Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Fritz Bauer: “We must never stop telling horror of this period” – Screenrush

Fritz Bauer, a German hero out this Wednesday, April 13 in theaters. Meeting with German director Lars Kraume, which pays tribute with this film to an unsung hero of the postwar …

Screenrush: C ‘ your first film on this sensitive period of German history. Why now and why Fritz Bauer

Kraume Lars: I have read about this character with my co-writer Olivier Guez. He now lives in Paris but has lived in Berlin a time. He wrote a book called “The impossible return, a history of the Jews in Germany” since 1945. He was interested in how the Jewish community developed after 1945 and the end of the war in Germany. This is a very good book but mostly it was a question I had never asked myself. It is exciting to see this evolution through the decades. In the book there is a chapter on the Auschwitz trial in the 60′s, initiated by Fritz Bauer. It was the first time I came across the name! I found her fascinating mission and I wanted to know more. So I read a biography and afterwards I told Olivier that we should make a film about him. Also because it is not recognized at all, while it is at the origin of the operation conducted by the Mossad in Argentina to capture Adolf Eichmann. This fact was not known to the public! I had hitherto never really wanted to make a film about the Nazis and the 3rd Reich because I felt ill at ease with the idea to reconstruct this period to Nazi costumes, build sets of concentration camps to look for particularly lean extras … in a way it’s an exploitation of suffering and horror even though I am well aware that this is the most significant period in Germany during the 20th century. We must never stop telling horror of that period. Make a film about Fritz Bauer allowed me to put all this horror in the subtext. It sees no Nazi uniform.

We must never stop telling horror of that period.

Do not really know before the Fritz Bauer reading this book, what surprised you most about it

what surprised me most is probably what surprises the audience: in 50s, the mood in Germany was still terror. It was not until the revolution in 1968 to students that the word is really free and that it frontally confront the horror of that period. Fritz Bauer had the courage and strength to stand up against almost an entire society. There were few people can like him to say that he had to speak of the 3rd Reich and justice in our country too. He said there could be no democracy as long as we do not would face this terrible past. It was particularly surprising to me. I do not know that the US secret services, and even Germans knew where Eichmann was found and other Nazi leaders. It is not true that its location was secret. But politically it would not arrest him and bring him to justice. The Cold War was raging and we wanted stability to the government of West Germany. The other big German concerns lie the incredible economic recovery of the country in this period. People think that this recovery is mainly due to the working spirit that animates the German people. The truth is that the Americans have put their grip on the country and financially helped the economic recovery. Without the political will to maintain a stable government in Germany, none of this would have been possible. Delve into this period for the purposes of a movie is exciting.

You said it took time for the Germans to get back into that time. Yet in 1946, a film like “Murderers Among Us” by Wolfgang Staudte precisely with the immediate post-war presence of former Nazis in the population …

I have indeed seen the film and it is interesting. In a sense that’s true but … The title of this feature film is more dramatic than is actually the plot. The wicked are perfectly recognizable and visible. What was looking Fritz Bauer was different: he wanted German society as a whole, including himself, confronts the past and realizes that everyone at his level, his involvement. Bauer has also used the title of this film Staudte for one of his texts. But Murderers Among Us is a sort of exception and in 1948, actually after the Nuremberg trials, the idea emerged that he had to “finish” with this period, stopping a certain way of rehashing . Until today traces of this design remains. I come to tell me that it is a miracle that a film like Murderers Among Us has been possible.

Fritz Bauer wanted German society as a whole, including himself -even, confronts the past and realizes that everyone at his level, his involvement.

as a German in fact, do make a film about this period has a particular personal impact ?

Of course. I co-wrote with Olivier Guez, who is himself Jewish. I for one am a Christian German. Working with him on the script, write dialogues, read books, discuss and evaluate our sources, this has naturally led us to talk much. My generation (note: Kraume was born in 1973) grew up not knowing exactly what to do with that past. We inevitably raises the question of the legacy of all these events and the meaning of our nationality. And of course there is necessarily this guilt … Being able to work on such a subject, to travel to Israel to work with a local team, all of whom necessarily have ties these events or concentration camps all this is a great privilege. I had the chance to spend a few years in addressing these issues to think about. And if you look at the results of the last elections, with all the issues they raise throughout Europe, and especially the rise of the extreme right, have the opportunity to work as long on such a film gives you perspective and you finally forced to ask the right questions. The powers that stood against Fritz Bauer were so huge … There was socialist and gay, none of this was finally agreed at that time. Yet he dared to rise, despite numerous death threats, and address everyone by saying, “Let’s look at who is guilty of anything” It’s fascinating. Fritz Bauer is a very inspiring figure.

