Investigating the Holocaust
Investigating the Holocaust is a series of short videos that trace the history of the Nazi Party from its inception through World War II and the policies that led to the murder of millions of innocent people.
These short videos are derived from Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today, a powerful, feature-length documentary film made with restored footage from the 1946 production titled, “Nurnberg.” The videos feature original film footage used as evidence by the International Military Tribunal at the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg, Germany -- the most famous courtroom drama in modern times, and the first to make extensive use of film as evidence.
The FDR Presidential Library and Museum has also produced an accompanying Curriculum Guide to introduce students to the Holocaust through historical materials drawn from the FDR Library’s archives and this recently remastered documentary.
Produced in 1946-1947 by Stuart Schulberg under the supervision of Pare Lorentz for the U.S. War Department, the “Nurnberg” film presented footage shot during the many months of trials, alongside an array of documentary evidence used by the prosecutors to demonstrate aggression, atrocities, and war crimes committed by the Nazis. The film was released in Germany in 1948, but because of its controversial content, it was not shown in the United States. These new video segments come from a meticulously restored version by filmmaker Sandra Schulberg, daughter of original producer Stuart Schulberg.
Investigating the Holocaust is part of the Henry Morgenthau Jr. Holocaust Collections Project, a pathfinding initiative to discover and share unique but dispersed Holocaust subject material across the Roosevelt Library’s archival holdings. This video series provides viewers with background historical context and primary source evidence helpful to investigate or analyze the Roosevelt Administration’s response to the Holocaust.
The documentary has been edited into 14 segments, to be released weekely starting June 19th. Eventually each segment will be linked to thematically-related documents from the Roosevelt Library’s archival collection. Additional primary source material is available for research online in FRANKLIN.
The Pare Lorentz Center at the FDR Library, with generous funding from the New York Community Trust, created this video series. Special thanks to Sandra Schulberg for permission to use her fully restored documentary.
Part 1 - Mein Kampf: Hitler’s Nazi Philosophy
Adolf Hitler’s 1925 manifesto, Mein Kampf, or My Struggle, evidences the origins of Nazi Party ideology and ultimately the Holocaust. In his writings, Hitler spouted anti-Semitic and militaristic rhetoric forming the basis for his vision of Germany. The idea of German superiority, the master race, justified the enslavement and extermination of those deemed inferior. Hitler himself embodied these ideas, and the Fuhrerprinzip, or Fuhrer principle, recognized his absolute power.
Part 2: The Reichstag Fire — Hitler Consolidates Power
On February 27th, 1933, the Reichstag, or German parliament building, burned. The Nazi Party blamed the fire on a Communist plot, though Nazi Party members may have played a role in the arson. Hitler used it as a pretext for imprisoning political opponents and abolishing citizen rights, such as freedom of the press and speech. Further emboldened by the blaze, the Nazis accelerated rearmament plans and expansion of the armed forces, part of Hitler’s broader effort to rebuild German military might.
Warning: This video contains images that may be upsetting for some viewers.
Part 3: Lebensraum—Nazi Germany Annexes Austria
The Nazis used the nationalist concept of Lebensraum, or living space, to justify German expansion in Europe. Hitler’s goals included uniting ethnic Germans in Central Europe and providing new territories for colonization and exploitation, especially in Eastern Europe. Hitler first set his sights on neighboring Austria. Through coercion and force, he bullied the Austrian government into submission. In March 1938, Germany invaded Austria to complete the Anschluss, or joining, of the two nations. Austria ceased to exist as an independent country.
Part 4: Czechoslovakia – German Aggression Continues
The annexation of Austria was quickly followed by Nazi demands for the Sudetenland, the German-speaking regions of Czechoslovakia. Having approved Operation Green, a plan to subjugate the young republic through disinformation and military action, Hitler prepared for war. England and France, however, had no appetite for a European conflict and appeased Hitler. They agreed to the dictator’s territorial demands at the Munich Conference on September 29-30, 1938. The Munich Pact formalized the cession of the Sudetenland to Nazi Germany. After annexing the remainder of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, Germany faced a harder line from England and France over Poland, Hitler’s next target. The stage was set for war.
