Monday, September 06, 2010

In Yale, Nation, and Dodd We Trust, and Not Necessarily in That Order

Christopher J. Dodd with Larry Bloom. Letters from Nuremberg: My Father’s Narrative of a Quest for Justice. New York: Crown Publishing, 2007.

The author’s father, Thomas Dodd, was the second ranking prosecutor at the International Military Tribunal held after World War II in Nuremberg. As a child, the author recalls rummaging through his father’s boxes and seeing photographs of the horrors at Nazi concentration camps and of medical experiments. He found pictures his father held during the trial of a prisoner’s shrunken head that had been made into a camp commander’s paperweight.

The trials produced a record of the Nazi crimes against humanities. It also showed the Allies offered tolerance. Instead of summarily executing the Nazi leaders, they were given real trials. 12 were sentenced to death, three were acquitted, and the rest were given various prison sentences.

Thomas Dodd had worked in the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. He had prosecuted Ku Klux Klan leaders prior to being asked to prosecute at Nuremberg.

The author writes of the importance of universal judicial rights. He warns against attempts to reinterpret the Geneva Convention. He urges for continuing to defend human rights. He warns against allowing actions at Guantanomo Prison to weaken our commitment for human rights. No nation should regard treaties as Nazi leader Herman Goring did when he called treaties as “toilet paper”. The Bush Administration criticized opponents to his plans to violate the Geneva Convention as being weak on terrorism, which the author states was a political move.

As U.S. Senator, the author opposed aiding any government just on the basis that they opposed communism, which was a major past factor. Some of these anti-communist governments violated human rights. Some had death squads. Over time, as these governments changed, the new leaders appreciated those who defended human rights and who stood up to the tyrants.

Tom Dodd noted the Nazis imprisoned victims without charges and provided them with no idea how long the imprisonment would last. Chris Dodd feared this repeating at Guantanamo. The U.S. Supreme Court would rule against President Bush with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor writing “a state of war is not a blank check for the President.”

Chris Dodd also notes that violating international law lessens our ability to insist that others should obey it. Further, our violating human rights increases resentment in other countries against our government.

Robert Johnson was the lead Nuremberg prosecutor. Walter Cronkite, who reported on the trials, told Chris Dodd that Tom Dodd was not always happy with Jackson’s court presentations. He especially thought Jackson was a weak cross examiner.

The Nazi leaders were changed with planning and implementing mistreatment and the murder of prisoners, forcing civilian labor, plundering property, destroying cities, and acting inhumanely in persecuting people on grounds of race, religion, and politics. Elie Wiesel noted Hitler was more concerned with killing Jews than with the war effort. Hitler gave trains taking Jews to death camps priority over military trains.

During the trials, Dodd showed a movie presenting the emaciated concentration camp survivors as well as the horrible conditions of these camps. This film silences the courtroom and was considered an effective move towards showing Nazu guilt. Tom Dodd also produced documents where Himmler and other Nazi leaders wrote about exterminating the Jewish race. Dodd presented evidence of ornaments and lamp shades made from the skins of murdered Jews. Also entered into evidence were records kept of concentration camp murders, with one book having 35.318 names.

Tom Dodd sent his wife Grace over 300 letters during the Nuremberg trials. He wrote from a city, Nuremberg, where the drinking water was contaminated due to the effects of dead bodies as 80,0000 had been killed in air raids and the results of battle.

During Dodd’s interviews of witnesses, he learned military aides found Hitler ran the war full of many ideas and there was often confusion over which of his ideas were to be implemented.

German Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel tried to tell Tom Dodd that Germany attacked Czechoslovakia and France in 1938 because Germany feared they were joining to attack Germany. Dodd produced a letter Hitler wrote stating Germany should pretend they were being provoked to attack. This left Keitel flustered.

Keitel admitted ordering killings and burning cities, admitting he demanded “the most brutal measures even against women and children”. He stated he did so because of attacks on German soldiers.

Thomas Dodd was very distrustful of the Soviets. They also committed atrocities. Dodd believed the Soviets executed thousands of Polish army officers in 1943. Russia finally admitted, in 1989, that this happened.

Thomas Dodd believed the evidence showing the human impact of the defendants’ horrors would be the most effective courtroom strategy. He felt the documentary evidence was less forceful. Dodd had to prove that the defendants military and financially planned and implemented an aggressive war. In addition to these trials, there were 12 other trials at Nuremberg of people charged with lesser crimes.

The accused claimed to have no knowledge of mistreatment in concentration camps. These statements were torn apart during cross examination. Goring admitted many of the charges. Dodd’s cross examination got Nazi Minister of Occupied Territories Alfred Rosenberg to admit to allowing slave labor.

Thomas Dodd got Keitel to admit that it was his duty as a professional soldier not to carry out an illegal order, and that Keitel has obeyed criminal orders. Rudolph Hoss, the Commandant at Auschwitz Concentration Camp, admitted that 2.5 million were executed and 500,000 killed from starvation and disease at his camp.


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