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The Nuremberg trials: Uncovering Nazi crimes | DW Documentary

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In 1945, Stuart and Budd Schulberg were sent to Europe to gather film evidence of Nazi crimes. The two brothers were part of a special OSS unit. The material they gathered was eventually put to use prosecuting top Nazi officials at Nuremberg.

On November 20, 1945, the Nuremberg trials against prominent members of Nazi Germany began. Twenty-four major war criminals and seven organizations stood trial for crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing crimes. Following the main trial, a series of twelve additional military tribunals for war crimes were held against Nazi elites such a politicians, diplomats, doctors and businessmen.

There have been a number of films about Nuremberg, but this documentary takes a novel approach. It explores the trial process from a personal angle via the fascinating story of Budd and Stuart Schulberg. The two brothers were assigned by the OSS to gather film evidence of the Nazis' crimes. They travelled to war-devastated Europe in 1945, and spent four months hunting for pictures and movie footage. They amassed hundreds of hours of archival footage, much of it recorded by the Nazis themselves and stored in secret locations.

Well-known figures from the film industry such as director John Ford worked with the Schulberg brothers to edit the footage. The result was several films, which were shown in the courtroom during the Nuremberg trial, the most important being "Nazi Concentration Camps" and "The Nazi Plan." Their films would have a lasting impact on the collective perception of Nazi crimes.

But there was another film made during the trial. One which is far less well-known. United States Chief of Council Robert Jackson commissioned Stuart Schulberg, the younger of the two brothers, to film the actual trial. The plan had been to release the documentary in American movie theaters in 1948 under the title "Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today". However, it was withdrawn in the post-war United States, when reconciliation with Germany took precedence, and when there was a new public enemy, the Soviet Union.

For almost 60 years, the film of the trial lay forgotten. Then, in 2003, Stuart's daughter Sandra Schulberg took up her father's work. She successfully gathered, sorted and restored the film reels. This documentary sheds light on previously unknown aspects of this historical turning point.

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