Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today

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Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Robin Clifford 
Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today
Laura Clifford of Reeling Reviews
Laura Clifford 

In the autumn of 1945, the first of the war crimes trials against the highest ranking Nazis began in the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg, Germany. Filmmakers Stuart Schulberg and Budd Schulberg were commissioned by US military intelligence to make a film that would concisely combine trial film footage with Nazi propaganda materials. The original prints were long thought lost until Stuart’s daughter Sandra and Josh Waletzky headed an effort to restore the original film, now in an English-language version of “Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today.”

The first stage of the famous Nuremberg trials brought before the bench the highest ranking Nazis - Hermann Goring (head of the Luftwaffe and Hitler’s second in command), Josef Goebbels (Minister of Propaganda), Rudolf Hess (Hitler’s chief deputy), Alfred Jodl (named Fuehrer after Hitler’s death), Karl Donitz (head of the Navy) and 15 other criminals - by the four Allied powers. Their charges were crimes against humanity, war crimes and the cruel extermination of the Jews and other “undesirables” under Nazi rule.

Pare Lorentz, as head of Film/Theatre/Film in the U.S. War Department's Civil Affairs Division in 1945, gave director Stuart Schulberg the task of not just chronicling the trial of the leaders of the Third Reich. He and his production team were also tasked to search through the mountains of Nazi propaganda film and record their self-admitted attempt to rule the world. The courtroom footage, where you can hear the accusations by the court and denials of the defendants, is interspersed with the propaganda footage that flows sequentially from the earliest days of Nazi domination through to the liberation of the notorious concentration across Germany and its formerly conquered lands.

The original intent of “Nuremberg” was to have it shown to the German populace after the war to educate them on the horrors of Nazism and everything it touched. But, after a short few years and the rebuilding of West Germany and Europe, interest in the past faded and prints of the film disappeared. Through the dedicated, hard work and extensive research by Sandra Schulberg and Josh Waletzky, a print of the original film was discovered in the German national archives and they restored the film, adding an English language narration by Liev Shreiber.

The intent of the original commission of “Nuremberg” was to show the German people the perils of totalitarianism and dictatorship and remind them to remember their past so it is not repeated in the future. The reissue, I hope and I am sure the documentary team hopes too, will rekindle that original intent and help us recognize the evils of the past and not allow it – and it is up to all of us – to have it visit us ever again. This is my kind of documentary. I give it an A-

Laura did not see this film.
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