David Weissbrodt, longtime U professor who founded its Human Rights Center, dies

David Weissbrodt didn’t like watching violent movies.

“We’ve had this saying – they look too much like work,” said Pat Schaffer, his wife for over 50 years.

As a widely published human rights law scholar who has spent his career working on behalf of victims of murder and torture, Weissbrodt was far too familiar with real-world violence. Her main interest “was to do something about it,” she said.

“He was going on a mission for Amnesty International and meeting people in countries where it was dangerous,” Schaffer said. “He was always aware that it was risky, but important.”

Weissbrodt, of Minneapolis, Professor Emeritus of the Regents at the University of Minnesota School of Law, died Nov. 11 of Parkinson’s disease. He was 77 years old.

Originally from Washington, DC, Weissbrodt attended Columbia University and the London School of Economics. He received a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley and joined U Law School in 1975.

In 1988, he founded the U’s Human Rights Center, one of the first of its kind, and then launched the largest human rights library in the world. He was the first American citizen to chair a United Nations human rights body since Eleanor Roosevelt.

Weissbrodt worked with Advocates for Human Rights and Amnesty International and helped establish the Center for Victims of Torture, headquartered in St. Paul. He launched the International Human Rights Internship Program to give students the opportunity to work in human rights organizations around the world. Minnesota Protocol on the investigation of potentially unlawful deaths.

During his 43-year law school career, Weissbrodt has published several books on human rights, immigration, and international law. He is the co-author of “International Human Rights: Law, Policy, and Process”, a 1,200-page book, and has been a visiting professor at universities in France, Switzerland, England, Japan and Australia.

Weissbrodt wrote a manual for the United Nations to train people to work with victims of human rights violations, Schaffer said, so that they can “understand the trauma. [victims] had been through and the possible dangers that the rest of their family, if not them, might face. “

He was widely known as a mentor and inspiration to hundreds of students over the years. They would walk by his desk a lot, sometimes crying from the stress of law school, Schaffer said.

“Deep down he was a mensch,” she said. “He was warm … [and] would help them with their personal problems. This core warmth is what I think propelled him forward and why people loved him personally. He listened, he cared. “

Sometimes at social gatherings, when Weissbrodt was talking to people about his job, “They’d say, ‘Oh, it’s really worth it, I’d love to help with that!’ and I was like, “Are you sure? “Schaffer said.” Because in three days they would get a call from him and he would have a project for them. “

Weissbrodt was a realist, Schaffer said, knowing that despite all his work, the world would never become enlightened enough to end human rights abuses “and we would all have peace and justice.”

“But he said if he could move the ball a yard towards the goal post it would be a lifelong job that would have satisfied him,” she said.

Besides Schaffer, Weissbrodt is survived by his son, James, of Minneapolis; daughter, Bronwen, of Andover; sister, Amy Monahan, of Portland, Oregon; and three grandchildren. Services have taken place.

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