You take your seat and suddenly you’re a member of the court.
(Jimmy Murray, Mikolaj Wozniak and Bob Margrain) plus a judge (Ciaran Hanna), council for the defence and council for the prosecution (Michael Grey and Glenn McGivern); even as the people involved file in there is tension, the court room is in the Belfast Synagogue and many of the audience belong to the Jewish community here. It’s hard to realise this is a play, a staged reading of Abby Mann’s Judgement at Nuremberg presented by Ad Hoc Drama group being a courtroom setting there is little movement anyway, the drama is in the dialogue.
As part of Holocaust Memorial Day Commemoration, 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 1947 fictionalised trial, the three German members of the judiciary soon become real people accused of brutal 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 or to a life without dignity, emotional, mentally and physically destroyed.
Three men on trial
As eye witnesses take the stand the atrocities are revealed bringing a reality to the case, truth and justice is confronted with moral issues, survivors testimony is damning as each man in the dock is judged according to the evidence. One says little, one is proud to have served the fatherland, 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.”
We are warned before the trial begins that we will see film of the liberation of concentration camps, actual footage shown at the Nuremberg Trials especially obtained from the Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust & Genocide in London, original and more horrifying than I have seen before underlining the dreadful evilness of the Nazi regime, the Third Reich.
And the question is asked, what about the rest of the world, the Vatican, the Soviet Union, USA and Churchill, a blind eye and worse – 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.
Judgement at Nuremberg
Ad Hoc Theatre Company
Monday 29th January 2018