Legal History

At the Movies: Restored Film Shows Nuremberg Trial and Evidence

Nuremberg movie trailer.

The definitive 1948 film about the Nuremberg trial of 22 former Nazi political and military leaders, “Nuremberg: Its Lessons for Today”, has finally been given theatrical release in the U.S.

This restored version holds true to the original, right down to the scratches and splice lines. But it has added value that the original lacked, such as the painstaking addition of audio tracks from the courtroom that had never been matched and synchronized with the film.

For the first time, viewers see and hear a number of the defendants speak, with subtitles in English, as they often try weaseling their ways out of culpability when evidence against them has proved insurmountable. Audio recordings were made of the entire 11-month trial, with only 25 hours of it filmed.

The Nazis’ own documents, photos and films proved to be sufficient evidence against them, but it had to be put together. Short documentaries by Stuart Schulberg and his brother Budd Schulberg were shown during the trial as evidence. One, “The Nazi Plan,” detailed the rise of Hitler and the conspiracy to wage aggressive war on other countries. The other, “The Nazi Concentration Camps,” showed many for the first time how unspeakably inhumane that plan’s logistics would become.

The 80-minute film’s narrative builds in a way that it is a primer on the development of Nazism, its conquest of surrounding countries and the atrocities, including the Holocaust, that occurred along the way. It follows the structure of the trial itself through four main indictments: conspiracy to wage aggressive war, crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“I really hope law students and lawyers see this film,” says Sandra Schulberg, who along with Josh Waletzky restored the film that was written and directed by her father, the late Stuart Schulberg. She was interviewed at the Washington premiere on Friday. “It says so much about what was done with the rule of law.”

The film’s U.S. theatrical premiere was in New York City on Sept. 29; last week it was screened in Washington, D.C.

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