The Gleiwitz Case (1961)

 “The job we are doing is part of a master plan.”

gleiwitz caseThe documentary style black and white film The Gleiwitz Case recreates a long buried incident that sparked WWII. In 1939, a staged attack was conducted against a radio station in Gleitwitz–a few miles away from Germany’s border with Poland. The Gleiwitz incident was part of Operation Himmler–an orchestrated Gestapo plan to demonstrate “Polish aggression” against Nazi Germany, and it was supposed to provide the perfect excuse Germany needed to invade Poland.

Alfred Naujocks (Hannjo Hasse) organized the incident operating under the direct orders of Heinrich Muller and Reinhard Heydrich. The plan was to attack the station using Polish-speaking German officers. These officers–dressed in Polish uniforms–grabbed the airwaves and made hostile statements against Nazi Germany using Polish and broken German. Then as further ‘evidence’ left behind, the Germans took a Pole from a concentration camp, dressed him in a Polish uniform and shot him in the front of the radio station.

The film is basically a recreation of events–there’s no examination of the psychology of the characters, but this is an excellent portrayal of the cold efficiency of the Third Reich in operation. The film’s realism and pacing is reminiscent of The Battle of Algiers–with an emphasis on close-ups and a breathtaking immediacy. The film is a chilling reminder of exactly how calculating the Gestapo were when it came to propaganda, and it’s a demonstration of a government using a range of propaganda devices to ‘sell’ a war to the people–enraging a nation and whipping it into a war frenzy. In this instance, Hitler publicly preached reason and patience and in reality created a moral imperative and a fictional urgency to justify war. The Gleiwitz incident took place on August 31, 1939, and the next day, Germany invaded Poland. The film ends with the chilling caption: “43 million dead.” DVD extras include: the trailer, a photo gallery, an essay “The Case of the Gleiwitz Case”, biographies and filmographies. Directed by Gerhard Klein, the film is in German with English subtitles.

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Filed under (Anti) War, German, Political/social films

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