Aus einem Deutschen Leben | Death is my Trade (1977)

March 13th, 2024
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Theodor Kotulla | Cast: Gotz George, Elisabeth Schwarz, Kai Taschner, Hans Korte | Biographical Thriller, Germany 145′

Erroneously described on YouTube as a “WW2 War Film’, this adaptation of Robert Merle’s 1952 novel ‘Death is my Trade’ actually devotes more time to the experiences of Rudolf Hoss – thinly disguised as ‘Franz Lang’ – in the First World War as an earnest young teenager serving as a sergeant on the western front before joining the NSDAP in 1922 and finally – with just over an hour more to go of a film running 145 minutes – installed as the Commandant of Auschwitz in 1941 and the period covered by The Zone of Interest; which places far greater emphasis on Hoss’s wife.

Filmed in Auschwitz-BirkenauThis disturbing study of ‘dehumanisation’ (an expression coined by The Zone of Interest’s director Jonathan Glazer) is staged in the Brechtian manner in numbered episodes in which in 1916 the Kaiser’s picture still hangs on the wall, to be replaced by Hitler in 1922, and finally by three considerably more imposing portraits of the Fuhrer when WWII finally arrives.

The scene where Himmler states to Hoss that the Fuhrer personally ordered the destruction of the Jews will doubtless enrage Holocaust deniers (just as David Irving in his book on Nuremberg showed far more indignation at the roughing up Hoss got at the hands of his captors than the content of his testimony). Hoss is depicted as a weakling rather than as a monster who lacked the courage to say ‘No’ – but was plainly not happy at his work – half-heartedly requesting a posting on the front before reluctantly knuckling down at his desk studying diagrams of the correct way to herd prisoners and diagrams of crematoria. Starring Gotz George as Lang, Elisabeth Schwarz as Elsa Lang and Hans Korte as Heinrich Himmler the feature went on to win the Outstanding Feature Film award at the German Film Awards 1978. @RichardChatten


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