Judgment at Nuremberg
The movie Judgment at Nuremberg which was released in 1961, was a fictionalized account of the Trial of four judges who implemented the orders of Hitler’s Secret Service to carry out mass extermination of Jews. The film depicts individual involvement in crime perpetrated by the State. This is the story of defense officials of Hitler’s regime, who survived the war by following the law of the country. The trial scene in the film begins with the prosecution attorney calling the accused officials to account for the brutalities, atrocities, and murders committed by them during the Nazi regime. The prosecution didn’t allow for ignorance as a justification, for all the officials during the Nazi regime, was educated and knowledgeable adults. The defense counsel sought fairness of judgment and honest evaluation of charges against the German officials and opined that the sole purpose of the judges was to carry out and abide by the law. The defense counsel argued that whatever the accused had done was for the love of their country, and between patriotism and treason, they had chosen the former, as they had no other choice.
During the Feldenstein case in which the accused was charged with race mixing, the prosecution attorney was hell bent to prove Feldenstein guilty. In the movie, the defense counsel kept badgering Irene Hoffman to admit her affair with Feldenstein
and despite Feldenstein’s innocence, he was found guilty and was executed. Defense judge Jenning took a noticeably silent stance and didn’t take action to prevent this unfair judgment. The prosecutor submitted evidences including a film on Nazi holocaust, which was shown in the court, but the defense counsel objected to it and said it was not fair to show these against those defendants because they were not party to the holocaust horrors shown in the film. In the final judgment made by the tribunal, all the accused were found guilty and they received life imprisonment.
The movie “The Judgment at Nuremberg”, which own Academy award for best script and best actor, is an intensely absorbing movie which fires the imagination of the viewers about the holocaust time. Maximilian Schell, who defended the Fascist regime of Hitler throughout the trial deservedly won the best actor Academy Award for his electrifying performance. There was brilliant and mesmerizing performance by Spencer Tracy as a somnolent judge, Montgomery Clift as a former concentration camp inmate, and Burt Lancaster, as a pre-eminent German judge with a difference. The entire cast of the film was brilliant and the entire courtroom drama and examination of legal pros and cons were done with such superb acting prowess that one cannot drag ones eyes away from the screen. No one perhaps could have done this film in a better way. The movie leaves an unforgettable imprint on the minds of viewers and is a truly well researched and classic movie.
The screenplay of the movie is magnificent and the depiction honest, with equal weightage given to both sides. Brilliance of the screenplay is compounded by superb acting by almost all the casts. Both the prosecutor and defense side fought their case marked by high emotion and drama. The theme of the movie itself is ageless and the atrocities committed and the wounds inflicted during Hiltler’s regime can be re-lived again vividly. The film also deals with an important question that came up during the trial. Can the people, who are abiding the country’s existing law and are obeying the order of the highest authority, be held responsible for their act of inhumanity and for the fate of those affected by their act of brutality? A fine courtroom drama, long, yet never dragging.