For more information on the restoration team including links to their biographies, please visit the 2009 Restoration Credits page.
The restoration involved two major challenges, one pictorial, and one aural. Along the way, a third challenge appeared – this one musical.
It was decided at the outset that the first 1948 version of the film would be the standard, and that no picture element would be changed. But with the original negative lost, what master material could be used? Sandra Schulberg had been consulting with Les Waffen, the Motion Picture chief at NARA (U.S. National Archives & Records Administration), about this question for several years, and they planned to use a 35mm print kept in cold storage in Kansas. On close inspection, however, the image was too degraded and the contrast too high. Another NARA print and two duplicate negatives were also inferior candidates; and they varied in length, which meant frames or entire shots had been cut. With time growing short, the Berlin Bundesarchiv came to the rescue, and shipped its 35mm “lavender” print — a fine grain master positive — to the U.S. on loan.
There was jubilation when the inspection report showed each of the eight reels in excellent condition, with minimal shrinkage. The picture contained more detail, and the low contrast meant the lavender print offered the best chance to create a good quality negative. The German print was also the most complete print in existence, and its German language soundtrack was crisp. By the end of September 2009, a new 35mm film negative had been created under the supervision of Russ Suniewick at Colorlab, in Rockville, MD, a facility that specializes in archival restoration and preservation. The negative was then sent to DuArt Film & Video in New York, where new 35mm release prints were made under the supervision of DuArt Chairman Irwin Young, and his associate Steve Blakely.
Meanwhile, a complex sound reconstruction was underway. Sandra Schulberg and Josh Waletzky’s goal was to create an international soundtrack that would permit modern audiences to hear the voices of the English-, French-, and Russian-speaking prosecutors, and the voices of the German witnesses, defendants and defense attorneys. They also wanted audiences to hear the original German spoken in The Nazi Plan, the evidentiary film presented at the trial that weaves in and out of Nuremberg. Stuart Schulberg had emphasized the importance of hearing live sound at the time:
"The greatest technical difficulty involved the use of original recorded testimony from the trial itself. It was important, if the film’s authenticity was to be convincing, that Goering and his colleagues speak their lame lines of defense in their own, well-known voices... It became necessary to secure the wax recordings of the proceedings stored in Nuremberg, to re-record the pertinent words on film and then to synchronize that sound recording with the lip movements of the respective defendants... Many weeks after the original request, the records arrived from Nuremberg. The discs were re-recorded on film in half of one day, and about a month later the meticulous job of ‘dubbing’ the original voices of the defendants was completed.”
(Stuart Schulberg, article titled Nürnberg, Information Bulletin, No. 164, June 28, 1949, Office of Military Government for Germany, Berlin.)
With Lisa Hartjens duplicating the trial recordings at NARA, Josh Waletzky began the painstaking work of trying to match them to picture. Here he encountered the same problems faced by the original filmmakers, Stuart Schulberg and Joe Zigman. Although it was Stuart Schulberg’s wish to use as much original sound from the trial as possible, he was relatively limited. He and Zigman got around the problem by using extensive narration and picture that was not synchronized to sound. In the subsequent English-language version of the film, all of the voices – German, French, Russian, and English – were almost entirely obscured by narration. The sound reconstruction required laborious patience – and many compromises. It became obvious that sync would remain an elusive goal, even where it was possible to substitute live sound for narration.
While Waletzky finessed the sync sound issues, Schulberg concentrated on the creation of subtitles to mesh with new narration. Thanks to Stuart Schulberg’s documents, she had access to the original German and English scripts. With the help of Jenny Levison and Lisa Hartjens, an English-German “dialogue list” was transcribed. Then began the fascinating job of comparing the dialogue list with the original scripts, with the 1948 English and German narration tracks, with the spoken words recorded at the trial, and with the court transcript. Many translation issues arose.
How accurately did the original narration translate what was being said at the trial? To what extent did the narration reflect the prosecution’s spin on the testimony and textual evidence? To what extent did the narration reflect a noticeable “re-education” point of view on the part of U.S. Military Government? How much liberty could be taken to clean up cumbersome syntax and improve on the translation without changing the character of the original film? Should one use the English term “Final Solution” for what Goering referred to as the “Endlösung der Judenfrage?” Another tricky example was translation of the word “Weltanschauung,” which the original film conveyed as “ideology.” Schulberg and Waletzky (who speak German and Yiddish respectively) pondered and debated the right word choices in the weeks leading up to the recording session, and again before the subtitles were burned into the first 35mm print.
September 22, 2009 was an exciting day. Liev Schreiber (star of Taking Woodstock, Defiance, The Manchurian Candidate, etc.) recorded the voice-over script at Sync Sound in New York. To preserve the aural ambience of the original track, a period RCA microphone was used in addition to a state-of-the-art Neumann. Schreiber’s vitality, and his ease with all the German pronunciations, infused the narration with a fluid energy.
The search for the original music tracks had begun in July. Without them it would be impossible to excerpt those sections of the score that were married to the narration. Ronny Loewy, one of the Nuremberg film experts in Germany volunteered to search. Although hope of finding the music tracks quickly dimmed, Loewy reported surprising news. The composer was Hans-Otto Borgmann, who, in 1933, had composed the music for a Nazi propaganda film Hitlerjunge Quex. One of his songs from the film – Unsere Fahne flattert uns voran, with lyrics adapted from a text by Baldur von Schirach – became the official anthem of the Hitler Youth.
Borgmann’s apparent ties to the Nazi Party stunned Schulberg and Waletzky. How could he have been cleared to work on Nuremberg?
Bundesarchiv researcher Babette Heusterberg reported that Borgmann had been a member of Nationalsozialistische Betriebszellenorganisation (NSBO), the Kampfbund für deutsche Kultur (KfdK), and the Reichsfilmkammer, but there was no evidence of his membership in the Nazi Party (NSDAP). According to records she found, Borgmann was interviewed by the Office of Military Government, Information Control Branch, in Berlin on October 20, 1946, and barred from all cultural activities. He waited some months before filing for an employment permit again, citing a possible job offer from Eric Pommer, chief of the OMGUS Motion Picture Branch. The files show that Borgmann’s case was reconsidered on September 5, 1947. By then, the U.S. Army had no objection to his employment in the U.S. Sector, and reclassified him. He had his Persilschein.
(Persil was the name of a popular laundry detergent in Germany. Persilschein entered the postwar vocabulary as a slang term to mean a denazification certificate or work permit issued by the occupying governments. In political terms, it signified a clean bill of health, but could also mean a whitewash.)
The music tracks were lost, but Schulberg found Borgmann’s handwritten, fully-orchestrated, musical cues for the Nuremberg film in her father’s files. With this as guide, composer John Califra synthesized the music obscured by the original narration. He worked closely with Waletzky, a composer himself, to precisely match the reconstructed music to the rest of Borgmann’s score. Another enormous problem had been solved.