Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Selma “Bloody Sunday” and Judgement at Nuremberg


-by Melody Siegler

Last week I wrote a piece for DWT, celebrating my congressman, John Lewis. It drew an intriguing comment: “ABC interrupted the airing of Judgement at Nuremberg to report on the event in Selma. Interesting fact.” I wanted to know more. And, there was more. Barbara Harris Combs spoke about this in her book From Selma to Montgomery to Freedom: The Long March to Freedom:
Arguably, ABC News had the most influence. The network interrupted the end of its Sunday night movie to show part of the assault. Coverage came at the end of the film Judgment at Nuremberg, which outlined atrocities committed bythe Nazis in World War II. Judgement at Nuremberg showed how Germans had ignored or acquieced to the horrors going on around them. Many people viewing the coverage of Bloody Sunday thought they were still watching Nazi Germany. The cautionary words at the end of the film seemed themselves a call to action.
Judgement at Nuremberg had been released on December 1961, and drew wide attention. It won two Oscars in 1962 and the film received many other awards and nominations, but did matter how the “film industry” responded? Yes, I think it does, because the best of films can capture events that the “everyman” had only thought about in a vague unfocused way. Films equal popular culture, and can vivdly capture ideas and messages that the public at large may now be willing to think about more deeply.

What of the concidence of the timing between ABC showing Judgement at Nuremberg, then to be interrupted near the end by a news bulletin from Selma, and then ABC following up after with additional reporting? Up top is one riveting view, via youtube.
Mark Gerstein-- former high school history teacher and Wexler Oral History Project volunteeri- recalls how ABC News interrupted the Sunday night movie Judgment At Nuremberg to show images of the brutal beating of civil rights marchers in Selma, Alabama. He discusses how the juxtaposition of images of the Holocaust with the realities of the Jim Crow South helped create sympathy for the 1965 voting rights campaign.
Going back to the quote from Barbara Harris Combs-- “The cautionary words at the end of the film seemed themselves a call to action.” I can only imagine that she was referencing this part of the movie: Judgment at Nuremberg: the verdict:

But, you don’t need to watch the YouTube, because the text of the verdict is available here. This is the essence:
Judge Dan Haywood Delivers Decision of the Court

Judge Haywood: The trial conducted before this Tribunal began over eight months ago. The record of evidence is more than ten thousand pages long, and final arguments of counsel have been concluded.

Simple murders and atrocities do not constitute the gravamen of the charges in this indictment. Rather, the charge is that of conscious participation in a nationwide, government organized system of cruelty and injustice in violation of every moral and legal principle known to all civilized nations. The Tribunal has carefully studied the record and found therein abundant evidence to support beyond a reasonable doubt the charges against these defendants.

...There are those in our own country too who today speak of the "protection of country"-- of "survival." A decision must be made in the life of every nation at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then, it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient-- to look the other way.

Well, the answer to that is "survival as what?" A country isn't a rock. It's not an extension of one's self. It's what it stands for. It's what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult!

Before the people of the world, let it now be noted that here, in our decision, this is what we stand for: justice, truth, and the value of a single human being.
Yes, I think these are the “cautionary words” that Barbara Harris Combs was referring to. And, if indeed the juxaposition of ABC’s showing of Judgment at Nuremberg and the events of “Bloody Sunday”, shifted the conscious of Americans, I would hope the words above were what did it.

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