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Phillips Nuremberg Trials Collection: Videos

Materials donated to the law school by General Eugene Phillips.

Video Used in Justice/Judges Case

This video was presented in evidence during Trial 3, the Justice Case.

In the aftermath of the July 20, 1944 failed assassination attempt on Adolph Hitler, over 200 individuals were tried for their involvement, real or actual, in the plot. Many of the trials took place in the People's Court. The court was established in 1934 by Hitler because he had been dissatisfied with the outcome of the Reichstag Fire Trial; only one of the defendants had been convicted. The People's Court operated outside the constitutional legal framework and had jurisdiction over a broad array of political offenses. Work slowdowns and defeatism became crimes as they were viewed as a "disintegration of defensive capability." These types of crimes were often punished by death.

Approximately 90% of all proceedings ended with a death sentence or life imprisonment. Judge-President Roland Friesler, appointed in August 1942, was particularly notorious for the number of death sentences handed out after perfunctory judicial proceedings. One of the most well-known cases was that of Sophie Scholl, a German student and member of the White Rose non-violent resistance group. She was convicted of high treason after having been found distributing anti-war leaflets at the University of Munich. The trial of Sophie, her brother Hans, and their friend Christoph Probst, lasted less than an hour. They were all executed by guillotine within hours of the convictions. During his two and half years on the People's Court, Friesler imposed 2600 death sentences.

Freisler was known for humiliating defendants and shouting at them. The video shows his treatment of the accused conspirators in the July 20 plot. They were never allowed to consult with their attorneys nor did Friesler even allow them to make statements.

Friesler died on February 3, 1945. An American bomb made an almost direct hit on the court. He allegedly adjourned the session but rather than evacuate he stopped to gather that day's files. His body was reportedly found crushed beneath a fallen masonry column, clutching the files that he had tried to retrieve.

The Transcript of the video illustrates that in the People's Court the Judge-President frequently acted as prosecutor, denouncing defendants, then immediately pronouncing the verdict and sentence.

Video Clips Used by Public Relations Office

The video presents various clips:

  • Scene from the Medical Case with Dr. Karl Brandt.
  • General Telford Taylor (no sound)
  • The defendants, judges, and audience at the High Command case (no sound)
  • Exterior scenes of the Palace of Justice including the security checkpoint (no sound)
  • Statements by some of the defendants in the High Command case
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