Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today

Rated 4.0

Until now, most Americans have known cinematically of Nuremberg either from Leni Riefenstahl’s odious 1935 evangelizing of its Nazi rallies or from Stanley Kramer’s Oscar-grubbing 1961 Hollywoodizing of its postwar international tribunals. But Stuart Schulberg’s 1948 documentary, heretofore unreleased in the United States, and newly restored by his daughter Sandra Schulberg with Josh Waletzky, stands as a potent corrective to both of those visions. A product of the U.S. War Department’s de-Nazification campaign, Schulberg’s film is both a record of the war-crimes trial and a summary of the still-harrowing evidence therein. It is briskly methodical, well-served by Liev Schreiber’s commanding narration, and satisfying not just for the sight of rank and high-ranking Nazis getting their due but also for the dignity of prosecutorial composure. This was, as Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson observed in his opening statement, “one of the most significant tributes that power has ever paid to reason.” Of course the judicial example of the defeated Third Reich has not deterred subsequent genocides or international aggressions—after all, another of the Nuremberg prosecutors was there on behalf of Stalin’s Soviet Union—but that’s exactly why this film’s subtitle still applies.