Nazi era crimes and post-1945 West Germany, film review


This video says about itself:

THE PEOPLE VS FRITZ BAUER Trailer

8 August 2015

Top German actors Burghart Klaussner (The White Ribbon) and Ronald Zehrfeld (Barbara, Phoenix) star in this riveting historical thriller, which chronicles the herculean efforts of German district attorney Fritz Bauer to bring Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann to justice.

Today, I saw the film The People vs. Fritz Bauer.

Here is a review by Joanne Laurier from the USA; with, as usually, links and remarks added by me:

THE PEOPLE vs. FRITZ BAUER

In Germany, fewer than 500 individuals were punished for their participation in the liquidation of millions of Jews and others in the Holocaust. Only one hundred defendants out of a total of 4,500 who stood trial between 1945 and 1949 for Nazi crimes were accused of murder-related offences.

Fritz Bauer (1903-1968), a Social Democratic lawyer and, later, judge, had been forced to flee Nazi Germany because of his politics and Jewish origins. Upon his return from exile in Denmark and once more taking positions in the justice system, his unrelenting attempts to prosecute the crimes of the Third Reich encountered fierce resistance from the officials in the Konrad Adenauer government (1949-63). The first postwar West German administration harbored many former high-ranking Nazis. In a well-known comment, Bauer stated: “When I leave my office I am entering an enemy, foreign country.”

Bauer is the subject of Italian-born, German filmmaker Lars Kraume’s engrossing film, THE PEOPLE vs. FRITZ BAUER. The movie opens in 1957. Famed Attorney General Fritz Bauer (the remarkable Burghart Klaussner) is found lying unconscious in his bathtub. Near him are a glass of wine and sleeping pills. Federal Office of Criminal Investigation officer Paul Gebhardt (Jörg Schüttauf) wants the incident to be classified as an attempted suicide. He intends to claim Bauer, a thorn in the side of the authorities, is unstable and should be dismissed. The attorney general is feared for his dogged efforts to bring to justice former Nazis and their defenders.

Bauer succeeds in quashing rumors about his supposed attempted suicide, all the while receiving death threats. Soon after his release from hospital, he gets a tip that Adolf Eichmann, one of the most pivotal figures in the deportation of European Jews to the concentration camps and known as the “architect of the Holocaust,” is living under an assumed name in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

A chain-smoker with a razor-sharp mind and disheveled attire, Bauer wants to try Eichmann in a German court. He has dedicated his life to tracking down major Nazis like Eichmann, Martin Bormann (who, in fact, had died in 1945) and Josef Mengele, hoping to help rehabilitate the post-war German state. However, as he is fully aware, the country’s investigative agencies are peppered with Nazis. In addition, no help is forthcoming from Interpol, a thoroughly reactionary and dubious body, which claims it has no jurisdiction over “political crimes.”

In fact, the film suggests that that not only the BND (German Federal Intelligence) but the CIA as well were involved in shielding high-ranking Nazis,

Eg, in the Eichmann case, they both knew where Eichmann was, but did nothing about that.

and depicts the constant attempts to derail Bauer’s investigation. Eventually, Bauer turns to the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, risking prison for committing treason.

As his colleagues scheme to undermine him, Bauer’s only ally is a young public prosecutor, Karl Angermann (Ronald Zehrfeld), who is prosecuting a man arrested for prostitution. At Bauer’s suggestion and in defiance of a code against homosexuality made more onerous by the Nazis, Angermann demands only a small fine. Angermann is married, but, like Bauer, he is a homosexual. He and Bauer are obliged to keep their sexuality a secret. Eventually, the naïve Angermann gets entrapped by Bauer’s enemies, who force him to choose between going to prison or fingering Bauer as a traitor.

As the noose tightens around Angermann’s neck, Bauer, trying to get his foes off his back, covertly creates the conditions for Eichmann’s capture by Mossad. Bauer’s plan is to put Eichmann on trial in West Germany, but he underestimates the extent to which the Adenauer government, backed by the United States, is hostile to the possibility of a show trial that might name names.

The film ends as Eichmann faces trial in Jerusalem in 1961. Bauer initiated the famous Auschwitz trials in Frankfurt that began in December 1963 and were the largest criminal proceedings in postwar Germany against former members of the Nazi Party.

According to the filmmakers, Bauer’s influence was far-reaching. In the movie’s production notes, the director states that Bauer was “convinced that the German postwar generation [had] the opportunity to build a new society. In reality he opened a completely new perspective for the youth in the Adenauer era, because he dared to lift the veil and break the bleak silence. And so he became an important source of inspiration later on for the student revolts.”

Despite a few rough edges, Kraume’s film is driven by a powerful commitment—and extraordinary lead actors—to dramatize Fritz Bauer’s historic contribution. It is inspired by Bauer’s determination to put “everything that was inhumane here on trial.”

2 thoughts on “Nazi era crimes and post-1945 West Germany, film review

  1. Pingback: Anti-Semitic vandalism in Estonia, Russia | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Bauhaus architecture, 1919-2019 | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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