In 1947, four German judges who served on the bench during the Nazi regime face a military tribunal to answer charges of crimes against humanity. Chief Justice Haywood (Spencer Tracy) hears evidence and testimony not only from lead defendant Ernst Janning (Burt Lancaster) and his defense attorney Hans Rolfe (Maximilian Schell), but also from the widow of a Nazi general (Marlene Dietrich), an idealistic U.S. Army captain (William Shatner) and reluctant witness Irene Wallner (Judy Garland).