Der Rat der Götter (Council of the Gods) (1950)

 

 

Director:     Kurt Maetzig.

Starring:     Paul Bildt (Chairman Mauch,  Fritz Tillmann (Dr. Hans Scholz),  Willy A. Kleinau (Mr. Lawson, of Standard Oil Co.),  Hans-Georg Rudolph (Direktor Tilgner),  Albert Garbe (Uncle Karl Scholz),  Helmuth Hinzelmann (Colonel, , General Heinze Schirrwind),  Inge Keller (Edith Scholz),  Yvonne Merin (Claudia Mauch),  Kaete Scharf (Frau Scholz),  Herwart Grosse (Direktor von Decken),  Theodor Vogeler (Dr. Hüttenrauch - Chemiker),  Arthur Wiesner (Vater Scholz),  Karl Heinz Deickert (Dieter Scholz),  Agnes Windeck (Frau Mauch),  Helene Riechers (Mutter Scholz),  Brigitte Krause (Kätchen - Tochter von Onkel Karl), Eva Pflug (Mabel Lawson).

industrialists cooperate with the Nazis for goods and profit

 

Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film. 

Rhineland Industrial Zone.  January 1933.  The chemist Dr. Hans Scholz and his female assistant start coughing up a storm in the laboratory.  He has to open a window to clear out the gas created by their chemical experiments.  The director of the firm for which Scholz works is Dr. Hüttenrauch.  He comes to Scholz to tell him that he must remember that his job is to test all the derivatives of the chemical combinations he works on.  Scholz says he's not making much progress and would prefer to switch to working on rocket fuel or medical drugs.

Uncle Karl comes in to tell Hans that he should stop work now.  After all, it's his father's sixtieth birthday.  Karl's daughter is at the Rhine bridge, but she will be coming to the celebration.  Scholz agrees to end his work and go. 

Hitler leaves a gathering with the big industrialists of the Rhine.  With Hitler gone the industrialists talk amongst themselves.  Among them is Chairman Mauch, Colonel Heinze Schirrwind and Tilgner. Chairman Mauch says they only had the choice between the red peril and millions of unemployed on the one side versus Hitler and his New Order on the other.  Tilgner says that if Hitler didn't exist, they would have to invent him.  Many industrialists have given big money to Hitler.   Tilgner says that their friends in steel and coal have filled the National Socialist's coffer. 

There is a protest against Hitler.  One signs says:  "A vote for Hitler is a vote for war."  Another sign says:  "Ban the Fascists!"  At the Scholz family gathering someone comments that the streets are in turmoil.  Another says that the Fuhrer will usher in new times. 

Back with the industrialists, they are talking about the Nazis making heavy investments via the military that will build up the economy and they will all profit.  Colonel Schirrwind tells them that all their conversations here are to be considered secret.  They will refer to the arms program as case A and war as case B.  The hostess Claudia is the daughter of Mauch and she talks with Schirrwind.  She invites Schirrwind to go to Gut Bergfried in upper Bavaria with her and the family.  She says that the members of the board call the group the Council of the Gods  --  Olympic gods above the fray, but they pull the strings attached to mere mortals. 

Chairman Mauch tells Tilgner that they must think big.  Germany by itself is not big enough.  They will need other lands such as those of the Balkans to make Germany really great. 

Back at the birthday party, Dr. Scholz and his wife arrive.  Gerd says the Scholz boy Dieter would benefit from being in the Hitler Youth.  Uncle Karl tells him to leave the boy out of this.  He adds that they don't need another war, one is enough.  Gerd becomes angry at Uncle Karl and says:  "We'll put cowards like you away."  He leaves in a huff.  The birthday boy says that's what comes of politics.  He adds that Karl has always been a radical and what good has come of it?

Chairman Mauch calls Tilgner to get the planning chiefs together.    They'll be starting plan A.  There are excerpts of speeches of Hitler and Goring talking about industrial production.  Goring says:  "Now we have all the means we need to conquer our enemy." 

Dr. Scholz is introduced to Director Von Decken.  The Director wants to see some research in progress.  Scholz says he is working on hydrazine used for rocket fuel.   He was doing a lot of chlorine tests and the poison gas chloracetane is one of the by-products of their research.  Dr. Hüttenrauch tells Scholz that they want more research in this area of chloracetane.  Scholz protests that they should be working on all their products, not just one.  He also protests that everything these days have codenames and that they don't get to see the finished products of their research.  Von Decken intervenes to say basically that this is none of Scholz's business.  Von Decken and others have security clearances and Scholz doesn't.  Leave these things alone!

