I come here today as a recovering attorney, as a United States Senator, and as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. But I also come here, first and foremost, as a son who is very proud of his father. I am so pleased that my brother, Ambassador Thomas Dodd, has joined me as well.
Our father, Thomas Dodd, accomplished a great deal in his lifetime. As a young FBI agent in FDR’s Justice Department, he helped track down some of America’s most notorious criminals. As the director of the National Youth Administration in Connecticut, he helped put thousands of his fellow citizens back to work in the depths of the Depression. As the special assistant to the US Attorney General in the 40s, he prosecuted cases against the Ku Klux Klan, union-busters in Harlan County–and during the war, German American Bundists. As a Congressman and then as a Senator, he was way ahead of his time on civil rights, opposition to Communism, and efforts to fight poverty around the world.
But for all that he accomplished, my father always considered the Nuremberg trials of 1945-1946 to be the most profound experience of his life. There is no question that a good part of that experience was based not just on the case he tried, but on the company he kept–his good friends Justice Robert Jackson and fellow prosecutor Whitney Harris, among others.
I cannot tell you what an honor it is for me to stand, not only on the same stage as Whitney Harris, but at an institute named in his honor. I have had the great pleasure in the past of hearing Whitney tell some of the stories from that time. My father always said that the thing that annoyed him most about Whitney was that he was the best-looking guy in every room he entered–a tradition that I see continues to this day.
He always believed that the case Whitney put together against Kaltenbrunner, as well as his assistance of Justice Jackson in the cross-examination of Hermann Goering, was some of the best work of the entire trial. Years later, my father made sure we heard those stories at our dinner table. He would tell us about Hitler and Himmler and Goebbels and the horror of the camps. I remember he once showed us a sheet of paper with a diagram of the Fuerer’s bunker on that last day, of where Hitler and Eva Braun lay. It was drawn for my father by Hitler’s own chauffer. But it really wasn’t until years later that I came to understand what it was really like to be in Nuremberg.
In the late 1980s, one of my brothers was going through some of my parent’s papers when he came across an old manila folder. Inside were more than 400 letters written by my father to my mother from Nuremberg. In some cases, he wrote more than one a day. Until that day, I had no idea that these letters even existed. Before reading them, I arranged them in chronological order. I finally completed this process in the summer of 1990.
You can imagine my shock when on the evening of July 28, 1990, I sat down to begin reading the letters and realized that the first letter to my mother was written on July 28, 1945 – 45 years earlier, to the day. We remember the men and women of Nuremberg as giants. We can sometimes neglect the human side of this experience.