HOW TO DESTROY AND PERVERT JUSTICE AND LAW IN GERMANY
THIS FILM IS RICH IN RESONANCE FOR TODAY
ARE WE CAPABLE OF LEARNING THIS MESSAGE FOR TODAY ?
The film's events relate principally to actions committed by the German state against its own racial, social, religious, and eugenic groupings within its borders "in the name of the law" (from the prosecution's opening statement in the film), that began with Hitler's rise to power in 1933. The plot development and thematic treatment question the legitimacy of the social, political and alleged legal foundations of these actions.
The real Judges' Trial focused on 16 judges and prosecutors who served before and during the Nazi regime in Germany and who either passively, actively, or in a combination of both, embraced and enforced laws that led to judicial acts of sexual sterilization and to the imprisonment and execution of people for their religions, racial or ethnic identities, political beliefs and physical handicaps or disabilities.
A key thread in the film's plot involves a "race defilement" trial known as the Feldenstein case. In this fictionalized case, based on the real life Katzenberger Trial, an elderly Jewishman had been tried for having a "relationship" (sexual acts) with an Aryan (German) 16-year-old girl, an act that had been legally defined as a crime under the Nuremberg Laws, which had been enacted by the German Reichstag. Under these laws, the man was found guilty and was put to death in 1935. Using this and other examples, the movie explores individual conscience, collective guilt, and behavior during a time of widespread societal immorality.
The film is notable for its use of courtroom drama to illuminate individual perfidy and moral compromise in times of violent political upheaval; it was one of the first drama films not to shy from showing actual footage filmed by American and British soldiers after the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps. Shown in court by prosecuting attorney Colonel Tad Lawson (Richard Widmark), the scenes of huge piles of naked corpses laid out in rows and bulldozed into large pits were considered exceptionally graphic for a mainstream film of at the time.
The film bridges the gap between English-speaking and German-speaking persons within the courtroom by presenting the film in English, but implying use of the German language through headphones used by characters whose native language is the opposite of that spoken.