For the past couple of years, filmmaker, producer and the human rights activist Sandra Schulberg is traveling the world responding to requests to show documentary film Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today. Calls are coming from divers and faraway places such as think-tanks and universities in the United States, Chile and China, from police officers and politicians in Vietnam, and lawyers in Teheran and in Russia. The story surrounding the film is almost as interesting as the Nuremberg trail itself. The film was made by Sandra Schulberg’s late father acclaimed producer Stuart Schulberg. The film focuses on crimes committed by 24 high ranking Nazis and it combines footage from the courtroom where some of accused are seen wearing dark glasses, with the images from concentration camps and European cities destroyed by the war. In the preparation for the trail, American prosecutor judge Robert Jackson made the historic decision to use photographs and moving images as evidence, and brothers Budd and Stuart Schulberg, sons of the former Paramount studio chief B.P. Schulberg, were assigned to the search team that was dispatched to Europe to look for it. Stuart Schulberg was later commissioned by the U.S. War Department to make a film about the trail, but by the time the film was ready for the international public the world politics was so dramatically changed, that the release was suppressed and the film was not seen in the United States until many years later when Sandra Schulberg restored it.
New Magazine: Documentary film Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today was made before you were born, and in the late 50s your family returned to the U.S. and your father returned to his original passion – journalism – and had a very successful career as a TV documentary producer. What was the feeling of seeing your father’s film which is in a way different from his other work, for the first time?
Sandra Schulberg : My father died in 1979, and to my regret, I never got interested in his early work until it was too late to ask him about it. I am not a legal scholar or a historian so when I first saw the film in 2004, I was confused. I didn’t know what to make out of it. There was no way for me to judge if it was accurate. I spent many years researching and reading about the Nuremberg trail, and little by little I educated myself and developed deep respect for the film. The task for him was to tell the story about the whole Nazi movement and the atrocities committed in one hour and thirty minutes. Many people are coming to the NUREMBERG film as I am, and this is why we have the tour, to put everything in to the context.
NEW MAGAZINE: In retrospect it seems that many things surrounding the film were secretive, and that there was an intention for the film never to be viewed. Yet, you were able not only to discover it, but to give it a second life. When did you hear about the existence of film for the first time?
SANDRA SCHULBERG: was invited by Dieter Kosslick, the director of Berlin Film Festival to curate a series of 40 Marshall Plan films for the 2004 Berlinale. He proposed that we launch the series with a screening of my fathers’ film. He felt that contemporary audience needed to understand how remarkable it was that Germany had been included in the Marshall Plan that supported rebuilding of European economies after the war, and to see the psychological barrier that stood between Germany and her former enemies. The Nuremberg trial symbolizes that barrier, and was intended by the Allies not only as a mean to punish the Nazi war criminals, but also as a way to help Germany navigate its way back into the community of civilized nations. To the best of my recollection, it was the first time I had ever seen my father’s film.
NEW MAGAZINE: Another interesting fact is that there were two versions of the film, one made for the German public, and another one that was prepared for American audience. It seems, however, that only Germans saw it in the theaters?
SANDRA SCHULBERG: After my mother, Barbara Goodrich Schulberg, died in 2002 my brothers and I emptied her NY city apartment. There we found original film posters of Nuremberg and boxes of documents about the making of the film as well as a 16mm print of it. Raye Farr, director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museums Steven Spielberg Film & Video Archive, and Ronny Loewy, director of the Cinematography of the Holocaust, were the first scholars to see some of my father’s Nuremberg archive, and immediately signaled the significance of certain documents. As I began to inventory the material, I realized they were government memos and letters about the behind-the-scenes battle to make Nuremberg and then to have it shown. Raye provided me with copies of a provocative series of articles that had run in the Washington Post in late 1949, exploring charges that the US War Department was suppressing the film’s American release. When I saw the English version of the film myself, it became obvious that it had a temporary sound track – a literal translation of the German track – that didn’t allow you to hear the English speakers in the film. That made no sense to me, and I began to delve deeper. I learned that Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today had never been theatrically released in the United States.
NEW MAGAZINE: I suspect that this is when you made the decision to produce the English version of the movie?
SANDRA SCHULBERG: If I were not a professional film producer, it might never have occurred to me to restore the film and try to get it released in the US. But faced with the fascinating mystery of what had happened to the film after its German release -- this seemed to be my fate. I soon learned that my father and my uncle Budd Schulberg had been the ones to locate and assemble the Nazi films and photos that American appointed judge Justice Robert Jackson showed in the courtroom. At the time, my father and uncle were working for legendary movie director John Ford, who was chief of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Film Unit. My father was given only about 40 hours of footage that was filmed in the courtroom, by camera teams from the US Army Signal Corps so he used a lot of the film evidence OSS found when he made Nuremberg.
The film was released in theaters throughout Germany, where it played an important role in the denazification and democratization of the country, a cause that was dear to my father’s heart. Also, the film captured the fact that moving images and photographs were used as a legal evidence for the first time. Interestingly, the original plan was for Russians and Americans to make a film about the trail together. At some point Russians made their own film and promised that it will be shown only in the Russian zone, but a year after they rented a cinema in New York City and showed it to the public.