The use of swastikas is highly regulated in Germany. How is it possible to use them to the movies?

This is a very good question. But I can not really answer it! (laughs) It is not allowed to use this effect symbol as decoration for example, which seems quite logical. I grew up with the awareness that it was a figure forbidden. But it is relatively common in the cinema for films about this period. As against it figures prominently in the French movie poster, which was not the case in Germany. The German post only plays on the colors of the symbol. The title also is different: it is called here “the people against Fritz Bauer”. The French title could not work with us: the notion of heroism was somehow moved

left poster German, the French right.

L homosexuality was not legally permitted at this time. And a replica is particularly powerful about this: it is clear that this law condemning was partly inherited from the Nazi administration. It is a way of saying that if the regime fell, inheritances remained despite everything …

When we were working on the script, we knew there were these rumors his homosexuality. But in all the documents consulted about it, it was always avoided or blur. During his lifetime he did not do his coming out , because it was forbidden. We had a discussion with Olivier on the fact of addressing this aspect or not. Then a very important exhibition was organized by the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt on the life and work of Bauer. A small section was just devoted to his homosexuality. We realized at that point that it was ridiculous not to approach. So we have deepened our research at the same time on this section of law punishing homosexuality. The law existed before the 3rd Reich but had not really been applied before. Before the war, Berlin was a very open city, homosexuality was neither hidden nor condemned. With the coming to power of the Nazis, this law was finally applied, and worse, strengthened. Once back democracy, the law has been preserved intact. This is the perfect symbol to show that a certain mentality remained. It is a mistake, a big mistake to believe that the fall of the Nazis allowed normal people to live again. “Normal people” have supported that regime. The advent of National Socialism and the popular support, is understandable if one studies the history of Germany since WW1. And it is a great mistake to think that the Nazi regime was as great clouds finally dissipated. This also would also minimize the power of the new far-right parties. This is also why it was crucial to have this dimension in this film: the moral standards have not changed overnight after the fall of the Nazis

The moral standards n. have not changed overnight after the fall of the Nazis.

“Elser, an ordinary hero”, “Hannah Arendt”, “Labyrinth of silence” … many films deal now, not necessarily of the same historical period, but the same theme in some way …

There are German historical films all the time but it is especially Interestingly, there are more and more films about the late 50s and early 60s, as Hannah Arendt and the Labyrinth of silence precisely. I can not give you a reason for this multiplication of films. The war ended there more than 70 years now. The directors and writers realize that the last witnesses of that time are dying out, I myself had the chance to meet a former colleague of Fritz Bauer. He is 85 years old, he is in good health but obviously sooner or later … Eventually all the witnesses of this period have disappeared. This is probably one reason for this excitement. We must not underestimate also that those years are those of the youth of our parents. We grew up with their stories, their stories, their memories. It’s interesting to try to understand the time in which my parents grew up so as to move away from certain clichés or just memories too embellished or blackened.

A park or a place or in Berlin should bear the name of Fritz Bauer!

is it more risky to take “artistic” liberties when making a film about a period as sensitive as this one?

on an aesthetic level, my film is not necessarily the most risky. It is true that we address homosexuality Bauer but the plot has a relatively conventional development. We never had the intention to do something a little bit experimental, but always this obsession to build a clear story. For a German filmmaker approaching this period, the most interesting thing is to have a perspective. Have as protagonist Fritz Bauer, a little-known character for over 40 years, was a strong message. He has not the recognition it deserves. Or a park or a place in Berlin should bear his name! People were unaware that he had participated fully in creating the democracy in which we live today. There are a lot of movies or series that have dealt with this period but always with the same angle: people have suffered under the Nazis, these evil individuals. While they are not miraculously come to power. If Fritz Bauer was at the movie theater success in Germany, with this research from another perspective, it must be remembered that more consensual TV programs are watched by many more people. Germans prefer to watch films showing this terrible period rather than questioning. This is a big problem.

Interview by Thomas Destouches in Paris April 7, 2016

The trailer of “Fritz Bauer” in theaters this Wednesday, April 13, 2016:

Fritz Bauer, a German hero trailer


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