Der Staat gegen Fritz Bauer



Germany, 1957. Attorney General Fritz Bauer receives crucial evidence on the whereabouts of SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann. The lieutenant colonel, responsible for the mass deportation of the Jews, is allegedly hiding in Buenos Aires. Bauer, Jewish himself, has been trying to take crimes from the Third Reich to court ever since his return from Danish exile – however, with no success so far due to the fierce German determination to repress its sinister past. Because of his distrust in the German justice system, Fritz Bauer contacts the Israeli secret service Mossad, and, by doing so, commits treason. Bauer is not seeking revenge for the Holocaust – he is concerned with the German future.

Director's Statement

How did you come up with the idea to make a film about Fritz Bauer?
Through a book by my co-author Olivier Guez: "Heimkehr der Unerwünschten – eine Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland nach 1945." In the book he deals with the question of how Jewish life in the land of the murderers after the Holocaust could continue at all. One chapter also has to do with Fritz Bauer and the Auschwitz trials. I thought the book was great, and when Olivier presented the German translation about four years ago in Berlin I approached him and told him it would also be an interesting subject for a film. When we considered together what one could make out of it we soon were stuck on Fritz Bauer, because he's such a singular figure: He doesn't behave at all like most of the victims who don't want to talk about the Holocaust anymore. Although he runs into overwhelming and tremendous resistance, he wants to indict the former Nazis – not out of revenge, but rather driven by a humanistic ethos and the drive to educate people. An iridescent personality who virtually lends himself to becoming the lead character in a film.

But you can hardly squeeze his entire eventful life into a two-hour film …
That's true. That would be hardly possible simply in dramatic terms. After Oliver and I occupied ourselves for a long time with his biography we decided to focus on his hunt for Adolf Eichmann based on this especially suspenseful part of his life, to ferret out what Fritz Bauer was after and what made him a fascinating character. We tell the redemption story of a man who returns to Germany after the Second World War as a broken pessimist and discovers his calling in the fight against collective forgetting.

During his appearance on the Hessischer Rundfunk television talk show "Heute Abend Kellerklub" it becomes clear what the driving force behind Fritz Bauer was
Yes, that's why we also recreated this appearance in our film. When you hear how he tries in a wonderful way to teach the young people in the "Kellerklub" show about the spirit of democracy, you can sense: There is a genuine humanist talking. He's convinced that Germany’s post-war generation has the opportunity to build a new society. In reality he opened a completely new perspective for the youth in the Adenauer era, because he dared to lift the veil and break the bleak silence. And so he became an important source of inspiration later on for the student revolts.

That corresponds with the original video recording at the beginning of your film, when Fritz Bauer says that young people in Germany are now ready to learn the entire truth. Where did this recording come from?
From a television announcement in the context of the Eichmann trial. A perfect start for our film, because Fritz Bauer here very nicely puts in a nutshell what he's concerned about. He believes that the future of his homeland fundamentally depends upon the young generation dealing with the past. He's prepared to give everything he has for this. He even risks his own life for this.

How did you conduct your research?
We read a lot of books, including of course the different biographies on Fritz Bauer. We met with Gerhard Wiese, the last living public prosecutor in Bauer's group: a very wide-awake, intellectually vigorous, brilliant person who told us how it was at that time in the public prosecutor's office in Frankfurt and what kind of person his boss was. That was very helpful. In addition, over and over again we had intensive, inspiring conversations with employees at the Fritz Bauer Institute. And shortly before we started shooting, the institute put together a big exhibition at the Jewish Museum Frankfurt, and there were many interesting documents in the exhibition.

Did you also see the Danish police files on Fritz Bauer in the exhibition?
Yes, the report from the Danes about his contacts with homosexuals was on public display there for the first time. It's documented that when Fritz Bauer was in exile in Denmark he was apprehended by the police in the company of male prostitutes. It can only be speculated on how he dealt with his sexuality later on as the attorney general in Hessen. We portrayed this in the film as delicately as possible. But the subject of homosexuality was important to us in two ways: firstly, for the dramatic development of the story, because at that time Paragraph 175 of the Civil Code was in effect, which made "lewd activities" between males punishable by law, and this gives the antagonists the chance to bring about Fritz Bauer's downfall. And secondly, in order to show the ongoing tyranny of the Adenauer era: This "homo paragraph," which had been made even stricter when the Nazis were in power, wasn't abolished in Germany until 1994! An impressive example for how long the ideas of the unjust state still remained in place in the Federal Republic of Germany.

Are the state attorneys who appear in the film real or fictional characters?
Almost all of the characters really existed, except for Karl Angermann, our representative of a generation of young, idealistic public prosecutors who fought together with Fritz Bauer out of conviction. We fictionalised him by fusing various real persons in order to put an attachment figure at Bauer's side – and also of course in order to bring the aforementioned subject of homosexuality into play.

