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University of Connecticut University Libraries Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center

Archives & Special Collections:
A Treasury of the Human Spirit

Part One: Thomas J. Dodd, 1907-1971

Thomas Joseph Dodd devoted his life to public service, the rule of law, and the rights of the oppressed. He was born in Norwich, Conn., graduated from Providence College, and received a law degree from Yale University. In 1934 he married Grace Murphy of Westerly, Rhode Island. The couple became the parents of six children: Thomas J., Jr., Carolyn, Jeremy, Martha, Christopher, and Nicholas.

In 1935, after serving in the FBI, Dodd was appointed State Director of the National Youth Administration. In 1938 he became a Special Assistant to the Attorney General and during World War II Dodd prosecuted espionage and sabotage cases and industrial fraud by American companies supplying military hardware.


When the Allied Powers convened an international military tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany, to prosecute Nazi war criminals in 1945, Dodd was appointed Vice-Chairman of the Review Board and later Executive Trial Counsel. Dodd helped shape many of the strategies and policies at the trials. He concentrated on proving the charge of conspiracy to wage aggressive war, the horrors of the concentration camp system, and the activities of Nazi organizations like the Gestapo and SS.

After his return to the U.S., Dodd practiced law in Hartford and became active in Democratic Party politics. He was elected to Congress from the First District in 1952 and 1954. During his two terms in the Senate from 1959 to 1971, he championed gun control legislation, supported the civil rights initiatives of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, and worked to protect children through efforts to curb violence on television and stem the traffic of illegal drugs. Dodd vigorously opposed Soviet Communism and was outspoken in his support for the captive nations of Eastern Europe. He won a second Senate term in 1964 and ran unsuccessfully for re-election as an independent in 1970. Thomas J. Dodd died at his Old Lyme home on May 24, 1971.

Dodd campaign ribbon.

Evidence used at Nuremberg, 1946

The Thomas Dodd Papers include photographs of some of the exhibits Dodd used to help prove the charge of crimes against humanity. Included are photographs of the shrunken head of a Pole executed for having sexual relations with a German woman; tattooed skin removed from the bodies of Buchenwald inmates; steel clubs manufactured by Krupp for use by concentration camp guards; and, shown here, soap manufactured from human corpses.

Evidence used at Nuremberg, 1946.

Dodd developed a reputation for rigorous cross-examination during the Nuremberg Trials. Building upon his experience prosecuting accused spies and dishonest industrialists during the war, Dodd helped destroy the facades of innocence Nazi defendants attempted to create. His flair for the dramatic and his forensic skills would serve him well during his subsequent career in the House and Senate.

Dodd cross-examined several of the major Nazi defendants, including Walther Funk, president of the Reichsbank; Baldur von Schirach, head of Hitler Youth; and Fritz Sauckel, head of the German conscript labor organization. This page of transcripts of Nuremberg Trials proceedings concerns deposits in the Reichsbank of heaps of precious stones, gold jewelry, gold eyeglasses, and gold teeth. In his examination of Funk, Dodd asked incredulously, "Are you telling the Tribunal that as Head of the Reichsbank you never made an inspection . . . of the vaults, never took a look at the collateral? Didn't you ever make an inspection before you made your certificates as to what was on hand?" (Nuremberg Trial Transcripts, Vol. 25, May 4-10, 1946, p. 9105).

Funk denied all knowledge of these unusual deposits, but Dodd proved that Heinrich Himmler made an arrangement with the Reichsbank president to accept them.

Thomas J. Dodd at the Prosecution Table, Nuremberg, 1946.

Thomas J. Dodd at the Prosecution Table, Nuremberg, 1946.

The Defendants at Nuremberg, 1946.

Hermann Goering, first row, first from left; Rudolph Hess, next to Goering; Julius Streicher, first row, third from right; Walther Funk, first row, second from right; Baldur von Schirach, second row, third from left; and Fritz Sauckel, second row, fourth from left.

