Robert Jackson presents an argument at the Nuremberg War Trials

Sixty Years After the Nuremberg Trials: Crimes Against Humanity and Peace - September 26-29, 2005 at Chautauqua Institution

Speaker Bios

Robert Donihi


Robert Donihi is one of the last surviving prosecutors of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East in Tokyo who was also a prosecutor Nuremberg. He was one of two investigators who worked very closely with the chief prosecutor in Tokyo, Joseph Keenan.

Despite having lost a leg before the war, making him ineligible for the draft, Donihi served in the Coast Guard Temporary Reserve when the Nashville Bridge Company was connected to an anti-submarine unit. As the only trial lawyer in his firm who wasn't drafted, Donihi became a partner in Daniel, Miles, & Donihi.

Donihi practiced law in Washington until 1945 and in October of that year, on the occasion of his introduction to the Supreme Court, he accepted the invitation to go to Tokyo. When he got to Tokyo, Donihi began to see headlines about being involved in the trial of the Emperor, which ultimately became a 12-nation trial. Donihi's role was to interrogate witnesses to see who should be indicted and was very surprised when this phase came first in the proceedings.

When the war ended, General Douglas MacArthur's charge as the postwar governor of Japan was to assume that every member of the Japanese zaibatsu was involved in the prosecution of the war and was a potential war criminal. Though they were detained, Donihi and his fellow investigator could not find enough evidence to sustain an indictment, and the zaibatsu were let off. German industrialists left a paper trail that the investigators could follow. The Japanese did not, and consequently, none of them stood trial.

Donihi later came to believe that the industrialists should have been tried separately for their crimes against POWs. The idea of "command responsibility" had been established at Nuremberg and continued at Tokyo, and the industrialists had command responsibility for what happened on their property.

Just as his part in the trial was finished, personal tragedy drew him back to the States and with mounting medical expenses, Donihi contacted the War Department for work and was sent to Nuremberg, arriving New Year's Eve 1946-47. Using his ability to fluently speak Russian, the War Department appointed him to service on the Council on High Priority Policy Matters, Chief of Public Affairs, and in the Legal Division in Military Government.

In 1952, his work in Germany done, Donihi returned home to practice law. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1956 and was much in demand as a public speaker for many years.



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