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Copying Hitler's Hide-Out

DW staff / DPA (sms)July 14, 2007

A replica of Adolf Hitler's secret wartime headquarters is being built near Berlin with just a week to go before filming of a controversial Tom Cruise movie on a German army officer who tried to kill Hitler begins.

Only ruins of Hitler's original headquarters remain today in PolandImage: dpa

Cruise is to play the chief plotter in the true story about a failed bid to assassinate Hitler with a bomb in 1944.

The film crew has been banned from the Berlin building, now a memorial site, where the plotter, Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, was executed by Nazi firing squad.

Officials have said allowing filming at the site would lower the dignity of the memorial, but German politicians had earlier assailed Cruise, 45, over his advocacy of Scientology and demanded he be banned from the memorial. Scientology is suspected by many Germans of being anti-democratic.

US commentators, cinema industry leaders and part of the media have attacked the ban, insisting Cruise's beliefs should have no relevance to his role in director Bryan Singer's movie "Valkyrie."

Replicas being built outside Berlin

Mißglücktes Attentat auf Hitler 20. Juli 1944
Hitler's office at Wolf's Lair after the assassination attemptImage: DHM

Stauffenberg put a bomb under a table in a building at Wolfsschanze, or Wolf's Lair, Hitler's secret base in the woods near what is Ketrzyn in contemporary Poland. Hitler, however, survived the blast and within days many of those involved in the attempts on his life were rounded up and executed.

The scene was being recreated in woods at Gross Köris, 50 kilometers (31 miles) south-east of Berlin. Reporters were unable to see the set, with the site sealed off by private security teams, roadblocks and miles of red-and-white tape.

"In consideration of our film's historical background, Germany was the only location where the filming of 'Valkyrie' could take place," said Paula Wagner, CEO of United Artists, one of the film's co-producers.

Filming, partly funded by a German government grant, is scheduled to begin July 19, according to Ulrich Arnts, chief executive of the Schenkenländchen district administration.

Stauffenberg is revered in Germany as a national hero for his July 20, 1944 bid to kill Hitler, but leading German journalist Frank Schirrmacher has pointed out that the count had anti-democratic beliefs.

Film details kept under lock and key

Bildkombo Tom Cruise - Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg
Some in Germany have said Cruise's belief in Scientology should prohibit him from the roleImage: AP

Studio Babelsberg, the German movie studio which is co-producing "Valkyrie," declined to give details of the script.

"Cruise views Stauffenberg as a hero and will play him that way," said Christoph Fisser, the studio's deputy chief executive, adding that the script that been carefully researched.

Reporters said Cruise has already been sighted in Berlin. City newspapers say a huge suite was created in a luxury downtown hotel especially for Cruise and wife Katie Holmes. Film publicists declined to confirm this.

In Schenkenländchen, Arnts said two other nearby locations were also being prepared for filming: A former East German air force reserve airfield and an area of recently burned-over forest.

At the airfield at Löpten, warning signs said only that the airfield would be in use for takeoffs and landings and there was no word of filming.

The project, reportedly also to star Kenneth Branagh, Carice van Houten, Thomas Kretschmann, Christian Berkel and Tom Wilkinson, is reported to cost 80 million euros ($110 million).