After the meeting with Scholz, Von Decken asks Dr. Hüttenrauch if they can trust this Scholz man.  He tells Dr. Hüttenrauch to look into the matter.  The police arrive at the factory to arrest some employees.  They found political pamphlets.  The employers are saying very little to the workers and they wonder what is going on.  Uncle Karl is a worker and he tells the men that this is all about war.  The men are skeptical and tell Karl not to exaggerate.  The police come over and grab Uncle Karl. 

Kätchen tries to see her father in jail, but the police won't allow it.  In fact, the police arrested all former union and party leaders.  She talks with her cousin Dr. Scholz who tells her he will get in to visit Karl.  Scholz does get in to see Uncle Karl, but he's in the hospital with his head bandaged up.  He says he "fell down a flight of stairs."  Scholz tells his Uncle that all opposition is senseless.  And remember that there is no unemployment and new factories are mushrooming up all over the place.  Karl says:  "But what for, Hans?"  He tells Hans to wake up and look because he is abetting Germany's slide into still another war.

Chariman Mauch and Tilgner talk with Hans.  They want him to work in poison gases.  What for?  Pesticides.  But since Scholz has a choice he decides to study explosives.  He will be head of the department. 

Scholz's son Dieter comes back from an exercise with the Hitler Youth.  The guys have to help him because Dieter is worn out.  His father does not like this and tells his son that he is through with the Hitler Youth.  Dieter protests that dad can't do this to him. 

Schirrwind tells Mauch that war is imminent.  The chairman's daughter comes in to take Schirrwind to lunch.  After they leave the chairman calls Tilgner, who has been bargaining for three weeks with Standard Oil of the USA.  He tell Tilgner to step on the gas and get a signed contract today.  Tilgner asks to talk to the American Lawson in private.  Tilgner is able to make a deal with Lawson to get 50% percent profit on the methane resources. 

Miss Mabel Lawson talks with Tilgner at a cocktail party.  Meanwhile, Mr. Lawson agrees with the chairman that war will be good for business.  The two sign the contract.  Mauch says that their factories in Germany are vulnerable from the air.  Lawson tells him that he will handle that matter.  His factories will be unscathed. 

At the factory the recently released Karl tells his compatriots to organize more triumvirates in the shop.  One of the men says that Hitler has got most people shaking in their boots, but Karl is not shaking. 

In Bavaria Gen. Schirrwind is vacationing with the chairman's daughter.  They will have breakfast with the chairman and his wife.  The chairman asks how close are they to plan B and  Schirrwind says that's hard to say.  Schirrwind receives a telegram and has to tell his hosts that he is wanted in Berlin immediately. 

The attack on Poland begins starting World War II.  The Luftwaffe bombs Warsaw once again.  Listening to the radio one woman says that the war will be over in six weeks, but a man says then it's on to France and England!  Uncle Karl says then they will attack America and go all the way to the Chinese border through Russia.  The crowd knows he is being sarcastic. A man calls Karl a "faultfinder" and tells him to cut it out. 

The factories of the Chairman are kept working because supplies are coming from America via Mr. Lawson.  They go from Brazil to Shanghai and then to Germany.  Secretary Edith Scholz tells Tilgner that they send materials to America through Switzerland to Genoa and then Ala Littoria flies the goods to Brazil.  Standard Oil is still supplying fuel for aviation in Italy. 

Von Decken asks Dr. Hüttenrauch if he has gotten Scholz to join the Nazi Party?  No, because Scholz always has an excuse not to.  Von Decken tells Scholz to come with him to see an experiment.  Various animal species are put in a container.  Scholz is asked to look through the window.  Xylon is released into the chamber and all the animals quickly die.  Scholz is shaken by what he sees.  Von Decken sarcastically says to Scholz: "You always wanted to see what your research can do." 

Dieter asks his father about something his friend Paul Hüttenrauch told him.  Is it true that their company is helping to do away with Jews and other sub-humans?  Dr. Scholz tells him never to talk about that subject again or they can get into big trouble.  Then he denies the validity of the charge.  He also says the "concentration camps" are just "work camps for antisocial elements."  Dieter asks if his father really doesn't know anything about this.  The doctor says: "No."  He adds, however, that he will check on the company again. 

