Nuremberg is a 2000 miniseries based on the main IMT 'Nuremberg' Trials of 200 Nazi leaders for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity conducted during World War II. It consisted of two episodes and starred Alec Baldwin, Brian Cox, Michael Ironside, Jill Hennessey, Christopher Plummer, Colm Feore and many, many others.
Some tout it as an almost propagandistic re-iteration of the contemporary US government's portrayal of the trial process. Others note that it is flawed, especially in its sympathetic portrayal of such figures as Albert Speer, but is nonetheless an interesting miniseries with well-developed characters which stimulates interest in the events.
The plot spaces from the capture of the main Nazi war criminals to the end of the trial, as the historical accuracy varies from one point to the next.
This miniseries provides examples of:
- Actually Pretty Funny: While being questioned on the stand, Herman Göering is asked who came up with the idea to make Hitler both head of government and head of state. Göering claims that the Nazis modelled it after the similar dual roles of the U.S. President. The American prosecutors are visibly annoyed by this, but the chief British prosecutor can't resist a chuckle at his allies' expense.
- Anti-Villain: Invoked by Albert Speer in his self-portrayal, and played straight in this miniseries. As You Know the 'anti-Nazi' attitudes which he claimed to have had during the war never manifested themselves until his capture, until which point he had only ever been a loyal and active Nazi.note
- Armor-Piercing Question: Robert Jackson considers quitting, prompting his assistant to ask him "Does Herman Göering actually believe in his ideals more than you believe in yours?"
- Artistic License History:
- Averted when Göering reminds Dr. Gilbert that Nazi antisemitic laws were inspired by English and American racist theories (actual defendants used American forced sterilization laws as a defense to their own-essentially a tu quoque fallacy).
- Wilhelm Keitel is referred to as an admiral when in reality he was a field marshal.
- Jackson is shown struggling with his examination of Goering, before rallying and getting the better of ol' Hermann. In reality, observers agreed that Goering left his encounter with Jackson unscathed. Jackson, while a fine orator who wrote a great closing statement, hadn't been a trial lawyer in decades and the inexperience showed.
- The Atoner: Invoked by Hans Frank and Albert Speer.
- Better to Die than Be Killed:
- Robert Ley hangs himself in his cell before the beginning of the trial.
- Hermann Göring swallows cyanide before the executions start.
- Blunt "Yes":
Nikitchenko: You would allow a man such as Ernst Kaltenbrunner, responsible for the Gestapo, concentration camps, for killing millions of innocent people, to stand before a court of law and declare himself not guilty?Jackson: That is precisely what we would allow.
- When discussing the trial.
Jackson: Witness, there is evidence before this court that nearly 10 million people have been exterminated-murdered in cold blood. You mean to say that you did not, and in your opinion, Hitler did not know what took place in the concentration camps?Göring: Ja.
- During the trial.
- Break the Haughty: Happens to Ribbentrop and Funk.
- British Nazis: Hermann Göering was portrayed by British actor Brian Cox.
- The Brute: Ernst Kaltenbrunner.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: Rudolf Hess.Wilhelm Keitel: "He's pretending. Hess is very smart."Alfred Jodl: "If he was so smart, he wouldn't have spent the last four years in an English prison."
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: Given the time period, obviously this happens.
- The rule that forbids the people involved in the trial bringing their wives because the men have not seen their own families in a long time was a real rule, but in the modern age, soldiers are frequently given the ability to go home to see their families.
- While it is easy to see the Nazi high command get executed, the argument that the Allies are not any better would very much apply in the modern era, especially to the Soviets. In the modern era, regardless of whether who wins or loses, anyone can be tried for war crimes. However, whether they will face any serious consequences depends on the extradition laws of their countries of residence, many having been tried in absentia.
- Jackson telling Elsee that they have some personal choices to make when they get home alludes to something that would not fly in the modern United States. In the late 40's, it was a career-ending scandal if someone, and especially important like a Supreme Court justice, were in an extramarital relationship. Sometimes this was even a crime, though it usually wasn't prosecuted.
- Dissonant Serenity: Rudolf Höss doesn't see the murder of nearly three million people at Auschwitz as anything to get upset about. In fact, he is always polite and very well-mannered. And yes, he is quite the Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant.
- Dramatically Missing the Point: Höss makes it a point in his testimony that he is not a sadist, and that when carrying out the Final Solution he killed in a relatively swift, efficient, and entirely impersonal manner. It doesnt ever seem to dawn on him that the fact hes speaking about industrialized mass murder as if that were a nine-to-five job at an assembly line creeps everyone out.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Goering is introduced arriving at an American military encampment to surrender with his family in tow. He later has several interactions with them indicating he genuinely cares about them and comforts his little daughter. Goering's wife indicates he surrendered quickly to prevent his family from being killed on Hitler's orders due to his perceived betrayal. Wilhelm Keitel apparently spent most of his time talking with the psychiatrist about his family, rather than the charges against him.
- Even Evil Has Standards:
"We knew when the people were dead because they stopped screaming."
- Subverted when Höss explains that in Auschwitz he did not tolerate gratuitous cruelty... because he was there to carry on an extermination. In Real Life he made this statement relating to his first test trial of the same formula of gas that would eventually execute millions of human beings:
- Some defendants show uneasiness as they see the clips about the concentration camps.
- Famous Last Words: Some of the defendants who are sentenced to death are shown while delivering their last speeches on the gallows. The writers goofed with Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, whose last words weren't "Deutschland über alles!" but "Alles für Deutschland!".
