Film shows Germans not immune to return of Nazis

Tue Mar 11, 2008 12:57pm EDT
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By Erik Kirschbaum

BERLIN (Reuters) - The director of a new film that explores the hypothetical question of whether another dictatorship could ever emerge in Germany has come to the chilling conclusion that it could happen again.

Dennis Gansel, whose film "Die Welle" (The Wave) opens on Thursday, said the horrors of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich haven't made modern-day Germans more immune to the lure of charismatic leaders or persuasive group dynamics than any other nationality.

"It's wrong to say 'No way - a Nazi dictatorship could never happen here'," Gansel said in an interview with Reuters ahead of the release of his film, adapted from a U.S. novel by Morton Rhue based on a California high school experiment in 1967.

"I think it would be possible even today for something like that to arise in Germany again," a claim that is unsettling for a country which studies its Nazi past intensively in schools and where the burden of guilt still weighs heavy six decades later.

Gansel's film has already electrified the German media even before its release. "It's already the most-talked about film of the year," wrote Bild newspaper. Bunte magazine said: "It shows how vulnerable people can be in authoritarian situations."

"Die Welle," a 4.6-million euro ($7 million) film, has attracted film buyers abroad. The foreign rights were quickly acquired by distributors in 20 countries after it won critical acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

The film set in a Berlin suburb is about bored, ill-mannered teenagers jolted out of their apathy by a dynamic teacher.

Just like in the 1967 experiment by California high school teacher Ron Jones, the students accept a new regime of discipline and obedience -- and ostracize any dissenters.   Continued...