The Defendants at Nuremberg, 1946.


Thomas J. Dodd. Letter to Ambassador J. Winiewicz, 11 April 1949.

Dodd received several awards for his service at the Nuremberg Trials. His honors included a Presidential Citation, the U.S. Medal of Freedom, and the Czechoslovak Order of the White Lion. Dodd was also offered the Officer's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta by the Polish government, which he refused in 1949 due to concerns over Warsaw's human rights violations.

"I see no distinction or difference between the despotism which your government has inflicted upon the people of Polans [sic] and that through which they suffered under the Nazis. Therefore, I can no more accept an honor from your government than I could from the Nazis and for precisely the same reasons." (216:5976)

Thomas J. Dodd. Letter to 30th Congress of the Slovak League of America, 1953.

Dodd quickly developed a reputation in the House of Representatives as an outspoken foe of Communism. In this message to the Slovak League of America, the freshman Congressman expressed the "hope that the day may not be far off when the Iron Curtain will finally be lifted from around Central and Eastern Europe." Dodd was a devout Roman Catholic and his hatred of Communist regimes was increased by their assaults on the Church.

"The courageous way in which the Slovak people have defended their priests from the Communist secret police, the secret church which has been organized in the Slovak Carpathian Mountains, the activities of the underground Liberty Legion -- have all been indicative of the free spirit that will not be smothered."

Record, 1956. Senatorial Campaign Brochure.

After two terms in the House and service on the Government Operations and Foreign Services Committee, as well as the Select Committee to Investigate Communist Aggression, Dodd was nominated by Connecticut Democrats to run against incumbent Senator Prescott S. Bush. Record, produced by the Dodd campaign and obviously patterned after Time magazine, contains three pages of information about the candidate. Dodd lost, a victim of the Eisenhower re-election landslide, but ran ahead of Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson in 168 of 169 Connecticut towns. Two years later after a hard fought campaign to secure the party nomination, Dodd defeated incumbent Republican William A. Purtell.

Record, 1956. Senatorial Campaign Brochure.


Press Release on Captive Nations, 19 July 1963.

As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and co-chair of its Internal Security Subcommittee, Dodd consistently championed the cause of captive nations such as Lithuania, Poland, and Hungary. He considered Soviet Communism the moral equivalent to the National Socialism of Germany that he helped prosecute at the Nuremberg Trials. Dodd advocated active steps to free those oppressed by Communism and opposed any conciliation with its leaders by U.S. politicians. In 1959 he led the opposition to the American visit of Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev, "the butcher of the Ukraine." In this July 19, 1963, press release, Dodd affirmed that "liberation is not a pipe dream -- and it must not be permitted to become a catch-phrase." (197:4908)

Thomas J. Dodd. "Anti-Semitism, the Swastika Epidemic and Communism."
Senate Speech, 15 March 1960.

In this speech, the Senator argued that despite a recent and highly publicized upsurge in anti-Semitic sentiment in the Federal Republic of Germany, conditions within this democracy should not be compared to the horrible human rights record of the Soviet Union.

"For anti-Semitism is not a specifically German problem -- it is a world problem. It exists both in the free world and in the Communist world, in all those countries where there are Jewish communities and . . . in many countries where the Jewish communities are tiny or nonexistent." In the Soviet Union "there are some 3 million Jews. In a land where all minorities are persecuted, they are the most persecuted of all minorities. They have been victims of a policy that can only be described as physical and cultural genocide." (191:4525)

Thomas J. Dodd. Letter to Adrian Fisher, 29 March 1963.

Although Dodd favored the concept of a nuclear test ban treaty, he opposed the 1962 draft agreement negotiated between the United States and Soviet Union. His misgivings were based upon the nation's inability to monitor Soviet compliance and the need for U.S. strategic preparedness. In a March, 1963, letter to Adrian Fisher, Deputy Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, the Senator emphasized that he favored "a properly safeguarded test ban treaty" and "the quest for limitations on the arms race," but opposed the current treaty due to lack of adequate safeguards "against the possibility of Soviet cheating." Dodd ultimately decided to support the treaty after certain ambiguities were resolved to his satisfaction. He helped secure ratification later that year. (196:4840)

Thomas J. Dodd and Lyndon B. Johnson.