NEW MAGAZINE: The years spent on restoration resulted in the film of historic significance that documents first-handedly the ways Allie forces addressed war crimes. During that time, were you able to discover why the film was suppressed in the US?
SANDRA SCHULBERG: The short answer to this question is that Nuremberg became a casualty of the Cold War. By the time it was completed in 1948, Americans were enemies with the Soviets, yet the film showed us as allies. European recovery was the new policy, and Germany’s industrial and agricultural resources were essential to that recovery. This public policy shift required a new public relations campaign that stressed the importance of rebuilding Germany and looking forward. It was suddenly not so desirable to be reliving the Nuremberg trial and to remind Americans of how much they hated the Nazis, and, by extension, the German people as a whole.
NEW MAGAZINE: The Nuremberg trial has happened over 60 years ago, though the messages of the film are timely. In your opinion, what is its "lesson for today?"
SANDRA SCHULBERG : It was Stuart Schulberg who chose the title and the subtitle -- and for a fascinating reason. According to his papers, he and his colleagues at Military Government feared audiences had already forgotten the significance of the Nuremberg trial two years after the verdict. They thought they had to remind audiences that the story of the trial was still relevant. That subtitle -Its Lesson for Today, now seems eerily prescient, as American audiences and audiences in other countries get to see the film in theaters for the first time. Let me stress out that I think Germany has learned the lessons of Nuremberg better than any other country in the world, including the US. Germany is now in the forefront of support for the International Criminal Court (ICC), while the US is not even a member. One of my hopes is that this film will help awaken American interest in the legacy court of Nuremberg, which really is the ICC, and want to become involved as world citizens and as a nation in supporting the international rule of law. And I think most Americans do want that.
NEW MAGAZINE: For countries of former Yugoslavia, legacy of the Nuremberg trail is very important. Did you follow at all the work of International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia - ICTY and especially the use of media as evidence at trails? Do you see any parallels or progress perhaps?
SANDRA SCHULBERG: ICTY is the first international tribunal to follow Nuremberg trail. It is the first modern link to principles established in Nuremberg. It is also the first permanent court, so I would say that two courts are not only intimately linked, but extremely and equally important. In recent years, other international courts are established and they are realizing that if they want the world to know about their work and principles, media and films ought to be used. There is a fascinating film from 2014 called War Don Don or War is Over about the special court for Sierra Leone.
NEW MAGAZINE: One of the main complains about work of ICTY well after it was established was that there was not enough transparency. Media, and by extension the public in all former countries often felt that they did not have enough or all necessary information about the individual trails.
SANDRA SCHULBERG: My sense is that subsequent courts learned from ICTY. ICTY made motion pictures and video footage as evidence and that is very important. There will be more and more films about the courts but also about the role of media and films in the pursuit of justice. For instance Granito: How to Nail a Dictator from 2011 tells a story about ways documentary film from 1983 titled When the Mountains Tremble provided key evidence for bringing Guatemalan dictator Efraín Rios Montt to the justice.
NEW MAGAZINE: In many societies around the world people are using the principles of Nurnberg trial when dealing with atrocities, hence the importance and relevance of your father’s film Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today. At the same time it is fair to say that our cultures and histories are not identical. Are there differences in ways various audiences perceive the film?
SANDRA SCHULBERG: So far we made 12 different language versions of the film, and little by little, painstakingly, Nuremberg is going around the world. We showed the film in Tokyo, Chile, and Beijing and it resonates differently with different audiences. In China for instance we talked about Cultural Revolution. On the other hand, people in Russia are still touched by the war and they talked about that experience, as well as about the time of Stalin. In Hanoi we spoke with high ranking police officers and politicians and for them it was initially hard to take a film about justice made by Americans. In Teheran we met with some people who were Holocaust deniers and for whom the film was a revelation. We have a version in Arabic, so after the screening in Bahrein for judges, police officers and lawyers, I was approached by a woman in her late 20s who was a daughter of a judge and a judge herself, and she told me that before the film she “idolized Hitler” but that she didn’t know “a half of the story.” She said that everyone should see the film.
NEW MAGAZINE: She did not really say that?
SANDRA SCHULBERG: Yes she did. I have her on record. She was a family court judge. But, you see, unlike people in Europe or America, not everyone has a sort of a direct experience with the consequences of the Second World War. History is unfamiliar to many people, and this is why the films like Nurnberg are important.
About the posters:
In my father´s papers, we found the first and second movie posters for Nurnberg, and both of them carry various obvious “hallmarks” of the attempts of denazification and reeducation. The tagline on the first poster (Fall 1948) reads: "The path to National Socialism and your Fuehrer."This shows that Military Government was consciously targeting people who, in 1948, still thought of Hitler as their leader. According to letters from my mother, Nazi loyalists did attend the screenings, which is just what my father and his colleagues hoped. The later poster – used in Berlin in June 1949 was very different. By then, the press had written about the film and everyone knew it was about the trial. This tagline says: "The People´s Judgment Against International Lawlessness." You can again hear the voice of Military Government, this time suggesting to the German public that they should identify with the Nuremberg verdicts.