Monday, April 14, 2008

PBS: The Nuremberg Trials

On April 14 some PBS stations (such as MPT in Annapolis, MD) showed “The Nuremberg Trials” as part of the American Experience series. The one hour documentary (link focused particularly on the trial of Hermann Goering, with the participation of US Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson.

There was a need for a legal justification for the prosecutions and eventual death penalties. The theory developed was that the Nazis had “conspired” to overthrow the government of Germany and that the German people (Gentiles as well as Jews) were victims of a conspiracy. In fact, the asymmetry of the Nazi takeover in the early 1930s has always been puzzling, how such an obscure man as Hitler could seize power and overwhelm a whole people with propaganda and oratory, in an era of radio and mass gatherings but long before broadcast television and Internet. The world today, because of the Internet, can give obscure people “power” to do good or evil, but this could happen in earlier times, too. In fact, the spread of information through a democratic mechanism like the Internet should provide a brake against something – but then, look at what has happened with Iraq.

There is plenty or archived material in relatively crisp black and white, and some color. Conviction was surprisingly difficult. But in the end Goering committed suicide before his execution.

"Judgment at Nuremberg", Stanley Kramer’s United Artists 1961 film, would be a good comparison, and it has been shown on PBS before.

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