Arts

Excellent Holocaust play Judgement At Nuremberg gave Belfast audience plenty to think about

Judgement At Nuremberg was staged in the Belfast Synagogue on Monday evening to mark Holocaust Memorial Day

REVIEW

Judgement At Nuremberg

Belfast Synagogue

January 29 2018

YOU take your seat and suddenly you're a member of the court. Three men on trial plus a judge, council for the defence and council for the prosecution; even as the people involved file in there is tension. The courtroom is in the Belfast Synagogue and many of the audience belong to the Jewish community here.

It's hard to realise this, a staged reading of Abby Mann's Judgement at Nuremberg, presented by Ad Hoc Drama group, is a play.

As part of Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations, producer Ciaran Hanna explains that the theme this year is The Power of Words and reminds us that words can make a difference both for good and for evil.

Although this is a fictionalised account of the 1947 'Judges trial' in Nuremberg, the three members of the German judiciary on trial accused of involvement in atrocities committed by the Nazis soon become real people accused of crimes against humanity but who plead they were only following orders.

However, as the American prosecutor points out, they in turn issued orders that sent millions to their deaths.

As eyewitnesses take the stand the atrocities are revealed, bringing a reality to the case. Truth and justice are confronted with moral issues; survivors' testimony is damning as each man in the dock is judged according to the evidence.

We are warned both on the programme and personally before the trial begins that we will see film of the liberation of concentration camps, actual footage shown at the Nuremberg Trials specially obtained from the Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust & Genocide in London. It is more horrifying footage than I have seen before, underlining the dreadful evilness of the Nazi regime.

Only Ernst Janning admits he is guilty of the crimes he's accused of. His German defence attorney tries to make him see sense – he's signing his own warrant but he seems contrite: “We never knew it would come to that.”

And the question is asked, what about the rest of the world? The Vatican, Soviet Union, USA and Churchill? Germany alone was not guilty.

A sobering, thought-provoking evening and this excellent amateur drama company sent their audience away with a lot to think about and a production relevant at any time of year.

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