In 1946 many Nazis are sentenced to death at the Nuremberg trials. Senator Robert A Taft of Ohio questions the legality of these trials since the men have no chance for appeal and since their crimes were enacted after the fact.

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Episode credited cast:
Lou Frizzell ...
Jensen
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Stanley
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Tom Smith
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Martha
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Professor Goldman
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Joan
Loring Smith ...
Jensen
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Senator Robert A. Taft
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In 1946 many Nazis are sentenced to death at the Nuremberg trials. Senator Robert A Taft of Ohio questions the legality of these trials since the men have no chance for appeal and since their crimes were enacted after the fact.

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3 January 1965 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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War crimes: the Pros and Cons
2 November 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Lee Tracy had a very odd career in Hollywood. In the early 1930s he was slowly being showcased in films like BOMBSHELL and DINNER AT EIGHT as a potentially big star. He certainly had talent in comedy or in drama. But in 1934 he was being featured in the Wallace Beery feature film VIVA VILLA, as the American journalist (based on John Reed) who befriends Villa. It was a big role - the biggest Tracy had to that time. But in a lull in the shooting, Tracy got drunk at his hotel, walked out on the balcony, and either purposely or accidentally peed on top of a group of marching Mexican soldiers. He was immediately fired from the film, and his contract with MGM dropped. Although he'd continue to make movies into the 1960s, only his last role (in the film version of Gore Vidal's THE BEST MAN) was worthy of the talent he once showed.

He appears here as Senator Robert Taft, son of the 27th President, three time aspirant (in 1940, 1948, and 1952) for the Republican Nomination for the Presidency. Known then and since as "Mr. Republican", Taft was an outspoken conservative, but extremely intelligent and realistic. The leading co-author of the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, which said that one did not have to be a member of a labor union to have a job in a company with labor unions in it, he ended the idea of a closed shop contract. The act, although decried by Democrats at the time, has never been repealed. In short, Taft had the ill-fortune to have the respect of everyone, but never sufficient support to get the nomination he deserved. Even Kennedy, in the book, calls his failure to become President his tragedy.

One thing that certainly prevented his nomination was his outspoken stand on the issue of the Nuremburg Trials in post-war Germany in 1946. Given the evidence of the horrors and crimes of the Nazi regime (and also the Japanese regime - people tend to forget the Tokyo war crimes at the time) people around the globe insisted on justice. They insisted that the leadership of the Nazis and Japanese regimes pay - possibly with their lives - for these crimes. So the international tribunals were set up that sifted all the evidence, and went after those leaders, and the most notorious of the lesser figures who were in charge of the crimes.

It is really hard to feel that people like Goering, Rosenberg, Von Ribbentrop, Kaltenbrunner, and Streicher did not deserve some punishment for what they encouraged or ordered. Millions were dead or maimed as a result of their policies. But Taft had a very clear intelligence, and brought up matters that (in retrospect) did have some validity. It was just in 1946 it was too close to the atrocities for most people to consider Taft's views with some degree of calmness.

Taft's point was that by setting up these tribunals, you were setting up a dangerous precedent for the future. For all the good intentions of punishing vicious human beings for the atrocities, you were saying that running a government meant that you had to be self-limiting in what your policies were. What if you had to protect your nation, and had to do something violent to do it - something that ill-effects other peoples. If your leaders did this, not from evil philosophies like Nazi racial theories but from self-preservation, but lose the war, they were likely to be tried for war crimes.

Taft was attacked for this view, and it is really easy to understand why. But if one looks at the present day, where American intelligence against Osama Bin Laden or Al Quaeda or other enemies requires harsh measures (including torture), and the harsh reaction around the globe to incidents involving Guantanamo or Iraqui prisons, you see precisely what Taft was arguing about. He actually showed a realistic prescience on the subject, which I suspect will continue to bedevil the United States (and other countries) well into the future.


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