“I assume responsibility for every wrong that was committed” [70 Years After Nuremberg]

Nuremberg Palace

On 11 April 11 1946, Defendant Kaltenbrunner took the stand at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg.

THE PRESIDENT: Will you state your full name, please?

ERNST KALTENBRUNNER (Defendant): Ernst Kaltenbrunner.

THE PRESIDENT: Repeat this oath after me: “I swear by God- the Almighty and Omniscient-that I will speak the pure truth and will withhold and add nothing-so help me God.”

[The defendant repeated the oath In German.]

Kaltenbrunner addressing the Tribunal

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down.

DR. KAUFFMANN: During the last 2 years of the war, since 1943, you have been the Chief of the Security Police and Security Service and the Chief of the Reich Security Main Office, the RSHA. You are aware, of course, that you are under extremely serious charges. The Prosecution charge you with having committed Crimes against Peace, and with having intellectually aided and abetted or participated in the crimes against the law of war and against humanity, and finally, the Prosecution connect your name with the Gestapo terror and the atrocities of the concentration camps. I now ask you, do you assume responsibility for the Counts charged as outlined and which are known to you?

KALTENBRUNNER: In the first place, I should dike to state to the Tribunal that I am fully aware of the serious character of the charges against me. I know the hatred of the world is directed against me; that I particularly since Himmler, Muller, and Pohl are no longer alive must here, alone, give an account to the world and the Tribunal. I realize that I shall have to tell the truth in this courtroom, in order to enable the Court and the world to fully recognize and understand what has been going on in Germany during this war and to judge it with fairness.

In 1943-that is to say, 2 years before the ending of this war- I was called into an office, whim fact I shall explain in detail later on.

Right at the beginning, I would dike to state that I assume responsibility for every wrong that was committed within the scope of this office since I was appointed Chief of the RSHA and as far as it happened under my actual control, which means that I knew about it or was required to know about it.

[http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/04-11-46.asp, accessed 4/13/2016]

Portion of a letter, 4/12/1946

Portion of a letter, 4/12/1946

In writing to his wife the following day, Tom Dodd commented, “[t]his morning the Kaltenbrunner case continued with K on direct examination by his own lawyer.  He is a crummy-looking creature, really an evil-looking man.  He was Himmler’s chief assistant and he participated in all of the horrible crimes that were committed–we have witnesses who saw him watching the operation of the gas chambers where all the unfortunates were executed by the thousands.  He had the various types of executions put on as a demonstration for him — shooting, hanging and gassing.  Three human beings were used to show him how it worked!” [p. 284, 4/12/1946]

Dodd’s disgust with General Amen’s cross examination of Kaltenbrunner later in the week, “Amen did a miserable job” [p. 285, 4/14/1946], further exacerbated his well-documented frustration with the length of the trial and lawyers who appeared to be deliberately dragging the proceedings out.

Portion of a letter, 4/10/1946

Portion of a letter, 4/10/1946

It is perhaps fortunate, that only several days previous, Dodd and Jackson had “decided that we will not let this case get us down — or get our blood pressure up.  We will just keep on trying it to the best of our ability”.  It is to be hoped that their intentions can outlast the presentation and cross examination of the defendants.

–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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