real relation to our client or his work. I am not trying to diminish or deny her mistreatment and horrible death at the hands of Nazi soldiers in Auschwitz, but Ms. Rosenthal’s claims about the correlation between that and Mr. Campbell’s broadcasts hold no basis in fact. All of the propaganda he aired was intended to unsuccessfully make Americans sympathetic to the Nazi cause. As was confirmed by our witness Arpad Kovacs, a Jew himself and former undercover agent in the German S.S., the broadcasts were also extraordinarily mild mannered: “It’s so weak! It has no body, no paprika, no zest!” (12). So, it is unclear as to why these same messages would directly result in violence. More importantly than that, however, was Ms. Rosenthal’s claim in testimony that Mr. Campbell had a larger impact on her death than Adolf Hitler. This belief makes Ms. Rosenthal’s testimony seem wholly unreliable—for someone with such a graphic knowledge of this genocide, to hold a mild-mannered propagandist more accountable for the Holocaust than the actual instigator and orchestrator frankly makes it seem like Ms. Rosenthal was put up to it by the prosecution. Ms. Rosenthal also denied the fact that our client was truly an American spy during the war and refused to entertain the idea that the information he sent could have helped the United States successfully enter and end the war in time to prevent another six million Jews from slaughter. Although I cannot elaborate on the exact content of these messages, one can come to the conclusion that they were of extreme importance because the United States had to be ready to replace him on the spot. One of the messages our client unknowingly relayed was that his beloved wife had died, before he had even found out himself. The people to whom Mr. Campbell was sending the messages had to prepare themselves should Campbell commit suicide out of grief. Thankfully, it was not in the world’s best interest to kill himself after Helga died, and with all that mattered of his old identity gone, he completely assumed the role of American spy portraying a Nazi propagandist. It is important to note that at any time after the death of his wife, he could have stopped correctly transmitting the codes and have kept on with his Nazi promoting broadcasts, but he did not. You cannot call Mr. Campbell a Nazi, just as you cannot call the witness Heinz Schildknecht a Nazi, or the witness Mr. Kovacs a Nazi. Like them, our client never fully submitted himself to the Nazi cause, no matter how the outside world perceived him, and continued to work for what he believed was the greater good and for self-preservation.

In conclusion, it is clear that our client deserves no less than a reward in heaven, and that a person’s reputation cannot be used as the determining factor of their morality. As has been made evident through testimony, a lack of accountable evidence against him, and a deeper look into Howard W. Campbell’s heart, one can understand his true morality; his love of good and hatred of evil, his willingness to act for the good of the world, and his work in order to bring about the end of the Second World War. Judge Horton, I will shamelessly proclaim that this man is innocent. I will also leave you with this quote, scribbled by Mr. Campbell on the lid of the trunk in which he stored his plays after his wife’s death. If this does not reveal the true nature of Mr. Campbell, then perhaps we have all allowed ourselves to become blind.

“Here lies Howard Campbell’s essence, Freed from his body’s noisome nuisance. His body, empty, prowls the earth, Earning what a body’s worth. If his body and his essence remain apart, Burn his body, but spare this, his heart.”

Thank you.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s