Questions Are Asked [70 Years After Nuremberg]

Nuremberg Palace

Nuremberg Palace

As summer drew to a close, work commenced in earnest in Nürnberg. Tom Dodd took on the responsibility of questioning Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, Franz von Papen, and Dr. Arthur Seyss-Inquart. Formal questioning began on August 28th with Keitel. Writing to his wife Grace, Dodd described Keitel as a gentle, polite, very proper man, and wrote, “Sometimes I find myself liking him- and feeling sorry for him. He is a very bright man—in my opinion—and a very charming one too” [p.111, 8/30/1945].


Portion of letter dated 1 September 1945

The darker side of Keitel came out questioning on September 1st, 1945, when he admitted to the slaughtering of innocent men, women, and children hostages, but only after devastating attacks against the Germans [p.116,9/1/45].  Several days earlier (8/29), Dodd had caught Keitel in a lie; Keitel having claimed that he had no intention of harming the U.S prior to the summer of 1941.  This statement was contradicted by research documenting an October 1940  conference took place with Molotov and the Japanese, leading to the Russo-Japanese agreement which outlined a plan that was enacted in the Summer and Fall of 1941 in which the Japanese would attack and invade Russia.  A letter dated 5 May 1941, expressed the desire to seek an earlier intervention with the U.S and it was suggested that the Japanese take the offensive against United States—definitely earlier than Keitel’s recollection.


Portion of letter dated 3 September 1945

Questioning continued with Franz von Papen on 3 September 1945. Papen was a slim, gray haired man who spoke English and was as responsible as anyone else for the Führer’s rise to power. It was no secret to Dodd that Papen made a deal with Hitler himself even as he continued to deny it. The truth of the matter was, von Papen forged an arrangement where Hindenburg would name Hitler to the Chancellorship if von Papen would be named vice-chancellor.  Von Papen continued to deny the arrangement throughout his interrogation in the manner, Dodd wrote to Grace, of “a politician of the worst type” [p. 118 9/3/1945]. Later the same day Dodd asked Papen, “What did you do to help Klausner, the fine catholic leader who was butchered by the Nazi’s in 1934” and he replied, “I was almost killed myself” [p.118, 9/3/1945].


Portion of letter dated 9 September 1945

The next to be questioned was Dr. Arthur Seyss-Inquart of Austria. In response to his claims that he was not a part of the group that had devised the plan for the Nazi’s infiltration and eventual take-over of  Austria, Dodd inquired about communications with Hitler dated February 1938 stating “I am for Anschluss, but by a slow evolutionary process, and I will be no Trojan Horse” [p.121, 9/6/1945]. Following up with a question about the telegram Hitler had received from Seyss-Inquart telling him to bring troops due to rioting within Austria. Later, Dr. Seyss-Inquart confessed, “I was opposed to sending the telegram only because at the time I was not legally head of the government. Later in the night I became the head of the government and early the next morning I called Hitler on the telephone and asked him to send German troops and suggested that Austrian troops go to meet him—and enter Germany in token of our new union.  Hitler agreed, but he said the German troops were already in Austria anyway!” [p.123, 9/6/1945].   Later, Dodd would write,  “He admits conversations with Hitler, Himmler, and Göring; admits he was made head of Austrian government when the Nazi’s came, admits that he called Hitler on the phone, and all the details of these episodes, and then tries to state with conviction that he was no part of the plan” [p. 123, 9/6/1945].  The inconsistencies between recollections, statements and documentation continued to add to Dodd’s burden as the prosecution staff worked to build the case against Hitler’s inner circle.

The summer weeks dragged on 70 years ago, tension mounting as the trial neared.  The significance of the painstaking work becoming increasingly more critical as Tom Dodd slowly pieced together the puzzle of what exactly happened in the years leading up to all-out world war.

–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 letters from Tom Dodd to his wife Grace have been published and can be found (page numbers are noted) 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.

Interrogations introduced into evidence are available online as part of the Thomas J. Dodd Papers (

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