LABYRINTH OF LIES REVEALS INCONVENIENT TRUTHS
FThe last Nuremberg Trial ended in 1946, convicting 133 persons (not 15, as a title in the film pretends). Courts of various countries soon convicted other war criminals, including two in German courts who had been found not guilty at Nuremberg. When the postwar occupation of Germany ended in 1949, German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer wanted West Germany to get back to normal?that is, former Nazi party members could work freely in a country with a severe labor shortage, and talk about Auschwitz was kept out of public discourse. The statute of limitations for further war crimes trials in West Germany was fixed at 1952, though prosecutions for murder in the treatment of prisoners was still possible.
Labyrinth of Lies (Im Labyrinth des Schweigens) gets to the point quickly during one day in 1958, when Frankfurt journalist Thomas Gnielka (played by André Szymanski) approaches German prosecutor Johann Radmann (Alexander Fehling) with information that a former SS member teaches at a school in town. Radmann then checks out the information, seeks to prosecute him, but is overruled by the Chief Prosecutor, who instead relays the matter to the Ministry of Education, which in turn keeps him on the job. But Gnielka, having found someone in authority with courage and a conscience, brings Radmann into his inner circle of friends, including the head of the organization of deathcamp survivors. Attorney General Fritz Bauer (Gert Voss), on realizing that Radmann is eager to prosecute the former Nazi rather than allowing him to teach, then appoints him to head up an investigation to prosecute all former Nazi officials guilty of crimes. (In actuality, Bauer is the instigator, and Radmann is a composite character for several prosecutors assigned). Key records are kept by the U.S. military in Germany, so Radmann now has to sift through records to find the identities of those in authority who served at Auschwitz while interviewing survivors for eye witness testimony. In the process of discovery, Radmann identifies Dr. Josef Mengele as his number one suspect. Much of Labyrinth of Lies is devoted to Radmann?s personal life, including a girlfriend. But Radmann soon has nightmares, later finds that his father was a Nazi contrary to what he was told as a boy, drinks too much, and even resigns in frustration from his assignment on a Friday only to return to work on Monday. His error is to focus on Mengele rather than rounding up lesser suspects for trial, including the last Auschwitz commandant. When he returns to work, he and his team bring more than one hundred cases to trial in 1963-1965 and win. Titles at the end note that the result was to bring consciousness of German war crimes back into public discourse. One of those sought for trial in Germany was Eichmann, but the Israeli authorities managed to capture him in Argentina. Mengele, aware that he might be next, left Argentina for Paraguay, where he died in 1979. Directed by Guilio Ricciarelli, the extremely gripping drama Labyrinth of Lies has been nominated by the Political Film Society as best film on human rights and best film exposé for uncovering details of how prosecutions operated within a Germany that mostly resisted his efforts. Some may see a parallel with Americans blind to the torture committed at Guantánamo. MH
OLVIDADOS LINKS AMERICAS OPERATION CONDOR WITH TORTURE OF LEFTISTS
When Olvidados begins, soldiers from six dictatorships in Latin Americas are being trained at an American base in Panamá to engage in Operation Condor, which aimed to eliminate the supposed threat of Soviet communist efforts to overthrow military regimes during the 1970s and 1980s. The film centers on aging General José Mendieta (played by Damián Alcázar), who is penning a confession of his role in Operation Condor to his son after collapsing on seeing one of his victims in public. Many frames feature the roundup of leftists, including far too many minutes of torture sessions. Some of those tortured disappear from public records, whence the title, which means "forgotten ones." (They were then called "the disappeared.") Mendietas son Pablo (Bernardo Peña) then arrives in Buenos Aires to comfort his father on his deathbed, not realizing that he will become the recipient of the missive. Director Carlos Bolado, however, focuses mostly on the arrests, protests, detentions, and tortures rather than providing an informative historical narrative. If the effort is to show the extreme lengths to which authorities obsessively demonize individuals considered threats, then the parallel is obvious with Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, where Americans practiced what they preached at the training base in Panamá. But that analogy is not provided amid the chaos of the portrayal of Operation Condor. A title at the end applauds the decision of the Argentine democracy in 2013 to prosecute those involved in the excesses, perhaps as if calling out the U.S. government for failing to allow similar prosecutions of Americans, as identified on www.uswarcrimes.com. MH