It has been three years since the most important Nazi leaders had already been tried. This trial is about 4 judges who used their offices to conduct Nazi sterilization and cleansing policies. Retired American judge, Dan Haywood has a daunting task ahead of him. The Cold War is heating up and no one wants any more trials as Germany, and Allied governments, want to forget the past. But is that the right thing to do is the question that the tribunal must decide.Written by
Tony Fontana <email@example.com>
Stanley Kramer wanted to film in the original courtroom where the real trials took place, but it was still in use and unavailable to him. He had a mock-up built in the studio, scaled down for greater efficiency in photographing the action. See more »
Judge Haywood describes Dachau as being "not too many miles" from Nuremberg. Dachau was in fact over 60 miles/100 km from Nuremberg. See more »
Judge Dan Haywood:
Herr Janning, you may proceed.
I wish to testify about the Feldenstein case because it was the most significant trial of the period. It is important not only for the tribunal to understand it, but for the whole German people. But in order to understand it, one must understand the period in which it happened. There was a fever over the land, a fever of disgrace, of indignity, of hunger. We had a democracy, yes, but it was torn by elements within. Above all there was fear, fear of today, fear of ...
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Would a film of that candor have a chance of being made today?
I watched "Judgment at Nuremburg" on PBS the other night. I had never seen it before. I expected an empty-headed, Hollywood-style, quasi-melodrama, but I was pleasantly surprised. Even Spencer Tracy, that universally beloved actor whose appeal has always escaped me, gave an honest and heartfelt portrayal of a "simple man" who was also a deeply conflicted judge.
What I liked most about this movie was that it didn't pull any punches, in the manner of other "controversial" films of its time. The defense attorney, superbly played by Maximilian Schell, weaves a simple, but undeniable web of logic:
Sterilization of "undesirables," one of the charges against the Nazi war criminals, was at one time condoned by the U.S. courts, and encouraged by none other than Oliver Wendell Holmes. - Numerous leading industrialists in the U.S. contributed to the development of the Nazi war machine. - Encouragement was given to Hitler's expansionism by both Russia and England. - Churchill is quoted as having admired Hitler. - The Vatican actively collaborated with the Nazis.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but it must have taken major cojones to present that kind of message to American filmgoers in 1961. Would a film of that candor have a chance of being made today?
I tend to doubt it.
One further note. The film describes how the Nazis went about stripping the German judiciary of judges who were known for their objectivity, and replacing them with judges who were appointed based solely on their party loyalties.
The mind boggles at the implications and yes, the prescience of this well-written, well-played masterpiece.
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