Turning the corner [70 Years After Nuremberg]

Nuremberg Palace

“The Justice did a good job at examining Gisevius–as you no doubt saw in the press” Tom Dodd wrote to Grace in late April [p. 294, 4/28/1946, available on YouTube]. Recounting the details of his recent activities–closed sessions of the court, ongoing discussions about the length and effectiveness of cross-examinations and the lack of correspondence–Dodd reminded his wife that “we must be patient–I think it is worthwhile and link most worthwhile things we have to put up some sacrifices for it.” [p. 295, 4/28/1946]

Funk testifying

Slowly, the court moved on from Frick, Stricher, Schacht and Funk as the first days of May crawled past.  But amidst the routine of the trial,  dramatics of the defendants and now regular departures of staff, a bit of levity appeared.

Writing home on the 8th of May, Dodd noted

Well, this is the first anniversary of V-E Day.  It was not observed by us excepting for a luncheon this noon.  Present were all of the Judges, the Justice, Sir David, members of the Prosecution staff of all countries here–altogether about 25 of us.  The Justice made, as usual, a few very appropriate remarks, General Nikitchenko, the Russian Judge, proposed a toast to Truman–it is his birthday.  No American knew it–or if he did, he forgot it.  It was quite amusing. [p. 300, 5/8/1946]

In the same letter, he continued “We turned the corner yesterday. We are now actually in the second row of defendants as they sit in the dock.” [p. 300, 5/8/1946]

Defendants in the courtroom

Although slighly understated, this was a significant milestone. Dodd had been in Europe since late July 1945, nine long months with only a quick visit home in December. The world followed along at a distance as the trial ponderously moved forward. Dodd, Jackson and others had been front and center, day in and day out attempting to hold the leaders of Nazi Germany accountable for the laws they had broken and discarded during their rise to power. “The rule of law” had never before been explored, defended and utilized at the conclusion of military action in such a fashion. Tom Dodd not only had a ringside seat as history was made, he was in the middle of the struggle while trying to stay true to the course. Rumors of a quick end to the trial circulated (June was mentioned), but it would be five more months before the verdicts were read.

–Owen Doremus and Betsy Pittman

[Owen Doremus, a junior at Edwin O. Smith High School, is supporting this blog series with research and writing as part of an independent study.]

The majority of the letters from Tom Dodd to his wife Grace have been published and can be found in Letters from Nuremberg, My father’s narrative of a quest for justice. Senator Christopher J. Dodd with Lary Bloom. New York: Crown Publishing, 2007.

Images available in Thomas J. Dodd Papers.

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