Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Fritz Bauer: Unheralded Nazi-Hunter


Light Shed on Little-Known Nazi Hunter in “Fritz Bauer”

By Skip Sheffield

What happened to all those Nazis after Germany surrendered World War II in 1945?
A lot of them fled to South America; Argentina in particular. Some stayed in Germany, hiding in plain sight as members of the German government.
“The People vs. Fritz Bauer” is the story of one man’s crusade to bring ex-Nazis to justice and have them tried for war crimes.
Dr. Fritz Bauer (Burghart Klaussner) is Attorney General in postwar Germany circa 1957. A Jewish man, Dr. Bauer had been imprisoned in a concentration camp in the 1930s and went into exile in Denmark. His return to Germany was not exactly triumphant. For the past 12 years he has been hunting Nazis, with the supreme prize Adolph Eichmann, who was engineer of Hitler’s “final solution” for the extermination of Jews. Eichmann had been rumored to be hiding out in Argentina under an assumed name, but there are people there and within Germany who have been preventing his arrest and extradition.
Directed and co-written by Lars Kraume, the movie begins with footage of the real Fritz Bauer making an impassioned speech about Germany as the land of Goethe on one hand and the Nazi Party on the other. “We must provide young people the truths their parents avoided,” he declared.
The film cuts to Dr. Bauer in a bathtub, slipping below the water, a glass of wine nearby. He is saved by young Prosecutor Karl Angermann (Ronald Zehrfeld) a composite character representing those sympathetic to Dr.  Bauer’s fight.
Dr. Bauer’s near death is called a suicide attempt by his nemesis Paul Gebhardt (Jorg Schuttlauf), a government official sympathetic to the ex-Nazis. Later he will have real death threats.
“The People vs. Fritz Bauer” plays like a psychological mystery and a political thriller. Fritz Bauer is little known outside Germany, but it was his courageous and potentially treasonous act that finally brought down Eichmann. Bauer had hoped to have him tried in Germany, but he was captured by Israelis who insisted he face judgment there. Dr. Bauer had a secret which he shared with his young colleague Karl Angermann that put him in jeopardy of Germany’s Nazi-written morality laws and reduced the effectiveness of his fight.

At the very least this is a fascinating history lesson, and at the same time it is crackling good entertainment.

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