How did Burghart Klaussner come on board? You had never worked with him before, right?
No, we didn't know each other. Our casting agent Nessie Nesslauer recommended him to me. He was not only the number one candidate who read for the role but he was also the best: He understood Fritz Bauer immediately and interpreted him incredibly well. You noticed from the beginning that he was hooked on this character – and that he brought together all of the necessary prerequisites in an ideal manner.

The right age, the right physique, the sharp intellect, the emotional maturity, the inner rage – and not least the humour. My greatest concern was to not fabricate a hypocritical moral film. That's why it was important to me that our lead character has a dry, nonchalant humour. Burghart Klaussner does this extremely well. He also always hits the right tone when Fritz Bauer says sentences like, "I have a pistol – if I want to kill myself there won't be any rumours!"

What was the best thing that happened to you during the film shoot?
I thought it was especially nice to experience how Burghart Klaussner breathed so much life into this rather withdrawn lead character and gave him so many interesting nuances. He thankfully accepted what the script had to offer and surprised me again and again with new details, for example, with a slight, impish laugh under his breath.

What can we still learn from Fritz Bauer in the 21st century?
One should have the courage to devote oneself consequently to a cause and persistently pursue one's goals – against every form of resistance. Fritz Bauer ran into opposition for being a "Jew out for revenge" and was permanently surrounded by powerful enemies; none of the German authorities wanted to cooperate with him; they tossed one obstacle after another in his way. This legendary statement came from him: "When I leave my office I am entering an enemy, foreign country." In spite of this, in the end he prevailed. To me he's a genuine hero.

Why should someone, in your opinion, buy a movie ticket to see THE PEOPLE VS. FRITZ BAUER?
Because you're offered something suspenseful here: the ancient battle of an outsider against an all-powerful system – and this was a battle that really took place and not in some invented comic universe. To put it briefly: an emotionally gripping, timelessly inspiring hero tale.

Director's Biography

Lars Kraume was born in 1973 in Chieri, Italy, and he grew up in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. After his ‘Abitur’ final exams in secondary school he first worked as an assistant to various photographers. In 1992 he shot his first short film, 3:21, and handed in this film with his application to the film and television school ‘Deutsche Film- and Fernsehakademie Berlin’ (DFFB). Kraume's student short film LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO DANCE WITH UGLY WOMEN (1996) received the Best Short Film award at the Torino FF. His senior-thesis film at the DFFB, DUNCKEL, won the Grimme Award for Best Director in 1998. In 2001 he made his feature film debut with VIKTOR VOGEL. This was followed by different television productions, including the award-winning ZDF series KDD – KRIMINALDAUERDIENST, and several episodes in the ARD police drama series TATORT. In 2005 the semi-documentary feature film KISMET – WÜRFEL DEIN LEBEN was released in movie theatres, followed by the equally semi-documentary feature film KEINE LIEDER ÜBER LIEBE, which celebrated its premiere in the Panorama section of the Berlinale in 2005. Kraume's next feature film, GUTEN MORGEN, HERR GROTHE, a drama that takes place in a school, also had its world premiere in the Berlinale’s Panorama section in 2007 and won the German Television Award for Best Director and the Grimme Award. Also in 2007 he founded, together with Frank Döhmann, Matthias Glasner, and Jürgen Vogel, the production company Badlands Film, which produced his next feature film DIE KOMMENDEN TAGE in 2010. In 2012 Kraume left Badlands Film in order to once again concentrate more on his work as a writer. In February 2013 his feature film MEINE SCHWESTERN celebrated its premiere in the Panorama section of the Berlinale. Most recently he directed the star-studded ZDF drama FAMILIENFEST (2014), and he directed and wrote the script to two thrillers based on novels by Wolfgang Schorlau: DENGLER – DIE LETZTE FLUCHT (2014) and DENGLER – AM ZWÖLFTEN TAG (2015).

2007 - KDD – KRIMINALDAUERDIENST (series 3-6, TV)
2005 - KISMET

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Lars Kraume

Written by: Lars Kraume, Oliver Guez

Produced by: Thomas Kufus

Cinematography: Jens Harant

Editing: Barbara Gies

Production Design: Cora Pratz

Costume Design: Esther Walz

Make-Up & Hair: Astrid Mariaschk

Original Score: Julian Maas, Christoph Maria Kaiser

Sound Design: Stefan Soltau

Main Cast: Burghart Klaußner (Fritz Bauer), Ronald Zehrfeld (Karl Angermann)

Nominations and Awards

  • European Actor 2016
  • Feature Film Selection 2016