At work Scholz wants to talk to Von Decken.  He has to go through shipping to see the Director.  On his way he discovers that there are large shipments of poison gas being shipped out via the railways.  He looks at one of the packages inside the boxes and reads:  "Poisonous gas -- standard package for Auschwitz."  When Scholz arrives at home Dieter almost immediately asks what he found out at work about the gas.  Dr. Scholz lies to his son saying there is nothing to worry about and to stop spreading rumors. 

Uncle Karl says he can't believe that Scholz first heard about the gassing of Jews and others from his son.  He says that people overseas know it, but again the Germans are blind to it.  Sholz listens to forbidden Polish Radio which says that the Germans are gassing inmates in Dachau.  He gets so angry that he smashes the radio on the floor. 

Chairman Mauch asks Schirrwind if they should transfer more assets to Switzerland?  Stalingrad has been lost, Africa lost and Russia is advancing relentlessly. 

Mabel Lawson sends a message to Tilgner to meet her at the Hotel au Lac.  He takes his secretary Edith along to the hotel.  At the hotel Tilgner talks with Mr. Lawson and another man.  Lawson wants to make plans with the Germans for profits after the war because America and Germany will be united in opposing the Russians. 

The Allies are closing in on the Germans and the Chairman and his family have to flee.  They drive by the Chairman's factories and, just as Lawson said they would be, they are still standing. 

Scholz is called in to talk with the Chairman.  He says Tilgner will take over for him and that Scholz has to take more responsibility.   He has to manage plant B.  Mauch then gives Scholz a top-priority letter to give it to the American commandant for Mr. Lawson. 

The Russians take Berlin.  Hitler is dead!  The Germans surrender.  Now the Chairman is furious with Hitler and calls him all kinds of bad names.  The Chairman also complains about losing hundreds of million in the disaster.   Mauch tells his daughter that her husband Shirrwind will have to disappear for awhile.

The Americans want to know if the factory is all set to operate again.  The management and workers are thrilled at the idea!  They get together to plan out going back into business.  Their products at first will be soap and cooking oil, as well as fertilizer.

At home Hans Scholz's family worries if the Allies can pin anything bad on Hans. 

At the factory Schirrwind arrives to ask Scholz who ordered him to convert the facilities?  Scholz acted without asking the stockholders.  Just then the US Army grabs Schirrwind and takes him away.  Scholz also receives some bad news.  The factory needs a license to operate and since ownership is not yet clear, they cannot get a license.  So they must stay closed for awhile.

Schirrwind and Von Decken are both in prison.  They talk about the war crime trials to come.  The Chairman and the boys have to answer to the court involving the use of chemicals during the war. 

At the trial pictures from the death camps are shown.  The prosecutor Mr. Wood says the Chairman's company produced 85% percent of the lethal gas.  Von Decken says he just learned about Auschwitz today.  Mr. Mauch is brought in.  He says he didn't pay any attention to the details.  He tells the court he took orders from General Schirrwind.  Schirrwind says he was only an order courier.  The prosecutor makes fun of the whole lot of them.  He laughs and says about the gang:  "Mailmen and messenger boys!"  Tilgner is asked who is responsible for the poison gas?  He says it was based on the research of Dr. Sholz.  Mauch backs up Tilgner.  Scholz says his department had nothing to do with poison gas.  But he does say he bears some of the responsibility, but the primary responsibility lies with those higher up in the company.  This outrages the defendants, especially Mauch.  

In his defense Tilgner demands that he be permitted to call on US defense witnesses (like Lawson).  Court is adjourned.  Lawson speaks with the prosecutor.  He tells the prosecutor to ignore the testimony of the scientist and go easy on the defendants.  He says the prosecutor is damaging the image of the USA by undermining confidence in America's industrial leaders.  Probing German industry will reveal American bad deeds. The prosecutor, however, will not be stopped by Lawson.  So Lawson tells him that the US witnesses that Tilgner wants will not be permitted to come to Germany.  He says he will charge the prosecutor with un-American activities.  Lawson goes to get Wood replaced.

Mabel Lawson comes to see Tilgner. She has brought him a lot of food.  Mabel says:  "This God damned trial is a travesty."  She tells Tilgner to keep his mouth shut and her daddy will fix things. Tilgner has to go see the chief prosecutor.  Mabel leaves. 

Tilgner is shocked to find the prosecutor to be Mr. Howard.   The prosecutor asks why he wants US witnesses?  Because Standard Oil and Royal Dutch are deeply involved with German industry. They were collaborators with Germany in the war. Howard says Tilgner will only make enemies of the US and Dutch industrialists.  He should rescind his demand for foreign witnesses.  Tilgner gets the message and says he rescinds his demand. 

