Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today was meant to be shown in the United States as a stirring example of American and Allied justice, and as a lesson for posterity, but the film’s U.S. release was apparently suppressed, despite the fact that, in April 1947, Assistant Secretary of War Howard C. Petersen had written:
“The very way in which the Trial was set up and conducted and the evidence which it produced constitute an historical document that should be of use, not only in motion picture theaters, but in schools and universities for many years to come.”
(Source: Carbon copy of letter from Assistant Secretary of War Howard C. Petersen to General Lucius D. Clay, American Military Governor of Germany, in the Schulberg Family Archive.)
By this time, the Soviets had decided to produce their own film, Sud Narodov (Judgment of the People), which they released not only in Germany, but also in New York. On May 21, 1947, the New York Post reported:
“The Stanley Theatre in Times Square will show the Nuremberg Trial film. But this is the Russian version. The complete, four-power movie is being made by Pare Lorentz and will be ready in two months…Schulberg & Zigman are in Berlin completing the movie based on the official transcript and stressing the real philosophy of the trials.”
Two weeks later, on June 8, 1947, Variety began digging behind the scenes and reported: “Internal U.S. Army Snarl let Reds Beat Yanks on Nuremberg Film.”
In 1949, a dogged Washington Post reporter named John Norris tried to investigate why the War Department would neither release the film itself, nor sell it to Pare Lorentz so that he could complete and distribute the English-language version. No one would go on record.
Norris presumed that wide release of a film indicting Germany on war crimes might impede political and public acceptance of the plan to rebuild Germany’s economy, a vital plank in the Marshall Plan’s approach to European recovery.
To complicate matters, in the middle of 1948, the Soviets blockaded Berlin. The new threat was Soviet expansionism. While attempting to ferret out the reasons for the government’s censorship of the film, Norris speculated that some
“have suggested that there are those in authority in the United States who feel that Americans are so simple that they can hate only one enemy at a time. Forget the Nazis, they advise, and concentrate on the Reds.”
Thus, the English-language version was never properly finished and never released to theaters in the United States.