Browse Archive

Hitler's Jewish Soldiers - The Untold Story (Hitlers juedische Soldaten)

Hitler's Jewish Soldiers - The Untold Story
Scene from "Hitler's Jewish Soldiers" (photo © Trigon Film)

Production Report featured in
German Films Quarterly 01/2003

At the age of 21, Bryan Mark Rigg a Texan decides to go to Germany to research his family’s past and learn the language of his ancestors. During his time in Germany in 1992, he learns that his family was of German-Jewish origin. The history student is determined to find out more about this hidden past of his forbearers. In the home-town of his ancestors, he reads through old church books and finds the name of his great-great-grandmother. Her religion: "Mosaic". He assumes that either his family had an honest conversion and did not think of themselves as Jewish anymore or when they left for American in 1863, they simply were tired of anti-Semitism and decided to tell everyone in the “New Country” that they were Christians and Germans never believing a great-great grandson would go and dig up the family’s secret several generations later. Yet, another arm of the family had remained in Germany. But what became of them? Did they perish in the Holocaust? Bryan will not be able to find out. However, later, while looking through documents in the German archives, he discovers that two young men with the same family name served in Hitler’s Wehrmacht. Could they have been related? Curiosity and ambition leads the young historian to search further. Almost coincidentally, he soon meets a man who confirms the improbable: " Jews" and "Mischlinge" fought in the dictator’s army – some undiscovered, while some were exempted with approval from the "Fuehrer". The laws of Nuernberg had forbidden Jews and half Jews to wear the German uniform. Bryan is now determined to follow his tracks.

Through a documentary film, Bryan Rigg’s research is re-narrated. The journey begins with Bryan leaving America to search for his family in Germany. Travelling across Germany by bicycle and saddled with his rucksack, Bryan knocks at the door of strangers only to uncover much more than he had anticipated. Hidden and never asked about biographies proved by letters, diaries, medals and papers of ‘’aryanization" prove as crucial evidence which Rigg after graduating compiled in a book of ‘an untold story'.

In the film, Rigg will once again re-experience his lengthy journey while giving account of his discoveries and experiences. For the most part, he speaks with some of the so called "Mischlinge" who were declared Jewish by Hitler's "Rassenwahn". They re-tell their fate which is often exceptional and thrilling. Their stories portray fear, pride, courage and humiliation within the Wehrmacht and the constant threat of being detected, as well as national pride. They also speak of experiences with non-Jewish comrades and superiors in combat and execution, military achievements, flight and dismissal. The cynical process of "aryanization" thereby takes an outstanding stance.

The history of "Mischlinge" in the Wehrmacht has never been told before. So impressive is the story, that it turns into a highly unusual documentation of contemporary history that should intrigue a cinema just as well as a TV audience.
Genre History
Category Documentary
Year of Production 2003
Director Heike Mundzeck
Screenplay Heike Mundzeck, Bryan Mark Rigg
Cinematography Rupert Lehmann
Producers Frank A. Thomas, Michael Sombetzki
Production Company Trigon Film/Hamburg, in co-production with Frank A. Thomas Film & TV, Hollenbek
Format DigiBeta PAL
Original Version
Shooting Dates Hamburg, Berlin, Freiburg, Cologne, Bonn, Baden, Wuppertal, Remscheid and Dallas, November 2002 - June 2003
With backing from Film- und Medienstiftung NRW