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Nuremberg Trials: Its Lesson for Today

Nuremberg Trials: Its Lesson for Today (1947)

One of the most important contemporary historical materials to the process and the history of National Socialism

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Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today depicts the most famous courtroom drama in modern times, and the first to make extensive use of film as evidence. It was also the first trial to be extensively documented, aurally and visually. All of the proceedings, which lasted for nearly 11 months, were recorded.

And though the trial was filmed while it was happening, strict limits were placed on the Army Signal Corps cameramen by the Office of Criminal Counsel. In the end, they were permitted to film only about 25 hours over the entire course of the trial. This was to prove a great impediment for writer/director Stuart Schulberg, and his editor Joseph Zigman, when they were engaged to make the official film about the trial, in 1946, shortly after its conclusion.

“Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today” was made by the Office of Military Government for Germany in May of 1947 under the auspices of the OSS Field Photographic Unit headed by John Ford. In the summer of 1945, Ford dispatched Stuart to Europe to hunt for Nazi films that could be used at the Nuremberg trial. His older brother Budd, of higher rank, followed and led what became a small team of editors and writers. During a frenzied 4-month period, the Schulberg brothers and their colleagues scoured the German-occupied territories for footage.

The films and photos they presented in the courtroom played a role in convicting the Nazis on trial. Subsequently, Stuart Schulberg wrote and directed this film, Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today which became the official documentary about the trial. This film tells the story of the Nuremberg Trials of the major Nazi war criminals. The film begins with the International Military Tribunal as proceedings open on 14 November 1945, through the verdict on October 1, 1946, and follows the general argument made by the Chief Prosecutor Robert H. Jackson.

The documentary contains the footage from the courtroom and excerpts of the materials presented during the trial, including movies of the Nazi concentration camps. The film was originally released in German in 1948 at Stuttgart and in 1949 in West Berlin, for the civilian population to see and appreciate its lesson.

After Nuremberg was completed in 1948, Stuart Schulberg produced denazification and re-education films aimed at German audiences in his role as chief of U.S. Military Government’s Documentary Film Unit in Berlin.

A restored version was released in 2009, created by the daughter of Stuart Schulberg, the American film producer Sandra Schulberg, together with Josh Waletzky. The restored version was presented at the 2010 Berlinale.

The film historian Ronny Loewy called this film one of the most important contemporary historical materials to the process and the history of National Socialism.

Nuremberg Trials 1945-1946 - The International Military Tribunal
Category: Events
When the occupation of Germany was completed by the Allied forces, there began the formidable task of bringing to some form of justice the...

Germany Nazi (1933-1945)
  • English
WWII (1939-1945)
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