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Berlin Film Fest Suspends Alfred Bauer Prize as Founding Director’s Nazi Past Revealed

The Berlinale is embroiled in controversy mere weeks before its 70th edition launches.

Berlin Film Festival

Berlin Film Festival


In light of recent revelations that Berlinale founding director Alfred Bauer was once an active, high-ranking Nazi, the film festival has suspended his namesake prize, the Alfred Bauer Silver Bear. A report in German newspaper Die Zeit last week detailed Bauer’s ties to Joseph Goebbels, the infamous Reich Minister of Nazi Propaganda who set up Reich Film Office in 1942 to control the moviemaking industry and use it as a pipeline for information from the party. The report details how Bauer appeared to be a key member of this operation in the 1940s, and prior to, had been a member of the Nazis’ pre-war paramilitary arm.

“We welcome the research and its publication in Die Zeit and will seize the opportunity to begin a deeper research on the festival history with the support of external experts,” the festival wrote on Facebook. “The interpretation of these sources suggests that [Bauer] had held significant positions during the Nazi era. In view of these new findings, the Berlinale will suspend the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize with immediate effect.”

The Berlin Film Festival also responded to the report by writing to recipients of the Alfred Bauer Silver Bear, which since 1987 has gone to such high-profile international filmmakers as Léos Carax, Baz Luhrmann, Lucrecia Martel, Alain Resnais, Zhang Yimou, Joshua Marston, Tsai Ming-liang, Park Chan-wook, Andrzej Wajda, and Agnieszka Holland. Bauer served as festival director beginning in 1951 through 1976; he died in 1986.

“The article makes it very clear that Alfred Bauer was more involved in Nazi politics than was known so far,” Berlinale organizers said in the letter obtained by Deadline. “We would like to emphasize the award has been extended to works because of their new perspectives in cinema; the award is an acknowledgement of your work in this respect. Although the award had the name of Alfred Bauer there has never been a connection between him as a person and the essential meaning of the award.”

The Die Zeit investigation draws from documents found in Berlin’s city archives and the National Archives, indicating that Bauer was responsible for surveilling actors, directors, and other members of the film community as party of the then-reigning party’s stronghold on media. The report also suggests that Bauer destroyed evidence of his Nazi past after the end of World War II.

As the Berlinale has yet to reply to IndieWire’s request for comment, the exact fate of the award itself remains to be seen. This news comes mere days before the festival launches its 70th edition on February 20, with new co-heads Carlo Chatrian and Mariette Rissenbeek at the helm. The film “My Salinger Year,” from “Monsieur Lazhar” director Philippe Falardeau, will open the festival’s programming lineup.

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