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This article appears in the May 19, 2023 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.

New Russian Feature Film: Nuremberg

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Nuremberg (2023)

May 12—The powerful new Russian feature film, Nuremberg, released March 2, 2023 for Russian audiences, is a significant contribution to the commitment repeatedly announced by President Vladimir Putin, that the sacrifice of 27 million Soviet lives for the Motherland, for all humanity, in the defeat of Nazism, will never be forgotten.

In a [speech May 9, 2023, at the Victory Day parade at Moscow’s Red Square, President Putin said:

We see how in certain countries they ruthlessly and cold-bloodedly destroy memorials to Soviet soldiers, demolish monuments to great commanders, create a real cult of the Nazis and their proxies, erase and demonize the memory of true heroes. Such profanation of the feat and sacrifices of the victorious generation is also a crime, an outright revanchism on the part of those who were cynically and blatantly preparing a new march on Russia and who brought together neo-Nazi scum from around the world for this.

Their goal—and there is nothing new about it—is to break apart and destroy our country, to make null and void the outcomes of World War II, to completely break down the system of global security and international law, to choke off any sovereign centers of development.

The Nuremberg film project was reportedly first proposed in late 2018 by then Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky, who made the point then that in some films and many works in the West, “The role of the Soviet Union is practically reduced to nothing,” in the defeat of the Nazis.

The Production

The 2-hour-and-20-minute production centers on the International Military Tribunal in the German city of Nuremberg, in which the leaders of Nazi Germany were tried for crimes against humanity. The film opens with fierce scenes of an attempted prison break outside Nuremberg, and in the course of the story line presents horrifying historic footage of the massive numbers of dead and dying in the death camps.

A personal story is interwoven in the 12 months of Tribunal proceedings over 1945–1946, involving a young Russian captain, Igor Volgin, detailed to the Soviet intelligence unit in Nuremberg, who is also seeking his brother, who disappeared in the vicinity of Nuremberg during the war. In the course of events, Volgin falls in love with Lena, a young Russian woman who has been freed from forced labor in a Nazi munitions factory.

Far from detracting from the courtroom scenes, the personal events are used as the occasion to bring out the reality of the circumstances at the time of the Tribunal, which included terrible hunger in Germany amongst the population, and the threat from secret Nazi holdouts, who were committed to kill in order to prevent “outsiders” judging Germans.

The drama of the military trials, and the situation in the city are based on accounts in the novel, Forever and Ever by author Alexander Zvyagintsev, an attorney and historian, who has studied the International Military Tribunal for 40 years. Zvyagintsev was the film’s co-writer with prominent Russian director, Nikolai Lebedev.

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During the military parade marking the 78th Anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War, a mobile intercontinental ballistic missile system proceeds through Red Square in Moscow, May 9, 2023.

Lebedev has had many box office successes, including Legend No. 17, in 2013; and Flight Crew, in 2016. He and the Nuremberg cast are well known for their experience and competence. The leading actors are Sergei Kempo, in the major role of Capt. Igor Volgin, and Lyubov Aksyonova as Lena, Yevgeny Mironov, Igor Petrenko, and Sergey Bezrukov.

The spectacular production involved filming on locations in Prague, Czechia; the Kaluga Region, Russia; and in Moscow. For the Tribunal scenes in the Hall of Justice at Nuremberg’s Palace of Justice, an historically accurate set was specially constructed at Mosfilm studios in Moscow.

Blocked in the West

In the days before May 9 Victory Day in Russia, special screenings of Nuremberg were held at many Russian embassies around the world; but otherwise, this film is not available for the general public in the West because of the ongoing heavy anti-Russian censorship.

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Kremlin Pool/Gavril Grigorov
Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, speaking to the military parade in Red Square marking the 78th Anniversary of Victory over Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War (World War II). Moscow, May 9, 2023.

There were screenings in India and Bangladesh. In Dhaka, the Daily Sun reported on the May 8 screening at the Russia House, at which stern remarks were given by the Russian Ambassador to Bangladesh, Alexander V. Mantytsky. He reminded the audience that the USSR was one of the originators of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg:

The ideology and practices of the Third Reich have been revived in several European countries, above all, Ukraine and the Baltics, on a new, national-state [ethnically pure state] basis, and that’s why Russia will continue to vigorously and consistently oppose any attempts to falsify history, to glorify Nazi criminals and their henchmen, and to oppose the revision of the internationally recognized outcomes of World War II, including the Nuremberg rulings.

