Stanley Kramer's

Judgment at Nuremberg
This page was created by Sean Bradley.

For information on the Justice Trial, the inspiration for the movie, click here: THE JUSTICE TRIAL
Actor: Character in the movie: Based (loosely) on:
Spencer Tracy Judge Dan Haywood
Burt Lancaster Ernst Janning Judge Franz Schlegelberger
Richard Widmark Colonel Ted Lawson General Telford Taylor
Marlene Dietrich Madame Bertholt
Maximilian Schell Hans Rolfe
Judy Garland Irene Hoffman Seiler
Montgomery Clift Rudolph Peterson
William Shatner Captain Byers
Edward Binns Senator Burkette
Kenneth MacKenna Judge Kenneth Norris
Werner Klemperer Emil Hahn Judge Oswald Rothaug
Alan Baxter General Merrin
Torben Meyer Werner Lammpe

with Ray Teal, Martin Brandt, Virginia Christine, Ben Wright, Joseph Bernard, John Wengraf, Karl Swenson, Howard Caine, Otto Waldis, Olga Fabian,
Sheila Bromley, Bernard Kates, Jana Taylor, Paul Busch

Produced and Directed by: Stanley Kramer
Associate Producer: Philip Langner
Written by: Abby Mann
Music: Ernest Gold
Photography: Ernest Laszlo
Editor: Frederick Knudston
Art Direction: Rudolph Sternad, George Milo
Released: December 1961
Released through United Artists 


The movie opens with scenes of Nuremberg, Germany, 1948. The destruction of the war is evident everywhere. Judge Haywood is driven through the wasted buildings.  Judge Hayward is in Nuremberg, along with two other judges, to preside over the trial of Ministry of Justice officials for their complicity in the holocaust.

In its opening statement, the Prosecution calls these officials to account not for violation of due process or other constitutional violations but for murder, brutalities, torture, and atrocities committed during the Third Reich. The Prosecution contends that the defendants cannot claim ignorance--they should have known better. Unlike the unsophisticated or the many young people who were coopted into Nazism during the rise of Hitler, these men were already educated adults when the Nazis came into power.

In the defense counsel's opening statement he states that the purpose of this trial is the re-consecration of the temple of justice and reestablishment of the code of justice.  He calls for a clear, honest evaluation of the charges brought by the prosecution and argues that judges do not make the laws, they carry them out.  He argues that the love of country led to an attitude of "my country right or wrong."  Disobedience to the Fuehrer would have been choice between patriotism and treason for the judges. Finally the defense argues that not only are the justices on trial, so are the German people.

Judge Haywood wanted Viemar Constitution and Janning's books to review.  He walks around town to think and get a feel for the place.  He goes to the auditorium where the Nazis used to have their giant rallies and seems to hear the echos of the not too distant past when the place was full of cheering German citizens.

One of the more dramatic portions of the film centers around Judge Janning's performance during the Feldenstein case (in real life, the  Katzenberger case). Fedlenstein was charged with race mixing, of having relations with an Aryan, Irene Hoffman.  The trial was to be used as a showcase for National Socialism.  Emil Hahn had been the prosecutor and he was determined to find Feldenstein guilty despite evidence that he had merely been a family friend to Irene Hoffman.  Hahn had told Irene that it was no use to deny having relations. That if she protected Feldenstein she would be arrested for perjury. She said she couldn't lie and was arrested. She said that Emil Hahn mocked Feldenstein, ridiculed him.  Janning had been the presiding judge and he took no action to prevent the injustice.  He had been the only hope for the defense since he had a reputation for being fair.  Feldenstein was found guiltly and executed.

Prosecutor Lawson submitted documents by which the judges and prosecutors had sent thousands to their deaths.  A film was shown.  Maps were shown of concentration camps.  Prisoners and dead bodies were shown to the court.  Later, talking among themselves, some of the Nazi judges expressed disbelief in the magnitude of the Holocaust.  Emil Hahn was angered at being made to watch these films since he felt that he and the other defendants were not responsible.

A friend that Judge Haywood makes among the Nuremberg citizens, Mrs. Bertholt, talks to the judge about the war and that most Germans didn't know what was happening.  The scene then focuses on Germans singing in a bar.  The message is that the German people are ready to forget.

Defense counsel speaks to the content of the films shown the previous day.  He states that there is no justification for what happened, but, that it was wrong and unfair to show such films in court against these defendants.  He claims that the extremists are responsible, not the defendants.  He says that very few Germans knew what was going on.  He claimed that the defendants stayed in their positions to keep things from getting worse. 

