German film on Jewish property wins prize

JTA 17 May 2009

BERLIN (JTA) -- A documentary about the robbery of Jewish property in Nazi Germany was among the films saluted at the 15th annual Berlin Jewish Film Festival.

"Human Error" ("Menschliches Versagen"), by Michael Verhoeven, on May 13 won the top prize in German documentaries on Jewish themes.

Festival director Nicola Galliner and Berlin Jewish community President Lala Susskind singled out "Human Error" as a landmark film for showing how average citizens across Germany benefited materially when their Jewish neighbors were deported.

The film is due to be shown soon in the United States, Verhoeven told JTA.

In an indication of the film's power, audience members remained in their seats long after the lights went up, wanting to know why this aspect of history had been so little known until now.

The chilling film, which insists that many Germans knew their Jewish neighbors would disappear forever, was inspired by the work of German historian Wolfgang Dressen, who about 10 years ago illegally photocopied archival files that documented the process of "aryanization" of Jewish property.

Dressen, who attended the screening, later exhibited the files, including lists that Jews were forced to make of all their belongings before deportation; bills for loading and transporting the items; and accounts of who bought which items in auctions.

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