Dr. Scholz returns home.  Even Uncle Karl tells him that the Nuremburg Trials were a "circus".  Most of those on trial either went scot-free or only received mild sentences. 

Lawson meets in private with the Chairman.  The two are ready to go back into business together.  Lawson tells Mauch that they must get rid of Dr. Scholz after his despicable testimony to the court. 

At home Scholz tells his wife that he is sending all the recent pay checks from the firm back to them.  He is no longer in their employ.  The next day he goes into his old laboratory.  He urges Dieter to stop working at the factory.  Dieter wants to stay.  So dad goes to see the Chairman and Lawson.  They tell him what they make is none of his concern, but Lawson does offer him a job in the United States.  Scholz says no, because they would want him to work on hydrazine.  They say he can chose his own department.  Scholz says he will never again work for a factory that markets death.  He walks out. 

At home Scholz tells Uncle Karl that they are working on the same products such as V-2 propellant.  Kätchen comes in and says that Dieter is really making something out of himself.  Then a huge explosion goes off at the factory.  They all run down there.  Dad calls out for Dieter.  He asks some of the survivors if they have seen Dieter.  No luck.  Women find their husbands dead and scream.  The police arrive to push all civilians out of the factory. 

At a press conference, the company tries to white-wash what happened.  But Uncle Karl is in the audience and he asks, doesn't their company produce explosives?  But Tilgner asks the press to stick to the known facts and not to unreliable sources.  The press should be responsible and have respect for the bereaved. 

Kätchen comes back from the hospital to tell Scholz that Dieter is alive and he'll be coming out in a minute. Someone recognizes Sholz and tells the guards to let him in.  He goes to find Dieter.  He finds him badly wounded.  Dieter tells him that dad was right all along about the factory

Lawson tells the Chairman to get down there to speak to the crowd of relatives of the workers.  Mauch finally makes an appearance.  But Uncle Karl and Dr. Scholz are there to expose him as a producer of explosives.  The crowd gets so worked up that the Chairman is forced to get out of there.  Back with his own kind Mauch is angry that they send him down to speak to the crowd.  Mr. Lawson says he will call in the tanks and use tear gas.  Who will stop us?  Mauch says he is afraid that these people below them will. 

Scenes of peace demonstrations. 

 

I did not like the movie at the first viewing.  But at the second I came to like it.  It raises kinds of questions the nature of which are seldom raised in the USA.  What was the role of the industrialists in helping Hitler to power and then making millions in profit from the war that followed?  Did the industrialists support fascism as a way to make more money?  The movie says yes.  An explosive and poison gas manufacturing firm is guilty of helping the genocide of some 11 million people (Jew, gypsies, homosexuals, political dissidents, etc.) by discovering and producing the gas.

But I find the film too Marxist in intent.  Marxists believe in a ruling class of the capitalists and their allies.  The movie takes the position that American capitalists helped German capitalists to support Hitler in gasing millions of people and making a lot of money off of war.  This is shown in the intimate cooperation of German capitalist Mauch and American capitalist Lawson.  The attitude of the film makers is that capitalist support war because it brings them great profits.  Because of this analysis of the nature of modern war, the makers of the film become very cynical, even of the Nuremburg trials.  The Marxist attitude is that the war criminals were not punished very harshly because the American capitalist ruling class intervened in the trials to close them down so that the American capitalist sins and sinners would not be unveiled and be an embarrassment to the USA. 

My opinion is that a Marxist approach weakened the impact of the film.  By implying that the Americans were in on the German sins, it lets Germany off the hook too much.  It's like they are saying:  "Well, we were bad, yes, but so were you Americans!"     I am a big critic of the USA for giving too much power to the rich and wealthy, but talking about that in the context of the greatest political and economic disaster in world history is not really very helpful. 

If the move makers hadn't been so political, they could have focused more on the blame of the Germans themselves for the Holocaust and the death of so many millions of others.  I think the connection between the German capitalists and Hitler could have been explored more in depth, because it reminds me of the alliance of many American capitalists with our racist rednecks so that no really substantial  reforms can be made in the USA.   

And the movie could have explored more closely questions such as how much did the German people know about the genocide and when did they know it?  The movie says that the German chemist deliberately closed his eyes to the possible implications of his chemical findings and the genocide of millions.   Did the chemist know much more than other Germans?  Maybe a little more or maybe a lot more.

Probably the best explanation of American leniency to war criminals was their fear of communism and the Soviet Union and not because of capitalists wanting more profits. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

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