What should one watch if one wants to know about Nuremberg? Which films best capture the essence of the tribunal? Famed film aficionado Lydia Maslova has prepared a unique list of films to accompany the “Nuremberg: Casus Pacis” project. We continue with our series, publishing her recommendations twice a week – the greatest films about the war and its aftermath; famous and award-winning in the niche, but important and meaningful ones.

‘The Reader’ (2008, Germany, United States)

Director: Stephen Daldry

Starring: Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, David Kross, Lena Olin, Bruno Ganz

This 2008 romantic drama film directed by Stephen Daldry tells the story of a German lawyer who is shocked to recognise one of the war crime defendants as a woman with whom he 10 years earlier had a torrid affair, which ended with her mysterious disappearance. 

The Oscar-winning Kate Winslet plays an SS woman who worked at Auschwitz and who is blamed for the crimes of the other defendants, condemning her to life imprisonment in an attempt to whitewash themselves.

During breaks between court sessions, law students discuss the moral and ethical aspects of the case with the lecturer, drawing, among other things, on the philosopher Karl Jaspers, who put forward the “question of guilt” of the German people.

On the one hand, there seems to be nothing in this case, everything is crystal clear: “Six women locked 300 Jews in a church and burned them, what is there to understand?” But on the other side of the scale remains the rhetorical question of the shocked young lawyer: “How did you allow this to happen? And why didn't you kill yourself when you found out about it?”

“The Reader” is ultimately a film about a single generation finding the strength to come to terms with the crimes of the other, but Jaspers' “question of guilt” remains to this day one of the most important issues in the relationship between different countries and peoples.