SS Thugs At Gleiwitz: The Film, “The Gleiwitz Case”

In August of 1939, German SS men attacked one of their country’s radio stations at Gleiwitz on the German-Polish border with the aim of blaming the attack on the targeted Poles.  Thus a pretext would exist for declaring war on Poland.

Distributed by a company called Icestorm is a DVD of the 1961 The Gleitwitz Case, a German film by Gerhard Klein having to do with this scandalous plot.  Unfairly criticized and neglected in the GDR, the film is unreservedly welcome in the U.S., even on disk.  Written by Wolfgang Kohlhaase and Gunther Rucker, it is, according to the DVD case, mostly “based on statements by the [German] commanding officer to British military personnel.”  It documents but is not a work of documentary realism; rather it aestheticizes the Gleiwitz case.  Klein is an artist, interested in geometric composition, closeups and forceful montage, the last of which evokes heady romanticism at a time of implacable deception and ruthlessness.  Although not without filler, the film is compelling and imaginative, boasting a marvelous if occasionally too light score by Kurt Schwaen.  Almost everything about The Gleiwitz Case clicks.

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