Should a movie on Auschwitz report SS guard's family's suffering?

A scandal that has appeared only in German so far. The story of Joachim Schroeder's film proves how in the current German atmosphere an individual who positions himself against anti-Semitism and anti-Semites risks getting into trouble.

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Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld ,

Manfred Gerstenfeld
Manfred Gerstenfeld
Manfred Gerstenfeld

“If I make a documentary about Auschwitz, must I also report about the suffering of the families of the SS guards?” That is one of the comments of the filmmaker Joachim Schroeder on the continuing saga around his documentary about European anti-Semitism, Chosen and Excluded – The Hate for Jews in Europe.

The scandal has to be seen against the background that in Germany 41% of the population thinks that Israel acts toward the Palestinians like Nazis acted toward the Jews. 

This film by Schroeder and Sophie Hafner was originally ordered by the EU-subsidized French-German Public Broadcaster Arte. The German regional broadcaster WDR – part of the national public ARD network – dealt operationally with the filmmakers. They delivered their final version to WDR where it was accepted without comments. Arte, however, refused to show it, giving opaque reasons. 

Thereupon the largest German daily Bild, showed the movie for 24 hours, despite the fact that it had no copyright. ARD then broadcast a mutilated version which included many WDR claims of mistakes in the movie. It was an unprecedented major distortion of the work of a film producer who has the moral right to an integral showing. Some of the WDR criticisms were nonsensical, many others highly contested. The Israeli NGO Monitor organization claimed that some of these inserts defamed it. 

The producers did not take their defamation and the distortion of their movie lying down. Schroeder gave a radio-interview in English to an American host before the ARD broadcast. Afterward, he gave a 15 minute interview to the German website “Achse des Guten” (Axis of the Good). His arguments merit wider publicity than only to the German speaking public. They enlighten the tendency of some public media to whitewash key aspects of European anti-Semitism. 

Schroeder disclosed that he had negotiated for a year with Arte to get the assignment for the documentary. He said that he had to cram the proposal “down their throat” and “had to write many, many papers and they had to be more liberal, more vague, more open at the end, less spicy, that was always basically what the station wanted.” The senior Arte executive who had given him the assignment told him that anti-Semitism was a delicate subject because “his company was squeezed between the Muslim and Jewish lobbyists.” Schroeder had learned that the large Arte decision-making forum had decided on his assignment with only a one vote majority.

In Schroeder’s opinion, Arte would have liked the movie to focus on right wing anti-Semitism, neo-Nazis and Auschwitz. He said that such an approach would not disturb anybody. He and his co-producer had however exposed what was preferred hidden: “Left wing anti-Semitism that has become mainstream and Muslim anti-Semitism which seeps into the mainstream.”

Schroeder said that the stations who were objecting to his film, at the same time were airing dozens of productions which have a completely anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian opinion and nobody ever questioned that. He also stated that among those who ordered the movie there was a total lack of empathy and decency about what worries Jews at present.  


He and his co-producer had exposed what was preferred hidden: “Left wing anti-Semitism that has become mainstream and Muslim anti-Semitism which seeps into the mainstream.”
Schroeder said that his counterpart at WDR had been Professor Sabine Rollberg. She had a remarkable career with that broadcaster. Many documentaries she had dealt with won awards for WDR at prestigious international festivals. He had presented to her the final documentary. She approved it without any comment and the producers were paid. Schroeder disclosed that Rollberg had taken early retirement from the WDR where she was harassed because she had accepted the documentary.  

Schroeder mentioned that the WDR did not even inform him that it was going to broadcast the documentary in a heavily distorted way. He assumed that what irritated the broadcasters was that he showed the “so-called peacemaker,” Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, making anti-Semitic accusations against Israel in the European parliament.  

Abbas had quoted a statement by a fictitious rabbi who had been invented by Palestinians. Palestinian Media Watch has shown that modern modifications of the classic anti-Semitic poison motif which led to mass murders of Jews are regularly promoted on the Palestinian PA TV station as well as elsewhere by leading Palestinians. 

Peter Grimm interviewed Schroeder on the “Axis of the Good” and started off his broadcast by asking whether anti-Semitism should be looked at neutrally and whether one should also mention arguments that help the anti-Semites. He added that a few years ago, this question would have been absurd. Grimm then asked: “Nowadays should one mention the positive side of national socialism (Nazism. ed.) when one writes about it?” 

Grimm concluded his introduction to the interview with Schroeder remarking that in the current atmosphere an individual who positions himself against anti-Semitism and anti-Semites risks getting into trouble. He summed the scandal up by saying that the producers of the film had been attacked by the people who gave them their assignment. Grimm ended with the question: “Is this the new way of dealing with anti-Semitism in Germany?”

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