Movie: Labyrinth Of Lies (German, subtitles)
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
Review: It is 1958 in Frankfurt, Germany, and a young idealistic deputy state prosecutor Johann Radmann (Alexander Fehling) is tasked with the unenviable job of working on cases involving traffic citations. One day he takes the initiative to get a school teacher banned from his job because of his past war crime record, only to discover the man retains his job due to a “lack of teachers”. Radmann makes the acquaintance of a man who was interned at Auschwitz, and soon the young prosecutor is delving ever deeper into the not so distant past of Nazi Germany, and what has been done to bring war criminals to justice.
Radmann quickly discovers that justice will not be an easy path to find. After WW II, the Allies put the well known Nazi and Japanese war leaders on trial for war crimes at Nuremburg. However, no German court had ever brought former military personnel to trial for their crimes. For one thing, the German public had little knowledge of the concentration camps and what went on in them, often believing they were simply internment camps like those in the United States for Japanese citizens. Other Germans firmly believed that any stories regarding atrocities were propaganda lies originating from the Allied countries. Finally, police and prosecutors explained their reluctance to ever prosecute former military as either everybody was in the military, we can’t arrest them all, and the ever handy credo “they were only following orders from their superiors”.
At last Radmann finds a powerful sponsor in the person of Fritz Bauer (Gert Voss), the state attorney general, who authorizes Radmann to pursue any case regarding the Waffen SS personnel that ran the Auschwitz concentration camp. Despite strong opposition from his fellow attorneys and most police in Frankfurt, Radmann soldiers on with the assistance of one other attorney and an office helper. After five years of toil pursuing witnesses and scrounging for documentation, 22 former SS men were brought to trial and 17 found guilty and put in prison. This real life landmark legal trial showed the German people, and the world, that Germany was serious about taking responsibility for war crimes committed by their former military.
Dialogue Nuggets: Former German officer – “They all had camps, the Americans, the Russians. I spent a year in a French one. Don’t tell my wife, but their cooking was better than hers!”
German Reporter – “Don’t be naïve. Do you think all Nazis disappeared into thin air after Hitler died?”
U.S. Army Major – “Ten million Nazis, and those idiots wrote everything down.”
Fritz Bauer – “The Germans must see these crimes were not committed by just Hitler and Himmler, but by ordinary people. And that they did it out of conviction.”
Frankfurt Chief Prosecutor – “Do you want every German to ask if their father was a murderer?” Radmann – “Yes, that is exactly what I want!”
Auschwitz Survivor – “In the camp, God wasn’t there….”