Bereft of their dead Führer and Dr. Goebbels, the accused included suave “visionary” Albert Speer, air-marshal and art-pillager Hermann Goering (who looks guiltlessly bored by the crushing evidence of infamy), and odious Hans Frank, the chief tormentor of Poland (his mousey apology is a jaw-dropper). Most of the accused would be hung. Others (like Speer) got long prison terms, but how do you really punish people who so gladly constructed hell?
The film’s hero is the main American prosecutor, stern and eloquent Justice Robert H. Jackson. Its added value, beyond the trial scenes, is a powerful torrent of images about the Nazi rise, their serial crimes, their systematic “logic” of sadism. Designed to answer the staggering questions, “What happened, and why?” the movie does a searingly credible job, though the Holocaust is short-served (the full impact of that tragedy would take time to seep in, and films are still struggling with it).
Made by producer Pare Lorentz’s team, notably Sgt. Stuart Schulberg (brother of the famous Budd), the movie was shown in Germany but never released in America. This restoration of a German archival print was produced by Sandra Schulberg, Stuart’s daughter, and Josh Waletzky. As narrated by Liev Schreiber, this piercing testament has none of the stark humor found in writer Malcolm Muggeridge’s diary for March 19, 1946:
“Goering said under cross-examination at Nuremberg that he was sorry about the burning down of the Reichstag because he had to requisition the Kroll Opera House as alternative accommodation, and he regarded opera as in every respect a superior enterprise to the Reichstag.”
Reader rating: ★★★
Reviewed in the listings: Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer, Meet Monica Velour, and X-Men: First Class.