Berlinale film festival founder had significant Nazi-era role: study | News | DW | 30.09.2020
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Berlinale film festival founder had significant Nazi-era role: study

The founding director of Germany's top film festival had a major role in implementing Nazi film-making policy, a new study has shown. Berlinale director Alfred Bauer later tried to cover up his Nazi-era activities.

The founder and first director of the Berlin International Film Festival — known commonly as the "Berlinale" — played a more significant role in the Nazi regime than previously thought, and later tried to conceal his actions, according to a new study released Wednesday.

Alfred Bauer founded and then led the film festival, now one of the most prominent in Europe alongside Cannes and Venice, from 1951 to 1976.

In January, the Berlinale suspended a long-running prize named after Bauer following reports from German newspaper Die Zeit that the former director had played a key role carrying out Nazi policy within the German film industry. The festival then commissioned a study from the Munich Institute for Contemporary History.

The findings

"Alfred Bauer made a not insignificant contribution to the functioning of the German film system during the Nazi dictatorship and thus to the stabilization and legitimation of Nazi rule," the study's editor concluded.

Bauer's contributions to Nazism began in 1942 with his work at the Reichsfilmintendanz, a summary of the report released by the festival said. The institute was created by Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda Joseph Goebbels with the purpose of controlling film production under the Nazi regime.

Read more: Conceived under the Nazis, completed after WWII: Überläufer films

Research also showed that Bauer had joined various Nazi organizations prior to the outbreak of World War II.

Only "limited statements about Bauer's personal decision-making authority and his creative leeway" can be made based on the files viewed thus far, the summary said.

Post-war flipflop

"Bauer systematically shrouded this role after 1945," the report continued.

Following Germany's defeat in the war, Bauer portrayed himself as a "convinced and active opponent" of the regime, it said. 

These actions "reveal Bauer's ambitious, almost unscrupulous opportunism," it added, "which may also have influenced his closeness to the Nazi regime."

Current Berlinale director Mariette Rissenbeen said the revelations about Bauer's role were shocking.

"The new findings also change how we view the founding years of the Berlinale," she said.

Prize suspended

Following his death in 1986, the festival established the "Alfred Bauer Prize," to be awarded to "a feature film that opens up new perspectives in the field of cinematic art."

Before its suspension, the prize had been bestowed alongside other Silver Bear awards, including best actor and director, as well as the prize for best film, the Golden Bear.

Read more: Opinion: The 70th Berlinale: Political? Yes, but differently!

The festival in August announced that the prize "will no longer be awarded in the future."

The news was delivered alongside the announcement that starting in 2021, Berlinale acting prizes will become gender-neutral: prizes will be awarded to the best leading and supporting performances rather than to the best actor and actress.

kp/aw (AP, dpa)