The Senator was particularly close to Lyndon B. Johnson and was the only major Connecticut political leader to support Johnson for the presidency in 1960. John F. Kennedy garnered the enthusiastic support of all other major political leaders in the state. Four years later Dodd was rumored to be under consideration as President Johnson's running mate.

"Crusader from Connecticut," Reader's Digest, September 1964.

In the Senate, Dodd developed a reputation for being unafraid to take a solitary, unpopular stand on issues, which led to his frequent characterization as a "crusader." As President Johnson's leading foreign policy spokesman in the Senate, Dodd vigorously defended the U.S. presence in Vietnam against an increasingly vociferous opposition led by Senator J. William Fulbright, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The article "Crusader from Connecticut" originally appeared in the September 1964, Reader's Digest magazine and was conveniently timed to help the Senator in his re-election campaign. (200:5101/216:6016)

Thomas J. Dodd. Statement on Effects of Violence on Television, 16 June 1961.

Dodd served as chairman of the Juvenile Delinquency Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee. His fight there to curb juvenile delinquency built upon his earlier efforts as the Director of the National Youth Administration in Connecticut. The relationship between violence on television and criminal activity among youths concerned him deeply and led him to battle media executives over the degenerative values promoted by many television shows. (192:4606)

Thomas J. Dodd. "Denial of the Right To Vote." Senate Speech, 15 February 1960.

Dodd had a long record of support for minorities. He helped establish the first Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice and served as its Assistant Chief. His strong views in support of voting rights are articulated in an eloquent speech on the Senate floor, in which he affirmed that "this day . . . marks the opening of a crucial deliberation which will determine whether Congress shall reform through action . . . the unconstitutional system which circumstance, ignorance, and prejudice have erected in several States to deprive the Negro of basic, inalienable rights." Dodd ardently supported Presidents Kennedy and Johnson in their efforts to enact comprehensive civil rights legislation. (191:4523)

Press Release on Bill to Amend Federal Firearms Act, 2 August 1963.

The Senator labored in a lonely fight throughout his senatorial career to reform the nation's gun control statutes. Dodd's support of gun control legislation predated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Finally, after the 1968 assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the Gun Control Act and the State Firearm Control Assistance Act were passed. The laws placed some restrictions on the purchase of dangerous weapons, but the legislation did not go as far as he wished. (197:4913)

Press Release on Americanism, 19 July 1963.

Dodd grew increasingly concerned with the decline he perceived in America's core values as evidenced by rising crime, juvenile delinquency, drug use, pornography, divorce, and civil disobedience. He felt that the 1970s would be a crucial test for America in the Cold War and advocated a revamped United Nations and a higher form of patriotism to persevere against Communism. In a speech to the American Legion in Hartford, Dodd affirmed that Americanism was "the truer patriotism which enlightened men feel for this country. It is at once the most elevated, the most complex, and the most difficult of all patriotism. For it is one thing to love your country because you and your forefathers were born there . . . It is another thing, a higher thing, a harder thing, to love your country because it stands for something . . . something to do with ideals, with conduct, with a basic approach to life."

He concluded, "we are in the midst of a great national search, a search for world peace through world law; a search to transform the UN into a truly effective instrument of peace; a search for effective disarmament, which disarms our enemies as well as ourselves; a search to restore freedom and independence to a host of enslaved nations; and a search to build upon stronger, more lasting foundations, the temple of man's honor, man's dignity, and man's freedom." Unfortunately, Senator Dodd did not live to see the fulfillment of this dream. (197:4907)

Return to Introduction

Go to Part Two: Human Rights and the Rule of Law, 1670-1945