American Rhetoric: Movie Speech

"Judgment at Nuremberg" (1961)

 

Hans Rolfe Delivers Closing Argument for the Defense

Audio mp3 delivered by Maximilian Schell

Rolfe: Your Honor, it is my duty to defend Ernst Janning, and yet Ernst Janning has said he is guilty. There's no doubt, he feels his guilt. He made a great error in going along with the Nazi movement, hoping it would be good for his country. But, if he is to be found guilty, there are others who also went along, who also must be found guilty.

Ernst Janning said, "We succeeded beyond our wildest dreams." Why did we succeed, Your Honor? What about the rest of the world? Did it not know the intentions of the Third Reich? Did it not hear the words of Hitler's broadcast all over the world? Did it not read his intentions in Mein Kampf, published in every corner of the world?

Where's the responsibility of the Soviet Union, who signed in 1939 the pact with Hitler, enabled him to make war? Are we not to find Russia guilty?

Where's the responsibility of the Vatican, who signed in 1933 the Concordat with Hitler, giving him his first tremendous prestige? Are we not to find the Vatican guilty?

Where's the responsibility of the world leader, Winston Churchill, who said in an open letter to the London Times in 1938 -- 1938!! Your Honor -- "were England to suffer national disaster should pray to God to send a man of the strength of mind and will of an Adolf Hitler!" Are we not to find Winston Churchill guilty?

Where is the responsibility of those American industrialists, who helped Hitler to rebuild his armaments and profited by that rebuilding?!! Are we not to find the American industrialists guilty?

No, Your Honor. No! Germany alone is not guilty: The whole world is as responsible for Hitler's Germany.

It is an easy thing to condemn one man in the dock. It is easy to condemn the German people to speak of the basic flaw in the German character that allowed Hitler to rise to power and at the same time positively ignore the basic flaw of character that made the Russians sign pacts with him, Winston Churchill praise him, American industrialists profit by him!!

Ernst Janning said he is guilty. If he is, Ernst Janning's guilt is the world's guilt -- no more and no less.

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HTML transcription by Michael E. Eidenmuller.