Stars: Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Marlene Dietrich, Maximilian Schell
Genre: Drama, History, War
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Runtime: 186 minutes
Director Stanley Kramer's socially conscious 1961 film tackles the subject of the war crime trials arising out of World War II in an earnest and straightforward fashion, exploring the consciousness of two nations as they struggle to come to terms with the aftermath of the Holocaust. Spencer Tracy plays the American judge selected to head the tribunal that will try the suspected war criminals. As he sets about his task, he must confront the raw emotion felt by the German people, and his own notions of good and evil, right and wrong. Regarded as a classic, this stark rendering of one of the most pivotal events in the 20th century features a stellar cast including Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Marlene Dietrich, a young William Shatner, and Maximillian Schell, who won an Oscar for his role as counsel for the defense for those charged with crimes against humanity. Judgment at Nuremberg is important viewing not only for the history of film, but for the history of modern times. --Robert Lane
Judge Haywood... the reason I asked you to come. Those people, those millions of people... I never knew it would come to that. YOU must believe it, YOU MUST believe it.
Judge Dan Haywood:
Herr Janning, it came to that the first time you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent.
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. There was, above all, fear. Fear of today, fear of tomorrow, fear of our neighbors, fear of ourselves. Only when you understand that can you understand what Hitler meant to us. Because he said to us: 'Lift up your heads! Be proud to be German! There are devils among us. Communists, Liberals, Jews, Gypsies! Once the devils will be destroyed, your miseries will be destroyed.' It was the old, old story of the sacrifical lamb. What about us, who knew better? We who knew the words were lies and worse than lies? Why did we sit silent? Why did we participate? Because we loved our country! What difference does it make if a few political extremists lose their rights? What difference does it make if a few racial minorities lose their rights? It is only a passing phase. It is only a stage we are going through. It will be discarded sooner or later. 'The country is in danger.' We will 'march out of the shadows.' 'We will go forward.' And history tells you how well we succeeded! We succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. The very elements of hate and power about Hitler that mesmerized Germany, mesmerized the world! We found ourselves with sudden powerful allies. Things that had been denied us as a democracy were open to us now. The world said go ahead, take it! Take Sudetenland, take the Rhineland - remilitarize it - take all of Austria, take it! We marched forward, the danger passed. And then one day, we looked around and found we were in even more terrible danger. The rites began in this courtroom, swept over our land like a raging, roaring disease! What was going to be a passing phase became a way of life.
Judge Dan Haywood:
Janning, to be sure, is a tragic figure. We believe he loathed the evil he did. But compassion for the present torture of his soul must not beget forgetfulness of the torture and death of millions by the government of which he was a part. Janning's record and his fate illuminate the most shattering truth that has emerged from this trial. If he and the other defendants were all depraved perverts - if the leaders of the Third Reich were sadistic monsters and maniacs - these events would have no more moral significance than an earthquake or other natural catastrophes. But this trial has shown that under the stress of a national crisis, men - even able and extraordinary men - can delude themselves into the commission of crimes and atrocities so vast and heinous as to stagger the imagination. No one who has sat through this trial can ever forget. The sterilization of men because of their political beliefs... The murder of children... How easily that can happen. There are those in our country today, too, who speak of the protection of the country. Of survival. The answer to that is: survival as what? A country isn't a rock. And it isn't an extension of one's self. It's what it stands for, when standing for something is the most difficult. Before the people of the world - let it now be noted in our decision here that this is what we stand for: justice, truth... and the value of a single human being.
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