The so-called `Nuremberg' Trials 1945-9 were a landmark in every sense of the word. And whilst this mini-series is sickeningly `American,' (Hence not receiving the full five stars,) it does also try to explore most of the ethical and legal quandaries which the world is still facing to this day.
The American actors/characters in this series do, by-and-large, fall back on the tired old cliché that Germany was `Naturally' fascist, that the whole country was guilty, that the Nazi's could never have been `Democratically' elected because democracy is `Pure & Good,' and that the noble American heroes slew the evil dragon in the end. But in spite of the pro-American propaganda, most of the rest of this international cast do an excellent job of exposing America's arrogance, hypocrisy and self-delusion.
Even the script itself gives the game away every now and again. For example, when Alec Baldwin visits the Nuremberg courthouse, expressing concern about when it will be ready just seconds after discussing trying Nazis for using slave labour, an American Corporal says "Just say the word and I'll have 15,000 German POW's down here by tomorrow."
Most of the city has been destroyed by the Allied bombing campaign. The air reeks of rotting corpses because some 30,000 people are still buried under the rubble. And as the legal representatives from America, Britain, France and the USSR meet to discuss the trial, the Soviet representative argues with Alec Baldwin and points out:
"20 million of my people were slaughtered by these fascist criminals; half of them civilians! How many died in Washington this way Mr Justice Jackson?"
And speaking of the fascist criminals who were guilty of unspeakable atrocities, Brian Cox does steal the show as Reich Marshall Goering, the single surviving member of the Nazi Leadership who has some of the best lines in the series.
"What about Hiroshima? Was that not your own medical experiment?"
"Are not the anti-Semitic laws in my country and the segregation laws in your own country simply a matter of degrees?"
And most perceptively of all;
"We both understand the truth my friend. The victors will always be the judges, and the vanquished, always the accused."
Second only to Brian Cox is the German actor who plays Albert Spier, the character who does more than anyone else to explain why so many people like himself had followed Hitler over a cliff.
"Nazi Germany was built on empty platitudes, because you can hear in them whatever you wish."
The clichéd `will they, won't they' romantic rubbish between Alec Baldwin and his secretary provided the love interest in the series. But by far the most important relationship was the growing friendship between Goering and his American guard, underlining the fact that whilst America may claim to be a freedom loving and democratic, around half of its citizens are STILL racist, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, bible-thumping, anti-Communist bigots who are trying to use democracy to create a dictatorship similar to the one which Hitler created in 1934.
Having watched many American Television programmes in which complex issues always returned to the `Good vs. Evil' dogma at the end, it was inevitable that this programme would draw the clichéd conclusions which I laid out at the beginning of this review. But even for someone who has little or no interest in the Second World War, I would highly recommend that they watch this series at least twice.
Remember, watch carefully because the truth is there, slipped in every now and again whenever the big boys aren't watching.