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Historical drama

The hunt for Adolf Eichmann (Der Staat against the Fritz Bauer)
Regissør: Lars Kraume. Tyskland

Sober German film tells about new aspects of the hunt for Nazi Adolf Eichmann.


The court drama has long been a favorite movie genre. In the courtroom, the actors can encounter the law's tightly directed scene, which facilitates condensed and intimate drama. There is something unifying about the dramaturgy of the legal play where judges, juries and lawyers all hold roles as representatives of the truth. The criminal act itself has been reversed, now it remains to pass a verdict with onlookers and juries as witnesses. Judgment should be seen as a statement of something true and objective (though of course not always er the).

This is true in many ways in reality as well, because even the most awful deeds are easier to digest if they are put on stage as part of the theater of the court.

Before the sentencing. One of the most famous courtroom dramas of recent times – and this was not a fiction – is the trial of Adolf Eichmann, who was essential in the Nazi extermination of Jews during World War II. The case took place in Jerusalem in 1963, and was peculiar for many reasons. Eichmann looked like a seemingly ordinary man, dumbfounded, brilliant, shy. But even though he did not deny what he had done, he apologized for having just done his job. Some, in the aftermath of this bureaucratization of genocide, will think of the Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt's reflections on the trial, which she covered for The New Yorker (I'll be back to her).

There is a long game in the scenes before the facts come to court.

The Eichmann case was one of many court cases in which it is important to remember the following: Well, so much of the legal drama must necessarily take place before the carpet goes up in the law theater. Apart from the actual crime to be dealt with, there is often a long investigation and a lot of play in the scenes before the facts finally come to court (om they do it at all). There are parts of such a prehistory that we are told in the eminent film The hunt for Adolf Eichmann (which should be called "The State Against Fritz Bauer", which is the German original title).

State and citizen. When someone with (too) much power has enough to lose by associating with the court's drama, great effort is put into telling an alternative story – which is not always particularly fair or truthful. Fortunately, there are actors fighting such attempts to obstruct the process. There are people who, in a heroic way, continue to dig and push until the truth comes out. The hunt for Adolf Eichmann tells the story of such a human being. German State Attorney Fritz Bauer is chasing Nazi war criminals, but is being sabotaged by people in the state apparatus or business who are afraid of losing their jobs and going to prison. Bauer is particularly interested in acquiring Adolf Eichmann himself. If the chief bureaucrat is brought before a German court, the country and its population can begin to process the traumas of the war, the lawyer believes.

One day, Bauer receives a letter from Argentina, detailing where Eichmann is. He starts to thread the threads to investigate the information more closely. At the same time, he is investigating whether Eichmann can be tried before a German court at all, which is proving to be difficult. But then a solution opens up: The Israeli intelligence organization Mossad is also interested in getting involved in the war criminal. After much, though, they say they are willing to cooperate with Attorney General Bauer. If it is possible to get Eichmann to Jerusalem, Bauer can then request him extradited to Germany. Bauer also allies with the promising Karl Angermann (played by Ronald Zehrfeld), a younger lawyer, who helps him with the details.

A settlement with Nazi perpetrators could create a new beginning.

Homosexuality as Achilles heel. But it's not that simple, of course. The powers and politicians of fifties Germany have a past in the Third Reich and are not afraid to use dirty methods.

The fact that the personal becomes part of politics helps to lift this film higher than the usual expectations of such political and legal drama. m Bauer and Angermann's sexual orientation becomes their Achilles heel, but it is also through them that a clearly defined alliance based on outsiders is deepened. We get to know relatively early on that Bauer lives with his wife because he likes men – and then we must remember that this is the 50s, where homosexuality was seen as "inadvertent" and was banned (in Norway, homosexuality was also completely criminalized to 1973). That this is great extortion material is obvious – but Bauer is very careful not to be ridiculed. The same cannot be said of his young companion, who is caught in the peach and threatened to lose both his family and his job if he does not want to betray Bauer.

The life of thought. Hannah Arendt wrote about Eichmann that he was not evil, but banal – because he did not think. For Arendt, it is not about thinking about the inability to investigate the conditions of your own actions, but also the apparatus you are part of and its legitimacy. It is Eichmann's thoughtlessness that led him to commit evil acts, not any inherent evil, Arendt reasoned. Like the Jewish philosopher, Bauer is also prepared to take the consequence of what he thinks. Not only will he put those responsible for Nazi outrage at German courts, but he will create a historical situation that transcends the fate of his country with Hitler at the helm. A settlement with Nazi perpetrators could create a new beginning, Bauer said.

The hunt for Adolf Eichmann is no original movie story as such. It is factual and sober and presents its argument restrained and subdued, with an appropriate and compelling time color. What makes the movie great is that it manages to tell convincingly about the value of doing the right thing, whatever, and the value of accepting the consequence of their actions and thoughts even if they put you in a difficult or unpleasant situation.

Kjetil Røed
Kjetil Røed
Freelance writer.

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