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(Hitler vor Gericht)

Scene from “Hitler vor Gericht” (photo courtesy of Tellux-Film)

Production Report featured in
German Films Quarterly 04/2008

Hitler did once stand trial for his crimes! Obviously, he escaped judgment at Nuremberg but thirty years earlier he was brought before the courts following the failure of what is known as the Beer Hall (or Munich) Coup of November 8, 1923. On that day Hitler, the popular World War I General Erich Ludendorff and other leaders of the Kampfbund (a league of “patriotic” fighting societies and the Nazis in Bavaria) tried unsuccessfully to gain power in Munich, and Germany.

A painful mixture of melodrama and histrionics continued until the next day, when the conspirators decided to march – with no clear plan of where to go! They were met by the police who opened fire. Ludendorff stood his ground. Hitler fled. Four police and sixteen putschists were killed.

We cut to Tuesday, February 26, 1924. Hitler stands before the court, accused of high treason: his guilt is patently clear and the death penalty appears inevitable. Instead, the presiding judge, Georg Neithardt, opens the proceedings and gives Hitler the opportunity to make a four-hour speech denouncing the Weimar Republic and its government!

“To understand how this came about,” producer Martin Choroba says, “you have to realize that the three most influential politicians in Bavaria, Gustav von Kahr, Otto von Lossow and Hans Ritter von Seisser, who, essentially, controlled the state’s government, police and military, were under the greatest pressure because they had coup plans of their own! Hitler’s trial could have brought their connections and conspiracies into the light!”

Thus, the Bavarian justice system went through even less than the motions and Hitler had the luckiest of escapes. The murder, or at least manslaughter, of the four police officers was not even mentioned, the taking of Jewish hostages passed over and a bank robbery was reduced to a “confiscation”.

Hitler received the minimum sentence of five years and, in another travesty of justice, permitted to apply for parole and his deportation obstructed. Just nine months after his arrest, he was back on the streets. The rest is sad history.

“The trial is our foreground,” Choroba continues. We take that as the narrative thread and use flashbacks to witness Hitler’s putsch, first in the beer hall and then the march through the city the next day. From the different perspectives of Kahr, Seisser and Lossow we receive different views of the whole scenario as well as the underlying political situation."

"This enables us to examine who was responsible for the failure of the legal situation, what the chain of events was that enabled Hitler to escape the fate he deserved and who were the people who supported him. It’s important to convey the then-prevailing mood and to explain the conditions which were the soil in which Hitler flourished later. He was treated with kid gloves as an instrument of the government. Then, as well as later, everyone underestimated him.”

Genre Drama

Year of Production 2008
Director Bernd Fischerauer
Cinematography Markus Fraunholz
Gabriele Kroeber
Rudi Czettl
Cast Johannes Zirner, Alexander Held, Johannes Silberschneider, Franjo Marincic, Peter Fricke, George Meyer-Goll, Andreas Nickel, Heinrich Schmieder, Alexander Goebel, Dieter Fischer
Producer Martin Choroba
Production Company Tellux-Film/Munich
Format 16 mm, color
Shooting Dates Munich, July - August 2008
German Distributor Telepool

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