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SUBJECTS — U.S./1941 - 1945 & the Law; World/WWII;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Justice; Human Rights, Male Role Model;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Respect, Responsibility; Fairness.
Age: 10+; No MPAA Rating; Drama; 1961; 186 minutes; B & W; Available from Amazon.com.

Description: Three years after the most important Nazi authorities were tried and convicted of war crimes, the Nuremberg Tribunal began trials of four judges who made legal decisions that advanced the policies of sterilization and ethnic cleansing in Hitler's Germany. This film is a fictionalized account of the efforts of a judge at the tribunal to determine how the defendants, and by extension the German people themselves, could have participated in the atrocities of the Holocaust.

Rationale for Using the Movie: Judgment at Nuremberg depicts the first trial, based on principles of justice and international law, of the leaders of a country that waged aggressive war and committed crimes against humanity. This film is a gripping look at the moral issues surrounding both the actions of the defendants and the process of bringing them to justice. It is a valuable supplement to courses covering the history of World War Two, the Holocaust, and Human Rights.

Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide: Student interest in studies of WWII, the Holocaust and Human Rights will be enhanced through a filmed presentation. They will develop strong and long-lasting memories from the film. Through assignments requiring research, students will be able to augment lessons given in their history classes and advance their understanding of the concept of international tribunals as they function today. They can begin to explore the conflicts between patriotism and justice.

Possible Problems: Minimal. There are a few disturbing scenes of the concentration camps showing dead bodies in the gas chambers, bodies being thrown into mass graves, and emaciated concentration camp survivors.



Rationale and Objectives
Possible Problems
Parenting Points

Using the Movie in Class:
      Introduction to the Movie
      Discussion Questions


Helpful Background

Additional Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)

Other Sections:
      Bridges to Reading
      Links to the Internet
      Selected Awards & Cast

MOVIE WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following movie worksheets to keep students' minds on the film and to focus their attention on the lessons to be learned from the movie. Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM's Historical Fiction in Film Cross-Curricular Homework Project.


Introduction to the Movie:


Discussion Questions:

After the film has been watched, engage the class in a discussion about the movie.

1.  The German defense attorney argued that very few people living in Germany during the Second World War were aware of the horrors perpetrated on non-combatants in the concentration camps. Defendant Janning finally admits: "Were we deaf? Blind? If we didn't know, it was because we didn't want to know." What is Janning saying about the excuse offered that Germans did not know about the death camps. Suggested Response: Jennings asserts that whether or not the German people knew about the camps is not the issue since any ignorance was willful; therefore, the German people are still culpable in regards to the crimes committed. In fact, many Germans knew what was happening in the concentration camps, see Learning Guide to The White Rose.

2.  Why was it important to do justice for the victims of the Holocaust? Why is it important for any victim of a crime to have justice?Suggested Response: Justice is a basic human right. Without the expectation that justice will be done if one is harmed, people begin to doubt that the social order is beneficial and they withdraw allegiance to society. Moreover, punishment of wrongdoers serves to deter wrongdoing by others in the future.

3.  Referring to defense attorney Rolfe's claim that the men facing the Tribunal were not the worst war criminals in the country, Haywood said, "If these murderers were monsters, this event would have no more moral significance than an earthquake." What point is Haywood making in this comment? Suggested Response: Answers will vary. Students may note that the horrors of the Holocaust were perpetrated by ordinary German people, not monsters, and thus there is much more to be feared in their cooperation with evil.

For additional 20 discussion questions, click here.


Any of the discussion questiona in rhia Learning Guide or in the Supplemental Maerialsserve as a writing prompt. Additional assignments include:

1.  Three types of crimes were prosecuted by the Nuremberg tribunals:
  • crimes against the peace (planning, starting and waging aggressive war);
  • war crimes (violations of the Hague Conventions and the laws of war generally recognized by "civilized" nations);
  • crimes against humanity (atrocities against civilians both German and non-German, including exterminating racial, ethnic and religious groups and operating slave labor camps).
Research the Nuremberg tribunals and write an informative essay that looks deeply into one case for each of the above categories of crimes applying the Nuremberg Principles. Name the accused individual, the charges against him and the outcome of the trial. Conclude your essay with a paragraph in which you evaluate the efficacy of such trials in terms of preventing war crimes in the future.

2.  Using research skills, investigate the nature of defense arguments claimed by defendants in their trials. Refer to specific cases to analyze justifications offered for charges against individual defendants. Conclude your analysis with your opinions about the validity of the defense arguments. Some of the defenses put forward by the defeated Nazis were that: (1) they were only acting under order and (2) they lacked knowledge of the atrocities.

3.  There are now several war crimes tribunals operating throughout the world. The United States refuses to subject itself the jurisdiction of international war crimes tribunals. Write an opinion essay in which you argue whether or not all nations, including particularly the United States, should be subject to International Law enforced by international tribunals. Use specific cases to back up your point of view.

4.  The United States has been accused of committing war crimes or crimes against humanity at several points in its history, including the following actions: the fire bombing Dresden, Tokyo and other cities in the Second World War; dropping A-Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Indian Wars and treatment of Native Americans generally, and in the Vietnam War. Pick one of these actions, research the Nuremberg Principals and apply them to the action. Was this actions criminal or was it justified by the circumstances? For an in-depth examination of the ethical questions relating to the surprise atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, see Lesson Plan on Mass Casualties and Making Decisions About War.

See additional Assignments for use with any Film that is a Work of Fiction.


Click here for TWM's lesson plans to introduce cinematic and theatrical technique.

Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

Are you concerned that time will be wasted if you are absent from class? Worry no more  .  .  .   Check out TeachWithMovies' Set-Up-the-Sub.

Parenting Points: If your child is viewing the film as a part of work in history class, talk about the Holocaust and then ask how the film may have illuminated some of the lessons learned in the classroom.

Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

BUILDING VOCABULARY: "war crime," "crime against humanity," "ex post facto"

MOVIES ON RELATED TOPICS: Other films in the WWII section of the World History category of the Subject Matter Index.

OTHER LESSON PLANS: See Lesson Plan on Mass Casualties and Making Decisions About War.

Last updated February 9, 2013.

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