Part 5: War—Germany Invades Poland
Following the Czechoslovakian crisis, Hitler claimed no further territorial ambitions in Europe. His public statements formed part of a broader disinformation campaign against Poland. The Nazi German government created tensions along the Polish border and within the Danzig corridor, Polish territory overwhelmingly populated by ethnic Germans. As the German-Polish crisis became increasingly fraught in the spring and summer of 1939, England and France pledged full support to Poland. After Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, England and France honored their commitment and declared war on Germany two days later. World War II had begun.
Part 6: Blitzkrieg—The Conquest of Europe
With Poland defeated, Hitler pledged to honor the neutrality of noncombatants. His promises were nothing more than disinformation. In April 1940, he struck Denmark and Norway. A month later, Germany invaded the Low Countries and France. Allied defenses crumbled. By the end of June, Hitler dominated much of Europe.
Part 7: The Axis Pact–Blueprint for World Domination
With Europe subjugated, Hitler sought world domination. Together with Japan and Italy, Germany formed the Axis Pact. Italy would control the Mediterranean. Japan would control Asia. Hitler claimed everything else. With the stage set, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Japan attacked the United States. The entire world was truly at war.
Part 8: Total War--The Breadth of Nazi Cruelty
Conquest alone didn't satisfy the Nazis. They treated their enemies with contempt and cruelty. Military traditions and established conventions of war were discarded in favor of brutality against combatants and civilian populations. These violent excesses formed the bases for counts 3 and 4 at the Nuremberg trial.
Part 9: Nazi Occupation – A Policy of Mass Murder
Defendants in the Nuremberg Trials were charged with directing mass murder throughout territories occupied by Nazi Germany. Evidence presented by prosecutors showed the process by which Nazi leaders systematically murdered or enslaved populations, in one case razing a village to the ground as an example to other occupied peoples.
Warning: This video contains images that may be upsetting for some viewers.
Part 10 - The Camps – Nazi Evil in Action
The Nazis used concentration and death camps to punish those deemed politically dangerous or racially, physically, or behaviorally inferior. At the Nuremberg trial, former Auschwitz camp commandant, Rudolf Hoess, described the brutality and criminality which led to the deaths of three million people there, mostly Jews, from starvation, illness, or outright murder.
Part 11 - Nazi Exploitation, Enslavement, and Murder of Civilians
Closing the final charges of the indictment in the Nuremberg trial, prosecutors charge that all defendants committed crimes against humanity, pursuing policies of murder, slavery, and plunder against civilian populations. Aged, sick, and mentally ill Germans were also targeted and murdered.
Part 12 - Nazi Anti Semitism – When Hatred Forges Policy
As the number and ferocity of wartime atrocities increased, Nazi crimes against humanity peaked in their campaign to destroy Europe’s Jewish population. An approach of isolating and dehumanizing Jews in Germany and its occupied territories fostered growing mob violence that laid the groundwork for mass murder. Warning: This video contains images that may be upsetting for some viewers.
Part 13 - The Nazi Final Solution – The Annihilation of the Jews of Europe
It’s difficult to grasp the extent to which Nazi Party policies and behavior led to extreme violence and the complete dehumanization of entire populations. Nuremberg trial testimony details the Nazi’s approach to designating Jews to slave labor or the death chambers, and the repugnant practice of extracting wealth from the doomed to support the Nazi regime.
Part 14 - Justice Served – The Trial Concludes
The Nuremberg trial set precedent, holding leaders accountable for acts of war and genocide. The victorious Allies need not have afforded due process to their enemies, but they recognized that individual accountability was inseparable from peace. The trial remains a testament to the rule of law and the power of international cooperation, laying the foundation for the ultimate establishment of the International Criminal Court.