Discouraged and dispirited but with purpose [70 Years after Nuremberg]

Nuremberg Palace

“Sometimes I get so discouraged I wonder if any of this is worthwhile.  Was I a fool to take on this long and difficult task while we take on this long and difficult task while others remain at home and criticize us because we try to make the waging of war not worth the risk?  Is the world so cynical, so deeply cynical as it sometimes seems to be?  I must not let myself think so.” [p. 322, 6/9/1946]

In June 1946, The Ladies Home Journal (LHJ) published an article written by Walter Lippman, who had traveled to Nuremberg and met with members of the U.S. prosecution staff.  “The meaning of Nuremberg” presented its readers with an articulate and studied description of what Justice Robert Jackson and Thomas J. Dodd were attempting to do on the world stage.

Lt. Jackson with Mr. and Mrs. Lippman

Unless you have spent a good deal of time studying it, you are likely to think of the Nuremberg trial as a spectacular but complicated and long-drawn-out way of getting rid of a collection of very bad men…But if you look closely into the Nuremberg trial, and into the long debates and negotiations which preceded it, you will come upon a startling discover.  It is that the ulterior purpose of this trial is not the punishment of these villains, but to establish a precedent by which international law can in fact be enforced.  This is why the Nuremberg trial is being conducted the way it is being conducted. [p. 32, LHJ, June 1946]

Col. Williams and Lt. Jackson with Mr. and Mrs. Lippman

And in several short pages Mr. Lippman guides his readers through a presentation of landmarks in world order, the thought supporting convictions based on the perpetrators own evidence, and the idea of Universal Law.

In the intervening seventy years we have not come close to a “universal law binding all persons, establishing their individual duties and rights everywhere” by which “mankind will eventually reach unity,” the trial did establish precedents that have held others to account for their crimes against humanity.  And for that purpose and ultimate goal, Tom Dodd continued working through his disappointments, homesickness, loneliness and discouragement.

Lt. Jackson and Tom Dodd with Mr. and Mrs. Lippman

–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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