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: The "dueling scars" on Kaltenbrunner's face. They were actually caused by a driving accident.
- Greedy Jew: Julius Streicher openly and proudly admits to considering this stereotype as a matter of fact.
- Hanging Judge: Soviet judge Iona Nikitchenko. Justified by what people like Keitel, Rosenberg, and Frank did in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. If he'd had his way, there wouldn't have been any trials at all. Ironically this depiction is contrary to real life, where it was, in fact, Churchill who wanted to execute the Nazis without trial and it was Stalin who insisted on trying them in court. The trials had already been decided on by the time of that meeting and Nikitchenko advocating to the Western Allies the opposite from what Stalin ordered would have had serious consequences. However, they wanted trials like those in the Soviet Union (Nikitchenko was one of the judges in the Moscow Show Trials).
- Heel Realization: Years before the Nuremberg trials, Albert Speer claimed to have 'finally realized' that Hitler was insane and dragging the entirety of Germany down with him. He also claimed that he had put together a plan to assassinate him but was foiled... by a wall. Speer was a notoriously Unreliable Narrator.
- Hot-Blooded: Julius Streicher is a capricious, rude, loud anti-semite.
- Implausible Deniability:
- Gestapo chief Ernst Kaltenbrunner's entire strategy of legal defense is to deny everything he's done and say everyone who claims that he engaged in war crimes as a liar, even when the prosecution presents him with incontrovertible evidence and multiple witness testimonies to prove it.
- There's a moment where Goering is presented with the document which he sent to SS General Reinhard Heydrich to organize the Holocaust, but he still claims that this doesn't mean that the SS had anything to do with it. The entire courtroom does a double-take from the blatant untruth of this statement, and even Goering himself has an Oh, Crap! expression when he realizes what he just said.
- Insignia Rip-Off Ritual: When the Nazis are taken to Nuremberg for the war crimes trial, the generals among the captured men appeal to the Allied servicemen on the basis of a soldier's honor. The Allied commander slash jailer walks up and rips off the epaulettes on their shoulders.Now you're no longer soldiers. You are all criminals!
- Insistent Terminology: During Justice Jackson's questioning of Hermann Göering, he presents the memorandum in which Goering ordered Heydrich to organize the Holocaust, i.e. the Final Solution. Goering protests that the proper translation is "Total Solution", completely ignoring that it's an order for genocide either way.
- Just Following Orders: Wilhelm Keitel builds up his defense on this principle.
- Lack of Empathy: Dr. Gilbert pegs this as the reason the defendants were able to commit such terrible acts. Specifically, lack of empathy for others besides those they already cared about-the defendants are perfectly caring toward their own families, for instance.
- Laughing Mad: Rudolf Hess, who has received a life sentence, bursts into a fit of manic laughter after the executions.
- Loophole Abuse: Lampshaded by the judges, as they note that Jackson forbade them from bringing their wives, which enables him to have a clandestine affair with his secretary.
- Not So Different: Göering points this out when talking about Hiroshima and US segregation laws.
- Punch-Clock Villain:
- After quietly telling the court how many people were killed in Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss explains to Dr. Gilbert that outside the concentration camp he lived a perfectly normal life. It's used to illustrate how sociopathic Höss is that he could detach himself so easily from his job.
- Albert Speer presents himself as an otherwise sensible bureaucrat who simply worked for an evil regime before he had a crisis of conscience. In reality, this was more complicated; while Speer was saner than the vast majority of his colleagues, he was careful to downplay his own war crimes during the trials and in his memoirs (which still forms the dominant narrative about his conduct during the war to the general public).
- Redemption Equals Death: Hans Frank shows remorse for the crimes he committed while he was Governor-General of the General Government in occupied Poland, but this isn't enough to spare him the gallows.
- Smug Snake: Joachim von Ribbentrop.
- The Sociopath: Rudolf Höss killed over 2 million Jews when he was commandant of Auschwitz. He not only never gave it a second thought, he found a way to kill people faster!
- Those Wacky Nazis: Played straight by Julius Streicher, somehow subverted by the repentant ones.
- Too Dumb to Live: Jokingly, Göering states that Ribbentrop should be hanged for his foolishness.
- Villainous Breakdown:
- Hess has a big damn one in the end (including an Evil Laugh).
- Ribbentrop has a minor one when he starts weeping as the clip about the concentration camps is shown to the court.
- Villain Has a Point: Göering is lying when he talks about not being personally complicit in the Holocaust, but part of what makes him so charismatic is that he makes plenty of solvent points about the double standards that are being applied to the Germans simply because they lost, or how the supposedly contrite Speer is intentionally trying to portray himself in the most sympathetic manner possible.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Strangely, some sentences aren't read by the judges. However, we get to see the executions of all the defendants sentenced to death.
- Worthy Opponent:
- Göering to Jackson.
- Defied by the judges when they decide that hanging is the only appropriate means of execution for the convicted defendants. When the French judge floats the idea of a firing squad for the military officers among the defendants slated for execution he is quickly shot down by the Soviet judge, who insists that "the bullet is for the honorable adversary, not the butcher." The American and British judges agree and death by hanging is decided upon.
- Yes-Man: All of the defendants, according to Göering, as an explanation for their "Just Following Orders" defense and why they won't take any responsibility for the Holocaust. In his words: "all the no-men are six feet underground."
- Your Cheating Heart: Jackson begins to have an affair with his secretary Elsee while he is in Nuremberg. He later says that when they get home, they have to make a personal decision.