The breath-taking story of a man who nearly would have changed the world.
After the takeover of the National Socialists in 1939, Georg Elser, a carpenter from Koenigsbronn, takes the decision to kill Adolf Hitler. A self-made bomb in a famous brew house in Munich misses its target by only 13 minutes. 13 Minutes that could have changed the world’s history and maybe saved the lives of millions of people. Who was this common man who realised the danger of war so early and decided to act while everyone else was following blindly or just keeping silent?

Director's Statement

I never planned to return to the Third Reich, but Georg Elser and his story are a shameful stain on German history. In 1938 he’s the only one who sees what’s coming – it’s almost clairvoyant. This man is not an intellectual; he’s an uneducated little guy from the countryside. I felt it was important to show how that system, which exercised complete control and subdued any kind of individuality, worked in practice and took over people’s lives. It was suffocating, especially in the countryside, where life is rooted in the idea that everybody helps each other. The minute you refused to raise your arm in the Nazi salute and said you didn’t want anything to do with all that, you were an outsider. In my view Elser was the first resistance fighter we had in Germany. It is safe to say that if he had succeeded, he would have saved at least 45 million lives. It’s a literally inconceivable number. He would have killed not only Hitler but all the other senior figures in the Nazi movement who were sitting around him.

What we can learn from Georg Elser today could best be described as civil courage. When does the moment come that you say: "I'm not going along with that anymore: I can't reconcile it with my conscience"? I was immediately reminded of Edward Snowden. He too could see for several years what was happening in a system that claimed to be democratic: he couldn't ignore it, and finally he had to get out and pass on the information he had to the general public … even though he knew very well that by doing so he was putting an end to the life he had led until then. He was prepared to accept the very real possibility that from then onwards he would be constantly on the run, facing contempt from people all around the world … and forced to fear for his life on a permanent basis. But he still stood up and said: "This isn't right!" The inner compulsion that motivated Snowden is very closely linked to the motivation Elser felt.

I have been preoccupied with the Third Reich ever since I was able to think in any meaningful way. Back when I was at school, when I attempted to find out as much as I could about the Nazi period, I came across the name of Georg Elser. I found him incredibly interesting, although in those days only a fraction of the information we now have about him was available. Decades later, during my preparations for the film DOWNFALL, I again stumbled across the name of Elser – and straight away I thought to myself: What a thrilling story that would make!

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Oliver Hirschbiegel

Written by: Fred Breinersdorfer, Léonie-Claire Breinersdorfer

Produced by: Boris Ausserer , Oliver Schündler, Fred Breinersdorfer

Cinematography: Judith Kaufmann

Editing: Alexander Dittner

Production Design: Benedikt Herforth, Thomas Stammer

Costume Design: Bettina Marx

Original Score: David Holmes

Sound Design: Steffen Graubaum, Srdjan Kurpjel, Christian Bischoff

Cast: Christian Friedel (Georg Elser), Katharina Schüttler (Elsa), Burghart Klaußner (Arthur Nebe), Johann von Bülow (Heinrich Müller), Felix Eitner (Hans Eberle), David Zimmerschied (Josef Schurr), Rüdiger Klink (Erich), Cornelia Köndgen (Maria Elser), Lissy Pernthaler (Protokollführerin)

Nominations and Awards

  • European Actor 2015
  • Feature Film Selection 2015