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Dodd warns of ‘dangerous’ times
In a not-so-veiled attack at the Bush Administration, Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) lamented that some of the principles upheld by the Nuremberg trials are currently in jeopardy.
“There are those, in a sense, who would retreat from these very principles,” he said. “Abandoning habeas corpus, restoring torture as a means of securing evidence, secret prisons, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, these are issues we need to be mindful of. The idea that you and I cannot be safe unless we’re willing to give up some of our rights is a dangerous, dangerous notion.”
Senator Dodd spoke in front of a large crowd inside Alumni Hall last Monday. He visited Quinnipiac to speak and sign copies of his new book, “Letters from Nuremberg: My Fathers Narrative of a Quest for Justice.”
The event, which began at 7:30 p.m., also featured commentary from Whitney Harris, who, at age 95, is one of only three surviving prosecutors from the post World War II Nuremberg trials.
Dodd’s book is a compilation of letters written by his father, Thomas Dodd, who served alongside Harris as a prosecutor at Nuremberg. Senator Dodd, a presidential hopeful, discussed the book’s emotional appeal, as the letters, which were written from Nuremberg during the trials, are addressed to his mother, Grace Dodd.
Thomas Dodd prosecuted 25 major Nazi leaders, while battling allegations of unjust trial proceedings, and attempts by the defendants to shed accountability by placing responsibility for the atrocities they committed on the State. Of the 25 defendants, 22 were convicted.
Dodd also said that the book, which chronicles the events that took place during the trial, serves a larger purpose because it highlights the concepts of human rights and the rule of law.
“The book has value, I suppose, in a very important historical sense,” Dodd said. “Whitney Harris has written a wonderful book, and with it several others, about Nuremberg and the events as they unfolded at the trial. The advantage of course that Whitney and others had is they wrote their books after the fact, knowing what happened at Nuremberg. These letters are the saga as it unfolds.”
The presentation began with a 10-minute film clip, which displayed chilling images of concentration camp detainees, and the city of Nuremberg in its post World War II ruins.
“Truly this event was a presumptuous event, if there ever was one,” Dodd said. “The war had concluded in Europe in April of 1945, Franklin Roosevelt dies, Harry Truman is the new president, there’s an awful lot on the table, an awful lot to be discussed and things to do, to rebuild Europe, to do all the things that were on the agenda at home and abroad.”
Following the film, Justin Dodd, Thomas Dodd’s grandson, read a letter from the book. The letter, which was written on June 1, 1946, expressed the elder Dodd’s longing to be reunited with his wife, as well as the deep pride he felt taking part in what he deemed “the highest calling of the legal profession.”
“I would never have believed that men could be so evil, so determined on a course of war, of murder, of slavery, of dreadful tyranny,” Dodd writes.
Harris gave a brief account of his role in the trial, describing his interrogation of Otto Ohlendorf, who confessed to murdering more than 90,000 men, women, and children in 1941, the year in which he commanded the Einsatzgruppe. Harris also interviewed Rudolph Hess of the Auschwitz concentration camp, where 2.5 million people were killed.
The trial, Senator Dodd said, presented both physical and political obstacles. The city of Nuremberg, he said, lay in ruins with more than 30,000 people buried beneath the rubble.
Fierce political opposition also proved to be a challenge. According to Dodd, many, including Winston Churchill of Great Britain, were in favor of executing the defendants without even going to trial. The Supreme Court, Dodd said, also expressed dissent.
“Fifty five million people died in that conflict, six million Jews were incinerated at the hands of these individuals,” Dodd said. “Five million others faced a similar fate because of their ethnicity, or politics, or sexual orientation. Why would anyone possibly give these people a trial? And yet, because they were people like Jackson and Stimson, and others, who argued that ‘no, we are different. We are going to prove to the world, for the world, that despite how these people treated their victims, we’re going to give them that which they never provided their victims. We’re going to give them the civility of justice.'”
Through the Nuremberg trials, Dodd said, the U.S. became a leader in setting the foundation for human rights and justice.
“Nuremberg became the word by which, in many ways, we represented our moral authority around the world for so many years,” Dodd said.
Dodd and Harris discussed human rights infringements that are occurring in the world right now, such as the ongoing genocide in Darfur. Harris believes that in order to remedy the situation in Sudan, it is important that the U.S. participate in the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has the power to prosecute war criminals in countries which human rights infringements are occurring, provided they have the consent from the nation’s government.
“I think that when we get the support of the governments within which of their countries crimes of this type are committed, we will be able to proceed with an extension of the rule of law and bring the evil people to justice,” he said after the presentation.
Dodd said that the continued presence of U.S. troops in Iraq will hinder any effort to end genocide in Darfur.
“We cannot do a very good job on Darfur as long as we’re involved in Iraq, in my opinion,” he said. “Other nations are going to be reluctant to join us in dealing with genocide. Every issue we face on foreign policy is seen through the prism of Iraq.”
He added, “So first and foremost, we need to withdraw militarily from that country and engage diplomatically and politically, but then build the kind of relationships that will allow us to handle, as we have in the past, those kinds of issues that Darfur presents.”
The event, which was well attended, drew positive reactions from members of the audience who recognized its significance.
“I think that it’s very important that Quinnipiac sponsor an event like this because too often events of the Holocaust are forgotten,” said Alysis Richardson, a senior journalism major. “I think that not only does it show what inhumane acts we are capable of, but it also shows that there’s justice in the world, and we have to fight for peace and basic human rights. Nuremberg was a stepping stone in bringing justice to the world, but the neglect of intervention in Darfur today shows that we still have a lot of work to do.”