The defense then calls Irene Hoffman.  Counsel asks if she was aware of the Nuremberg Laws?  Was she aware that physical
relationships with Jews were forbidden?  In this unseemly portion of the defense, the defense counsel tries to portray Irene Hoffman as a law breaker and Judge Janning as merely doing his duty.  The hypocrisy is evident and seems to bother even defense counsel Rolfe.  Yet he continues to badger Irene, trying to break her down, to show that she did in fact have an affair with Feldenstein.  Janning interrupts him and stops him from continuing.

The next day Janning testifies about the Feldenstien case.  He tells that there was fear in the country.  That Hitler told the people to lift their heads.  That once the gypsies, jews, and others were destroyed all would be well.

Why did the educated stand aside? Because they loved their country.  Afterward, they could change and go back to law.  But, what was going to be a passing phase became a way of life.  Janning was content to sit by during his trial until he realized the same arguments were being used in this trial in his defense that had been used in the Feldenstien trial.  Janning denies that Germans were unaware of the exterminations.  He says that all were aware of what was going on, maybe not the details, but only because they did not want to know the details.

When the Tribunal renders judgment, all are found guilty and all receive life imprisionment.  Judge Hayward affirms the value of a single human life, and the responsibility of the justices, and by implication the German people, for their actions and inaction.

Judge Hayward later talks to Janning in his cell.  Janning tells Judge Hayward that he truly didn't know, that he didnt know that it would come to the mass executions.  In a powerful moment, Judge Hayward tells him that it "came to it" the first time Janning signed the order for the execution of a man he knew was innnocent.

The movie had an unusual undertone.  Judge Haywood gives us the uneasy feeling that the German people never really came to terms with their guilt.  That the need to forget was never truly preceded by an analysis and acknowledgement of guilt.  This movie makes the point that Germany, at the time of the movie was made, was moving "beyond" the war a little too fast, and was doing so with the help of the US and other allies because of the cold war.

Some Reviews

Judgment at Nuremberg

 Title: Judgment at Nuremberg
 Language: English
 Type: Docu-Drama
 Length: 178 minutes
 Year: 1961
 Cast: Spencer Tracy (Judge Dan Haywood), Burt Lancaster (Ernst
 Janning), Marlene Dietrich (Madame Bertholt), Judy Garland (Irene
 Hoffman), William Shatner (Captain Byers)

 The trial of four men who were judges in Nazi Germany questions the
 involvement and responsibility of men who are figures of justice in following
 and enforcing laws that are obviously unjust. Also, this movie confronts the
 changing feelings toward Germany after the war - from enemy to friend.

Source:  The Holocaust Site at

Judgment at Nuremberg

United Artists/Roxlom, 1961 (BW, 190 minutes)

An American Judge at the Nuremberg war trials is faced with the issue of how much responsibility and guilt an individual must bear for crimes committed or condoned by him on the order of, and in the interest of, the State.

Judgment at Nuremberg is an unsettling account of the war crimes committed in
Germany during World War II, especially in the concentration camps. The script is
based on true events which actually unfolded at the Nuremberg trials when the
world first learned of the atrocities. The film also delves very deeply into the ethics
of assigning war crimes responsibility to individuals, and contains actual footage
from German concentration camps which is as disturbing today as it was in 1961.


Judgment at Nuremberg

This far-reaching examination of Nazism and its motivations is overlong, to be sure, but Stanley Kramer's thoughtful film demands a broad canvas. Essentially a fictionalized look at the famed Nuremberg trials that came at the conclusion of World War II, this picture finds its achievement in the details. From Abby Mann's smart, Academy Award-winning script to a series of excellent ensemble performances that nearly outdo each other, the movie burns itself into our imagination. Maximilian Schell, as a lawyer vainly attempting to defend the Nazis, won the Best Actor Oscar for his efforts, but Spencer Tracy, playing a world-weary judge, is just as brilliant. Montgomery Clift, portraying a half-witted former concentration-camp inmate, gives the performance of a lifetime, and Judy Garland emerges as touchingly vulnerable, too. But it's Burt Lancaster, playing totally against type, who soars the highest.

--David Mermelstein

Richard Widmark(Actor)
William Shatner(Actor)
Judy Garland(Actress)
Burt Lancaster(Actor)
Maximilian Schell(Actor)
Marlene Dietrich(Actor)
Spencer Tracy(Actor)
Montgomery Clift(Actor)