A Few Good Germans

Labyrinth of Lies
RPL Film Theatre
December 10-13
3 out of 5

Post-war Germany is coming under increased scrutiny from a new generation of filmmakers. There seems to be a growing dissatisfaction with former chancellor Konrad Adenauer’s prosecution of former Nazi officials (or lack thereof). Adenauer’s lack of zeal allowed, for example, noted war criminal Josef Mengele to live to old age in South America.

Labyrinth of Lies may not be the subtlest of movies, but it brings attention to the true heroes of the period — attorney general Fritz Bauer and a small team of lawyers who located and tried the officers who ran Auschwitz. This, in a time when most German authorities were willing to let bygones be bygones.

The film doesn’t focus on Bauer, but on straight-arrow attorney Johann Radmann (Alexander Fehling, Homeland). Radmann comes across the awkward (if not hellish) co-existence of camp survivors and former Nazis working together in the public sector. This led to a number of legal complaints that went nowhere — if you didn’t have a position of responsibility during WWII, you were likely to evade prosecution.

Radmann does what nobody else would: light research. Turns out many of these alleged “subordinates” were actively involved in the Final Solution, a crime against humanity of such magnitude that the “just following orders” excuse doesn’t cut it.

Labyrinth of Lies tries hard to cover a vast amount of material and falls predictably short. There is the prosecution itself — the victims, the war criminals, the political intrigue (the German Federal Republic and its Western allies would rather let sleeping dogs lie, given the threat of the USSR). Unfortunately, for some reason director Giulio Ricciarelli thought it would be a good idea to incorporate a romantic subplot, further straining the proceedings.

Regardless, Labyrinth of Lies is a necessary film. It brings up the costs of amnesty and puts into question the idea of reconciliation without justice.

Now, whether you want to see a film because it’s “necessary” … that’s up to you.

2015-12-10