A Weekend in Black and White, Part 1: Nuremberg

I saw five movies theatrically over Friday and Saturday, all of them in black and white.

I started Friday night with a screening at the Shattuck of Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today. The director’s daughter, Sandra Schulberg, who also oversaw the restoration of this 1946 documentary, spoke before and after the screening.

Her father, Stuart Schulberg, made Nuremburg for the US Government, to show to German audiences as part of the de-Nazification campaign. It intercuts footage from the famous trials with older footage of Nazi atrocities. (And yes, Stuart Schulberg was the brother of the great writer and stool pigeon Bud Schulberg.)

Re-release trailer

If you’re looking for a great, insightful, and emotionally effective documentary about the Third Reich or the Holocaust, this isn’t it. It tries to cover too much in 78 minutes, has a monotone feel, and is clearly bending over to avoid criticizing our wartime allies for their mistakes in trying to appease Hitler.

But it has the attraction of something that was, in its time, fresh. This was made for an audience that still had to be told what had happened in those "showers." That rawness makes it fascinating in the way that films from the 1890s are fascinating–you’re watching a now-common sight that was once a first-time experience.

There was something else: This film kept reminding me of recent events involving my own county. It was, after all, a trial of government leaders who had performed war crimes and crimes against the peace, and who thought they were invulnerable. There’s a moment when the narrator quotes a high Nazi official–a defendant in the trial–about the irrelevant Geneva Conventions. No one used the word quaint, but I thought it.

I wasn’t the only one who had that reaction. When she talked after the film, Schulberg made it clear that this was the movie’s "Lesson for Today." Then she brought up Daniel Ellsberg to drive home the point. The United States officially considers itself exempt from all accusations of war crimes, and while our atrocities don’t match those of the Nazis, they still require our attention. And a fair trial.

I’ll tell you about my Saturday experiences in another post.

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