Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Look On! Judgment at Nuremberg

(Look On! takes occasional note of noteworthy productions)

Stanley Kramer (who also made Inherit the Wind (1960), 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 this movie about the American prosecution of members of the judiciary in Nazi Germany.
A lot of academic writing on law and film, and more specifically on international law and film, has focused on this movie:
Anthony Chase talks about the film in detail in the 'international law' section of his book Movies on Trial: The Legal System on the Silver Screen (2002).
► Amherst Professor Lawrence Douglas also refers to it in his 2006 article, "The Didactic Trial: Filtering History and Memory into the Courtroom". Douglas makes the point that many people (at least in the United States) erroneously believe that this movie was about the Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, when in fact, the Justice Trial took place three years after, as one of several trials before American tribunals at Nuremberg. (Last year, Kevin Jon Heller of Melbourne Law School published a definitive account of the latter group of trials, in his book The Nuremberg Military Tribunals and the Origins of International Criminal Law.)
The film fictionalises and focuses on those trials, in particular the examination in postwar Nuremberg of the 'Katzenberger trial' that had taken place during the Nazi regime. Judgment thus looks at the responsibility of the judges for the case in which an elderly Jewish man was sentenced to death under Nazi Germany's 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 at 186 minutes long. But it's worth every minute. A classic Hollywood movie that was nominated for 11 Oscars and won 2, it is definitely one of the most famous law and international criminal justice movies out there.

(Cross-posted at Human Rights Film Diary blog)

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