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Sunday, 15 January 2012 09:59

History Is Recovered in 'Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today'
Written by Diane Carson
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About this Media...

  • Director: Sandra Schulberg and Josh Waletzky
  • Dates: Opens January 20, 2012

An historical treasure, Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today first screened in 1948 in Germany but was not released in the U.S. until this past year, over six decades later. This astonishing film includes testimony given at the 1945-46 Nuremberg trial, plus excerpts from films, including those compiled by American director John Ford's Field Photo Branch and War Crimes team.

In her recent fact checklist, Sandra Schulberg clarifies that in Josh Waletzky's and her restoration of this film, they did not change one frame of the original. Sandra Schulberg's father, the film's now deceased producer/director Stuart Schulberg, even chose the subtitle Its Lesson for Today. Moreover, for verisimilitude, narrator Liev Schreiber reads the 1948 narration into a 1940s RCA microphone, with additions only of several last names for historical figures less well known today. In other words, Nuremberg is a scrupulously accurate document of the German film, withheld from American theaters at the recommendation of Secretary of the Army Kenneth Royall who felt it was not in our nation's interest in 1949. The controversial decision in part held that Soviets had become enemies instead of allies and the rebuilding of Germany took center stage not their criminal history, which is what is presented here.

It is even more surprising, then, that during the 187 day Nuremberg trial, the military tribunal was intent on a fair imposition of justice for twenty-one major Nazi officials. They included Hermann Göring, Rudolf Hess, Joachim von Ribbentrop, and Albert Speer. To be equitable, the architect of the courtroom, Dan Kiley, designed the space in a unique way with the American, French, Russian, and English judges placed in the center with prosecution, defense, and defendants facing them and a large film screen. Evidence included selections from Nazis' documents and documentary filmic records. The trial concludes with verdicts announced on October 1st, 1946, and some of them are surprising.

With the announced intent to make the peace more secure and to serve as a warning to all, the Nuremberg trial and the film proceed chronologically through the 1930s and the 40s after the film depicts devastated 1945 Europe. Admirably organized and conducted, the Nuremberg Trial has become the template for all such subsequent war trials committed to fair treatment. There's no substitute for listening to the prosecution and watching the defendants in the accomplished Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today. It imparts critical, first-hand knowledge, lest we forget. With English narration and some German with English subtitles. At a Landmark Theatre.

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