• The Making of an SS Killer - The Life of Colonel Alfred Filbert 1905–1990 - 1
    #Alfred_Filbert #Einsatzgruppen #génocide #shoa #Thomas_Harlan #Wundkanal

    Alex J. Kay,
    Institute of Contemporary History, Berlin
    Chapter 10 - ‘A chess game of egos’
    Wundkanal and aftermath, 1975–1990

    Following his release from prison for health reasons in June 1975, Filbert lived for another fifteen years. He returned to 49 #Bamberger_Straße in West #Berlin (#Schöneberg), where he would remain until his death in 1990.(1) In 1983, Filbert’s pre-1945 biography was the subject of a request for information submitted by the District Administration for State Security in Rostock in East Germany to the Main Department IX/11 within the Ministry of State Security, commonly known as the Stasi, in East Berlin.(2) The request was made in the context of the ‘processing of operative material’ ( Bearbeitung eines operativen Materials ).(3) The backdrop to the request appears to have been the fact that the District Administration for State Security in Rostock had become aware ‘that in the FRG a film is being made with the professional advice of Fillbert ( sic )’ ( daß in der BRD ein Film unter Fachberatung des Fillbert gefertigt wird ).(4) In fact, Filbert was providing much more than specialist advice: he was acting in the lead role.

    The former SD officer, RSHA member and Italy specialist Karl Haß – whose wife had officially declared him dead in 1953 – had played small supporting roles in various feature films during the 1960s, including a bit part in Luchino Visconti’s La caduta degli dei (‘The Damned’, 1969), generally as a member of the SA or the SS.(5) The only time a convicted Nazi mass murderer has played a mass murderer in a feature film, how- ever, was in 1984 in the film Wundkanal – Hinrichtung für vier Stimmen (‘Gun Wound – Execution for Four Voices’). According to the film’s closing credits, it stars ‘Alfred F.’ in the lead role of ‘Dr S.’.(6) This was Alfred Filbert, wearing a toupee and, intermittently, a false moustache. The character’s name was no coincidence. Filbert had once before been known under the name ‘Dr S.’: Dr Selbert, the name he had used for the first six years after the war. In Wundkanal , Filbert was in many ways playing himself. The director and producer was Thomas Harlan, son of Veit Harlan, director of the notorious Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda film Jud Süß (‘The Jew Süss’). Harlan junior devoted his life, initially in the Polish archives, later in films and novels, to tracking down and uncovering mid-level Nazi perpetrators and their post-war careers; men like his father, men like Filbert. He ultimately brought criminal charges against more than 2,000 Nazi perpetrators who were still alive. As Harlan stated in an interview after the release of Wundkanal : ‘The film is a work about the plural; I merely start with my [own] father’.(8)

    The shooting of the film Wundkanal began in 1981, initially in Hungary with the actor Erwin Geschonneck, a former concentration camp prisoner and one of East Germany’s most celebrated actors. According to Harlan, the West German embassy managed to have the film shoot stopped, however, on the grounds that Harlan and his crew were allegedly engaging in propaganda for terrorism.(9) The abrupt ter- mination of the shoot led to a legal dispute between the production firm Quasar Film and Hungarofilm.(10) After returning to East Berlin, Harlan decided to shoot Wundkanal with a real perpetrator in the lead role: Alfred Filbert.(11) Harlan and Heike Geschonneck, the fourth wife of the aforementioned Erwin Geschonneck and executive producer(12) of Wundkanal , came across Filbert’s name whilst at the Central Office of the Judicial Authorities of the Federal States for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes ( Zentrale Stelle der Landesjustizverwaltungen zur Aufklärung nationalsozialistischer Verbrechen ) in the German city of Ludwigsburg.(13) This, however, was not the first time that Harlan had been acquainted with the name Alfred Filbert: two decades earlier, Harlan had corresponded with the Chief Public Prosecutor attached to the Regional Court in Berlin, regarding the trial against Filbert. The Public Prosecutor’s Office had been at the time in the process of pre- paring the indictment against Filbert and his co-defendants.(14) Harlan met with Filbert over coffee and cake in the latter’s West Berlin apartment at 49 Bamberger Straße. According to Harlan, Filbert

    [. . .] was touched by a visit from the son of Harlan, the son of the great consoler, and it was already clear on this first day of our acquaintance that he was prepared to speak; whether [he was also prepared] to act, this no-one could know. And later it lasted two weeks before we noticed that he had taken the bait and wanted to become an actor; it was on the day when we are standing in the desert with him and he is prepared to hold the pistol how Andreas Baader is supposed to have held it to his neck, but could not have held it. (15)

    This comment (see Figure 24) was a reference to Harlan’s theory that the leadership of the radical left-wing RAF had not in fact committed suicide in Stuttgart’s Stammheim Prison on the night of 18 October 1977 but instead had been murdered. Baader, for example, was supposed to have shot himself in cell 719 in the base of the neck so that the bullet exited through his forehead. Tests indicated, however, that it was virtually impossible for a person to hold and fire a pistol in such a way at the distance necessary to cause the powder burns found on the skin of Baader’s neck. Harlan concluded that one’s own arm is too short.(16) His conclusions are reflected in the opening credits of Wundkanal : ‘IN THE NECK AT A DISTANCE LONGER THAN A MAN’S ARM / AT A DISTANCE OF 30.5 CENTIMETERS FROM THE WOUND / THE BULLET BEING FIRED INTO THE NECK BY STRANGERS’.(17) In Wundkanal , Dr S. compels another man, whom he has just finished interrogating, to shoot himself in precisely the same way in which Baader was supposed to have killed himself. The title of the film, Wundkanal , is based on this idea: the ‘Wundkanal’, or wound channel, is the trajectory taken by a bullet in a body (in this case, a skull) between the point of entry and the point of exit.(18) On other occasions, Harlan argued that the RAF leadership had indeed killed themselves, though only ‘in order to prove that they were to be murdered’.(19) One of the principal concerns of the RAF was also Harlan’s principal concern and the real subject of the film: the continuity of Nazi biographies in the Federal Republic of Germany and of murder in the name of the state. Harlan was, by his own admission, less concerned with the murder of Jews than with the murderers of Jews.(20)