NuremburgJudgment at Nuremburg is one of the greatest films about post-war Germany. Made in 1961, Nuremburg boasted such stars as Spencer Tracy, Richard Widmark, Burt Lancastar, Montgomery Clift, Judy Garland, and a very young William Shatner.

Nuremburg is based on the many trials that took place after WWII that prosecuted prominent military, political and economic leaders from Nazi Germany. The actual trials took place in Nuremburg, Germany from 1945-49.

Tracy plays Chief Judge Dan Haywood that has been recruited to preside over the trials of several high ranking German judges who are accused of committing crimes of war.

The trial goes on for several days with no decisions made. Widmark is the lead prosecutor for the American military and goes against a fiery German defense attorney played by Maximilian Schell.

The 4 prominent Germans are on trial for crimes such as authorizing unjust sterilization and passing unfair judgements on fixed trials.

Clift and Garland both have small but quite memorable parts. They both plays witnesses that have been directly effected by the men on trial.

Clift’s portrayl of a mentally slow man who was forcibly sterilized as a young man earned him his 4th and last Oscar nod. You can feel how uncomfortable he is on the witness stand, especially as the defense attorney hammers him with questions about his past.

Garland plays Irene Hoffman-Wallner whose elderly German friend, Herr Feldenstein, was accused of sleeping with her when she was 16 and he in his 60s. He was accused of breaking Hitler’s law prohibiting German-Jewish relations.

Lancaster plays the judge who presided over the Feldenstein case, Dr. Ernst Janning. Janning had passed down a sentence of death for Feldenstein and 2 years in prison for Hoffman. But the case had been a headline maker and was not tried correctly.

Lancaster’s character Janning makes a speech in which he takes responsibility for what he did in the name of the Third Reich. He is the only man on trial that shows any remorse.

Janning is almost completely silent through the first half of the film. But his speech on how he and others should be punished for just standing by and watching Hitler is moving.

Judge Haywood must eventually weigh all the testimonies and pass down his own judgement on who is guilty of what. In the end, the men are all found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. The judges state that they realize the men thought they were doing what they did for Hitler and Germany’s good. But they still had to pay for what they did.

Nuremburg earned 4 actors (Clift, Garland, Tracy and Schell) Oscar nominations. Schell won for best leading actor.

This film does a good job of balancing the courtroom drama with Haywood’s daily life and struggles with the case.

This film has been hailed as one of the best about judges. It is quite lengthy but if you are at all interested in the history surrounding WWII, you will enjoy this film.

Nuremburg truly shows the mindset of many German officials who wanted to please Hitler and turned a blind eye to atrocities like the concentration camps. Even after the war was lost, many still believed in communism.

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