Today is the 65th anniversary of the day that testimony started in the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal. During the proceedings, Thomas J. Dodd held up a shrunken head in the courtroom; this is a day that will long be remembered.
It was on December 13, 1945 that Thomas Dodd introduced USA Exhibit #254: the shrunken head, which Ilse Koch, the wife of Commandant Karl Otto Koch of Buchenwald, had allegedly used as a paperweight.
The making of shrunken heads was an atrocity that came under War Crimes, one the four new categories of crimes that were made up by the Allies specifically for the defeated Germans. The other three categories were Crimes against Peace, Crimes against Humanity and the designation of the National Socialists (Nazi) political party, as well as the SS, as criminal organizations.
Strangely, the Nazis only made two shrunken heads and they were found at the Buchenwald concentration camp when it was liberated by American soldiers. After shrinking the heads of two Polish prisoners at Buchenwald, the Nazis gave up this fascinating hobby. Did some German doctors go to South America to learn the art of shrinking heads? Probably. I wouldn’t put anything past those evil Nazis.
Thomas J. Dodd was also the prosecutor who introduced USA Exhibit #253: pieces of human tattooed skin from concentration camp prisoners which had been preserved by tanning.
Later, Thomas J. Dodd became a U.S. Senator from Connecticut and the father of Senator Christopher Dodd.
Back when Sen. Christopher Dodd decided to run for President, he wrote a book in which he quoted extensively from the letters that his father had written to his mother while the Nuremberg IMT was in progress. I read the book, Letters from Nuremberg shortly after it was published.
I was struck by the fact that Thomas J. Dodd seemed to believe that the Allies were being very fair to the Germans and had given them a fair trial. The only criticism he had was that 75% of the lawyers, involved in the trial of the German war criminals were Jewish. He didn’t seem to understand that these jobs were given to Jews because they could speak German, or at least Yiddish.
Update Nov. 24, 2010:
A reader asked in a comment if there was a forensic report on the shrunken head. No, there were no forensic reports on anything because this was not necessary. The Allies made the rules for the IMT and they included this rule:
V. POWERS OF THE TRIBUNAL AND CONDUCT OF THE TRIAL
Article 21. The Tribunal shall not require proof of facts of common knowledge but shall take judicial notice thereof.
The making of shrunken heads by the Germans was “common knowledge” that did not require proof, so the Allies were not required to furnish proof that the Germans had made the shrunken head that Thomas J. Dodd held up in the courtroom.
The Allies had made up new laws for the IMT and new rules for the proceedings.
The German “war criminals” were being tried on a charge of participating in a “common plan” to commit war crimes, so it didn’t matter whether any of the accused had actually made this shrunken head. Every German on trial was automatically guilty of making shrunken heads.
The same rule applied to the soap, allegedly made from human fat, which was introduced into evidence at the Nuremberg IMT by the Soviet prosecutors. There was no forensic report done on the soap because it was common knowledge that the Germans had made soap out of the Jews.