I have to go on," said Anna Hauptmann, explaining her extaordinary vigor at age 82, and slowly curling her frail fingers into a fist. "This has to be done, and I'm going to do it!" With that, she gave the table a good rap.
Anna Hauptmann is reopeing the Lindbergh kidnapping case, attempting to have "the trial of the century" retried to clear the name of her husband, Richard Hauptmann, the man convicted of and electrocuted for kidnapping and murdering the baby son of Charles A. Lindbergh, the fames aviator and national hero.
Mrs. Hauptman, who lives in the Philiadelphia area and has been silent on the case until recently, is finally on her way. After thinking about the case "every day and night" for nearly a half century, she met a lawyer, Robert Bryan, who three weeks ago persuaded the State of New Jersey to open for inspection about 90,000 pieces of evidence in its custody and last week filed a suit in Federal District Court in Newark seeking a jury trial that she believes will absolve her husband of any wrongdoing.
"I would like to meet Mrs. Lindbergh, "Mrs Hauptmann said in a low voice. "How I cried and wept when I read in the newspapers that someone had taken her baby."
Mrs. Hauptmann said she would look her in the eye and say: "Mrs. Lindbergh, my husband did not kidnap your baby, and that is the truth."
She describes, with a trace of a German accent, an almost idyllic life with her husband here in their newly adopted country before the arrest. He was a carpenter building new houses in the Bronx, and she worked at at bakery. "It was a beautiful life," she said of their courtship, "so plain, we never were in a night club or to drinking parties. It was so plain, and that was the same after we were married."
On one of their frequent strolls along Riverside Drive, she said, Mr. Hauptmann told her that he had something important to tell her: that he had returned home after World War I, and unable to find work, had resorted to robbery. She recalled his saying: "I want you to know that before we get married. I don't want to lose you, but I want to tell you the truth."
They married and lived in an apartment in upper Manhattan before moving to 22d Street in the Bronx. She talks only of happiness in those days, except for when their dog, Lottie, died in the night and she awakened to find Richard crying.
She tells of Mr. Hauptmann's great joy when they had a baby son, and of the times she ran up the stairs to berate him for playing the mandolin after the baby was asleep and found him playing the Brahms Lullaby as the baby looked on approvingly.
"It was beautiful," she says, "but then they came, and it was a different world."
On Sept. 19, 1934, Mrs. Hauptmann and a neighbor were with the baby in the yard when they heard someone in her apartment. She ran upstairs and found three men ransacking the apartment and Richard sitting on the bed. They said that they were police. She said that they took her husband with them and never brought him back.
Mrs. Hauptmann was certain it had something to do with his not yet being a citizen and having gone on a hunting trip where there were guns - something she had worried about and warned him against.
Mr. Hauptmann was accused of spending some of the Lindbergh ransom money at a gasoline station. Between the time of his arrest and the four months later, Mrs. Hauptmann said, she could not believe what she saw in the newspapers.
They called her husband "Bruno the Machine Gunner, " reference to Mr. Hauptmann's having served in the German Army in World War I. "I want to tell you something about that," she says, almost rising from her chair. "If you refuse to go to war, you go to jail."
She says that his name was Richard Hauptmann and that she has no idea where the nickname "Bruno" came from.
There was no absence of evidence including about $15,000 of the ransom money having been found in Mr. Hauptmann's garage. But Mrs. Hauptmann charges in her suit - based largely on a review of 34,000 pages of the F.B.I. documents pertaining to the case - that much of the evidence was with held, including evidence to support Mr. Hauptmann's argument that he had found the money in his garage but that it was not his.
Of the night of the kidnapping, Mrs. Hauptmann said, "We came home from work together, happy, he put the car in the garage, I waited for him and we walked up together. We washed and went to bed. It was a day for us like any other day - like 364 other days. If only someone had looked out the window and seen us; but we were alone. They did not believe it."
Mrs. Hauptmann said she had received a letter during the trial from a woman who said that she had been in the bakery the night of the kidnapping and had seen Mrs. Hauptmann and her husband there, but that she was afraid to step forward.
Mrs. Hauptmann said that she gave the letter to a reporter and that it was not returned. She stops for a moment now, trying to again remember the postmark on that letter. To this day, Mrs. Hauptmann said, she keeps a pencil and paper by her bed in hopes of remembering something that could help her husband.
But in a case almost 50 years old, recollections are bound to be clouded, and there may never be a definitive answer of what actually happened.
Mrs. Hauptmann gripped the hand of her attorney's assistant and said: "It is an awful feeling to go through all of this."
She said that on the day of the verdict, she still believed that Richard would be coming home. "I had everything ready," she said. "How naive I was. I said it must come out now that he didn't do it. We would go home to New York that night together. He would come home because he was innocent. I had everything washed and ready to go.
She charges that a number of winesses, including Mr. Lindbergh, did not tell the truth. The jurors said later that when Mr. Lindbergh testified that it was Mr. Hauptmann whom he had heard utter two words at a distance of about 200 yards during his ransom pick-up, Mr Hauptmann's fate was sealed.
"He was a here," Anna Hauptmann said."And who were we?"
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