Although not included in the drama of the film, it should be noted that the chief prosecutor for the United States, U.S. Chief of Counsel, Justice Robert H. Jackson, provided a central conceptual framework for the entire prosecution. He stated at the Tribunal:

The real complaining party at your bar is Civilization.... The refuge of the defendants can only be their hope that International Law will lag so far behind the moral sense of mankind that conduct which is crime in the moral sense must be regarded as innocent in law. Civilization asks whether law is so laggard as to be utterly helpless to deal with crimes of this magnitude by criminals of this order of importance....

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Ministry of Defense of Russia
Archive photo of Roman A. Rudenko, chief prosecutor for the USSR at the Nuremberg trials.

In Washington D.C. at the Russian Embassy on May 5, an embassy official, in welcoming the invited audience to the viewing of the film, stressed that, “there is no statute of limitations” on crimes against humanity. “It is difficult to overestimate the significance of the movie” in this regard. He called upon everyone to do what is necessary “so the great tragedy of the last century will never happen again.”

Director Lebedev: The Story Line

In December 2021, Director Nikolai Lebedev gave a summary view of the film to gm-production.ru:

I have made historical films more than once, but Nuremberg has become a special one for me…. We are making a large-scale, multidimensional film about the events that changed human history, because for the first time, not people were tried at Nuremberg, but the whole state and its criminal ideology.

Our film, of course, will not be a chronicle of a trial or a lecture on history. In the center of the narration is the story of a young guy, a translator who became a soldier during the war years and who, by the will of fate, found himself in the thick of events related to the International Military Tribunal. And we will see these events through his eyes—not only what happened in the famous “Room 600,” where the Tribunal sessions were held, but also conspiracies, special operations, spy revelations, and most importantly—something that we can’t do without—a love story.

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Nuremberg (2023)
In a scene from Nuremberg, actor Sergey Bezrukov portrays Roman Rudenko, chief prosecutor for the USSR at the 1945-46 trial of the major Nazi war criminals in Nuremberg.

For Americans: A True Revelation

For the American viewer, the film is a true revelation of the central Soviet role at the Nuremberg Trials. Because of Cold War propaganda from the time of the death of President Franklin Roosevelt, the actual heroic role of the Soviets in the prosecution has never been seen in such a stark way. It was the Soviets who introduced the horrifying footage of the mass exterminations of the Nazi occupation. It was the Soviets who brought, as a witness, German Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus who had led the 6th Army attack on the Soviet Union. He testified at the trial that the Nazis’ attack was completely premeditated—was not driven by fear of being attacked—and thus was in explicit violation of international law.

Finally, the film describes the then still rampant Nazi underground in Nuremberg in 1945–1946, which had planned an armed attack on the trial. The attack was thwarted at the last moment by the Soviet military.

It is rare that you have the opportunity to see history from another standpoint. Schiller Institute founder Helga Zepp-LaRouche, has constantly inspired us to see the best in other cultures, to get a true appreciation of who people of a different culture really are—in this case the culture of Russia and the Soviet Union. The almost superhuman effort of the Soviet Union must never be forgotten—in carrying the brunt of World War II in Europe, in the loss of 27 million of its citizens. As the film Nuremberg points out, 1 in 13 people in the Soviet Union died in defense of the whole human race against fascism.

President Kennedy put it so well in his Commencement Address of June 10, 1963 at American University, speaking of the U.S. and the Soviet Union:

Among the many traits the peoples of our two countries have in common, none is stronger than our abhorrence of war. Almost unique among the major world powers, we have never been at war with each other. And no nation in the history of battle ever suffered more in the course of World War II. At least 20 million lost their lives…. For in the final analysis our most basic common link is that we all inhabit a small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.

Nuremberg should be seen by all Americans. The insane chauvinism and hegemonism dominating U.S. official policy and media today—which is leading the world toward an increasing likelihood of thermonuclear war—can only truly be counteracted by true understanding. Nuremberg is an important contribution to that effort.

Look for Solutions Together

During the production process in September 2021, Director Lebedev commented on a personal point about his intent for the film, in remarks to yahoo.com:

Perhaps the main discovery for me was the understanding that at the beginning of the Nuremberg process all the allies—the USSR, the USA, Great Britain, France—were together and supported each other. And I really want this topic to be [shown] very clearly in our film. It is better to be together, not apart, even in conflict situations, it is better to look for solutions together. This is especially true today, when international relations are so aggravated.

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