Cast & Crew
Joseph H. Zarovich
Drawing on official Soviet films, captured German newsreels and some American footage, this film presents the trial of three German Gestapo members: Capt. Wilhelm Langheld, Lieut. Hans Ritz and Pfc Reinhard Retzlav, and confessed Russian traitor Mikhail Bulanoff. The trial takes place in Kharkov, Russia, described in the narration as "one of the cities dominated longest by the enemies." During the trial, it is revealed that 300,000 Soviet citizens in the area were "murdered and tortured." In December 1943, the four convicted war criminals are hanged in the public square. The trial footage is interspersed with battlefront scenes and film of German atrocities as the Nazis advance into Russia.
Artkino Pictures was credited for footage of the Karkov trial and the Soviet army. According to the Variety review, the trial portion of the film had earlier been released separately in Great Britain. This documentary was originally submitted to the MPAA/PCA in a rough-cut version entitled Atrocities. According to papers filed in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, after viewing the rough cut, the PCA expressed reservations about the use of the word "damned" and what they felt was overly extended footage of dead bodies and other atrocities. Irvin Shapiro, president of Film Rights, Inc. then advertised the film as having been "banned by the Hays Office." The New York Times reviewer commented that the withholding of approval "appears hardly justified. The picture's depiction of Nazi bestiality in Russia, while starkly graphic (and repeated sometimes needlessly), is no more startling than the grim testimony presented by recent newsreels of Buchenwald and other German concentration camps. As the first pictorial document of the swift bringing to justice of Nazi war criminals, We Accuse is a valuable casebook." In fact, after viewing the completed film, the PCA gave its approval on June 6, 1945 and the film was assigned a certificate number. However, as late as July 20, 1945, the film was being advertised in the Los Angeles Times as a banned film. According to a letter of protest dated July 10, 1945 from MPAA/PCA official Joseph I. Breen to Los Angeles Times critic Edwin Schallert, an Los Angeles Times ad read "The Los Angeles engagement continues in spite of all censor opposition! Acclaimed by the leading critics-Applauded by huge audiences-but Banned by the Hays office."