Sunday, July 8, 2012

14. Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)

Stanley Kramer (who also made Inherit the Wind the subject of an earlier post) assembled an all star cast for the 1961 movie Judgment at Nuremberg.  Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, William Shatner and Montgomery Clift are just some of the actors in the movie about the American prosecution of members of the judiciary in Nazi Germany.  It was one of the first movies to be made about the Holocaust. 

A lot of academic writing on law and film, and more specifically on international law and film has focused on this movie.  Antony Chase talks about the film in detail in the 'international law' section of his book 'Movies on Trial'.  Lawrence Douglas also refers to it in his article on the filtering history and memory into war crimes trials.  Douglas makes the point that many people (at least in the US) erroneously believe that the movie was about the Nuremberg trials, when in fact, the trial of the four judges took place three years after the IMT. 

However, the film fictionalises and focuses on real trials which took place in particular the 'Katzenberger trial' in Nazi Germany.  The film looks at the responsibility of the judges for the case in which an elderly Jewish man was sentenced to death under the Nuremberg laws for his relationship with an Aryan German woman. (There are also echoes of this case in the musical Cabaret, made into a movie in 1972, as a romance blossoms between Fraulein Schneider and her suitor Herr Schultz, a Jewish man).  

The movie is a marathon, its 186 minutes long.  But its worth every minute.  A classic Hollywood movie nominated for 11 Oscars and winning 2, its definitely one of the most famous law and international criminal justice movies out there. 

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