A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
Of all the many documentaries about the Holocaust, this was the first, made before the term was routinely linked to the event more properly called the Shoah. "Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today" was edited from many hours of film taken at the 11-month Nuremberg Trial, which starting in 1945 placed 22 high-ranking Nazis on trial for crimes which together amounted to an outrage against decency. Assembled and edited by Stuart Schulberg with U. S. government funding, the film was exhibited throughout Germany in 1948 and 1949, and then taken from release and never seen in America.
It gave audiences the spectacle of seeing such iconic Nazis as Göring, Borman, Hess and Speer, now humbled in an international courtroom, earphones clamped to their heads as they listen to the irrefutable evidence of their infamy. The film intercuts statements by the prosecution and defense and brief statements by some of the defendants.
As the record of crimes is read out, he film edits in horrifying footage from other documentaries made for the U. S. Army by such as John Ford. I hadn't seen all of these images before. Jews being marched naked through the streets, gloating mobs empowered by flimsy armbands, skeletal "subjects" of "medical experiments," the impossibly emaciated survivors of the death camps. An unspeakable sequence of corpses being piled into a mass grave, raising the question of why such film was shot, and why anyone agreed to be seen in it. The systematic extermination of six million Jews and nearly as many others was carried out boldly and openly, without apology, and when the unrepentant Göring is asked in the dock if he ever said human life was worthless, his answer rings out: "Jawhol!"
Most of the others seem repentant, and many in their final statements express resentment at what they see as Hitler's betrayal of their values, whatever they thought those were. It is revealing that even then, with the horrifying portrait of their evil deeds laid bare, they instinctively glorified Hitler so much that it was all his fault. Every single one of them was apparently only following orders, even those shown to have personally signed documents ordering the murder of children and those too weak to be useful slaves.