February 12, 2015 / 5:39 PM / 4 years ago

'Downfall' director compares failed Hitler assassin to Snowden

BERLIN (Reuters) - German director Oliver Hirschbiegel believes the carpenter who tries to assassinate Hitler in his new film “13 Minutes” can be compared to U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden for taking a stand against attempts to limit freedom.

Director Oliver Hirschbiegel poses during a photo call to promote the out of competition film "Elser 13 Minutes" at the 65th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 12, 2015. REUTERS/Stefanie Loos

The director, best known for his film “Downfall” about the final days of Adolf Hitler’s regime, tells the story of Georg Elser’s heroic attempt to kill the Fuehrer in 1939 by hiding a bomb in a Munich beer hall where he was due to speak.

Foggy weather forced Hitler to take a train back to Berlin instead of flying, meaning he had to leave early - 13 minutes before the bomb exploded.

“This man could have changed history,” reads the subtitle of the film. Hirschbiegel said after the premiere at the Berlin Film Festival he saw Elser as a perfect example of how one man can make a difference.

“He compares to Snowden today. He’s a man, who without any personal gain, very humble, says this has to be stopped - this can’t go on, this is cutting at our freedom,” he told Reuters.

Snowden caused international uproar in 2013, disclosing details of electronic surveillance by the United States and Britain. Facing charges in the United States, he fled to Russia where he still lives.

Starting with a scene in which Elser stuffs dynamite into a column behind Hitler’s lectern, the film goes on to show his arrest and interrogation by Gestapo secret police, interspersed with flashbacks explaining why he sought to kill Hitler.

In the local pub, Nazis celebrate their party becoming the biggest in parliament and a once-idyllic village is gradually transformed. Swastika flags are hung, a sign declares “Jews not welcome” and a Communist is consigned to forced labor.

When interrogated, Elser rails against Hitler’s concentration camps and denounces the war that has just begun.

Hirschbiegel said that until recently the conventional image of Elser had been “warped” in suggesting he was either a puppet for the British or U.S. intelligence agencies or even the Nazis, or that he was just an odd loner.

But the director sees Elser as the first real resistance fighter of the Nazi era, his tale neglected because he was a working-class man who acted alone.

“It’s embarrassing that... a completely normal man was the only one who had the balls to say this has to be stopped.”

Additional reporting by Matthias Baehr; Editing by Stephen Brown and Ralph Boulton

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