The lead U.S. prosecutor, and the driving force behind the organization of the Trial, was U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson. During preparation for the trial, Jackson made the bold and historic decision to use film and photo evidence to convict the Nazis. But these films had to be found..
Jackson knew that it was important to use Nazi shot footage as no one could claim that the footage had been prejudiced against the Nazis by what was shown since it was shot by the Nazis themselves.
A special OSS film team — OSS Field Photographic Branch/War Crimes — was formed for this purpose. Brothers Budd and Stuart Schulberg, sons of the former Paramount studio chief B.P. Schulberg, were assigned to this special OSS search team that was dispatched to Europe. Budd was a Navy Lieutenant, and his younger brother Stuart, a Marine Corps Sergeant.
Stuart Schulberg and another office from the film unit, Daniel Fuchs (later a well-known author), were sent first, in June 1945. Budd Schulberg, along with OSS film editors Robert Parrish and Joseph Zigman, followed in September 1945.
The search for incriminating film was conducted under enormous time pressure, and they encountered sabotage along the way. They found two caches of film still burning, as though their guardians had been tipped off, and began to suspect leaks from their German informants, two SS film editors.
Just in time for the start of the trial, they found significant evidence, which, in close collaboration with Jackson’s staff of lawyers, they edited into a 4-hour film for the courtroom called The Nazi Plan.
In the course of this work, Budd Schulberg apprehended Leni Riefenstahl at her country home in Kitzbühl, Austria, as a material witness, and took her to the Nuremberg editing room, so she could help Budd identify Nazi figures in her films and in other German film material his unit had captured.
Stuart Schulberg took possession of the photo archive of Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler’s personal photographer, and became the film unit’s expert on still photo evidence. Most of the stills presented at the trial carry his affidavit of authenticity.
George Stevens was brought in to put it all together, with the help of Schulberg and principal editor Robert Parrish. The footage was extensive and the version finally edited together for Nuremberg was almost two hours longer than the version released to the public later. The complete documentary, with narration written by Schulberg, was presented as evidence on December 13, 1945, and helped in the effort to convict Nazi war criminals.
The Nazi Plan isn’t an easy watch, as it deals with the unblinking truth about the Nazis, but it’s an important one nonetheless. Few directors and writers in Hollywood, much less any film industry, can claim they played a vital role in the conviction of Nazi war criminals from World War II. Writer Budd Schulberg and director George Stevens could but, to their credit, never made much of a big deal about it. They did their part and weren’t looking for any reward or any long lasting fame as war heroes. But they were, and their work helped bring some of the worst figures in world history to justice.
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