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Berlin Film Festival Reveals the Extent of Founding Director’s Nazi Past: ‘The Findings Are Startling’

Confirmation of Alfred Bauer's Nazi past comes after the Berlinale suspended the Alfred Bauer Silver Bear in February.

Alfred Bauer

Alfred Bauer

G'nter Bratke/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Just before the 2020 Berlin Film Festival kicked off in February, the German newspaper Zeit published a report linking founding Berlinale director Alfred Bauer to the Nazi party. The revelation prompted the festival to suspend its Alfred Bauer Silver Bear, an annual award named in the director’s honor that was given to a film that “opens new perspectives on cinematic art.” The festival also commissioned a historical probe to investigate Bauer’s Nazi past, findings from which were released this week and which confirm that Bauer played a major role in the Nazi’s propaganda machine and made systematic attempts to cover up his association with the Nazi party.

The findings confirm Bauer served as an advisor to the Reichsfilmintendanz, the organization behind Nazi film policy. The Reichsfilmintendanz was created by Joseph Goebbels. Bauer began advising for the Reichsfilmintendanz in the early 1940s and stayed within the German film industry long after the end of World War II. Bauer was named the first director of the Berlin International Film Festival and held the position until 1976.

“The new and now scientifically researched findings about Alfred Bauer’s responsibilities in the Reichsfilmintendanz and his behaviour in the denazification process are startling,” Berlinale Executive Director Mariette Rissenbeek said in a statement, via Variety. “Nevertheless, they constitute an important element in the process of dealing with the Nazi past of cultural institutions which were founded after 1945.”

Rissenbeek, continued, “The question, therefore, arises as to which personnel-oriented continuities shaped the German cultural scene in the post-war years. The new knowledge also changes the view of the founding years of the Berlinale. The IfZ study also indicates that there are still numerous research gaps in the historical analysis of the post-war film industry.”

The IfZ study was overseen by Dr. Tobias Hof and confirms Bauer joined Nazi organizations starting in 1933 and became a member in 1937. In the late 1940s during his Denazification process, Bauer “tried to conceal his role in the Nazi regime through deliberately false statements, half-truths and claims and instead constructed an image with which he presented himself as an opponent of the Nazi regime.”

After suspending the Alfred Bauer Silver Bear in February, the Berlin Film Festival renamed the honor The Silver Bear. French flmmakers Benoît Delépine and Gustave Kervern received the prize this year for their feature “Delete History.”

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