Top Secret Trial Of The Third Reich

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directed by: Jochen Bauer
produced by: Bengt von zur Mühlen
genre: Documentary
running time: 110 minutes

“Someday others will be allowed to live better and happier lives because we died.” Pastor Alfred Delp

In August of 1944, Hitler gave orders to have the trial of the "Men of the 20th of July" recorded with hidden cameras. A film bearing the title: "TRAITORS BEFORE THE TRIBUNAL OF THE PEOPLE" was to be shown publicly as a propaganda work. However, the Nazis soon realized that their propaganda was achieving exactly the opposite effect from the one desired. Goebbels had the film and sound documentation declared a "REICH SECRET" and ordered it destroyed at once.

One print, however, escaped destruction. CHRONOS-FILM found it abroad. After 35 years of silence, this "REICH SECRET" will now be publicly shown. The film begins with intoxicating, staged parades and Reich party congresses and ends with the pathetic images of Germany destroyed.

In the center of this film, however, we see the authentic record of the trial of the men of July 20th for high treason. The trial - a theatre of evil. Leading character: Roland Freisler, presiding judge of the infamous "people's tribunal." They called him "the judge of blood in the red robe". He sent more than one thousand human beings to their death, but before doing that he subjected them to his hideous game. His fits of uncontrollable fury, his tirades of hate dominate the scene and reduce all the other players to extras. His show trials even shocked the Nazis. The defendants: softened up by Gestapo tortures, they are now exposed to Freisler's ranting. Freisler has demanded that they appear before him without belts, suspenders and neckties - humiliated, degraded, and nonetheless, men who retain their human dignity even in the face of certain death.

The film details the various attempts to assassinate Hitler, from the bomb in Munich's Bürgerbräukeller to Stauffenberg's explosive attack in the Wolfsschanze. It tells how Hitler survived them all - and his claim of clairvoyance. The film shows the Führer as a demagogic speechmaker. The fatal fascination of the masses. Hitler Youth children swearing solemn oaths. The Blitzkrieg. Empty victories until the catastrophe of Stalingrad. The humiliating march of German officers through Moscow. The Allied invasion. Total war all the way to the end. The film shows original shots of the Warsaw Ghetto and the annihilation camps - images which leave the beholder shocked and speechless.

The film tells of the resistance against Hitler. The Kreislau circle. The white rose. The National Committee for a Free Germany - hitherto unpublished film and sound documentation of a German resistance group in a Russian camp. The Central Army Group. A photo album which somehow evaded the clutches of the Gestapo – a document of an officers' conspiracy. The film shows what it was like in Berlin on that fateful July 20th, 1944 - a glowing midsummer day with no air raids. And it tells of what was happening the same time in command headquarters on Bendlerstrasse, as events got more and more out of hand. ...images, events, the background of the German resistance movement. The main thrust of the film is still the show trial before that people's tribunal. The quiet dignity of the defendants. The bone-chilling screams of Judge Freisler. Only once is he at a loss for words, at the moment von Haeften describes the Führer as world history's executor of evil.