“Faking Hitler” on VOX: Nazis, Narcissists and Fallen Heroes

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Nearly 40 years ago, the “Stern” thinks it accomplished the great coup d’état with the Hitler diaries. Ultimately, however, it becomes the biggest media scandal to date. Here’s what the series “Faking Hitler” tells, which runs on VOX on Free TV from today.

At the beginning of the eighties, the ball started rolling, which gave the magazine “Stern” the biggest defeat two years later and is still considered the biggest media scandal today. At the time, renowned investigative journalist Gerd Heidemann fell for Konrad Kujau, a skilled and shrewd art forger. This story is set in the miniseries “Faking Hitler”, which is based on the podcast “Stern” of the same name. Lars Eidinger stars as Gerd Heidemann. The right cast was found for the role of Konrad Kujau in Moritz Bleibtreu.

It is not the first time that the story has been converted into moving images. Alastair Reid’s 1991 British series “Selling Hitler” starring Jonathan Pryce and the movie “Schtonk!” from director Helmut Dietl with Götz George took over satirically the following year. However, the approach of “Faking Hitler” is different. Not only because the authors around initiator Tommy Wosch and the directors Wolfgang Groos and Tobi Baumann were able to take significantly more time in six episodes thanks to a total length of four and a half hours in six episodes than Dietl ever did. It’s also less about the cheerful humor that is inherent in the whole. Rather, the emphasis is on the story’s tragic heroes and what drives them. This is garnished with fictional elements that further underline the explosiveness of the events.

Hitler – a monster with human features?

At the time, Gerd Heidemann (Lars Eidinger) was the driving force behind the editing of “Stern”. Or he was, because his last blockbuster was a while ago. And so he’s under pressure to finally pull an exclusive story out of a hat that will cause a stir and stir. As a lover of Nazi memorabilia, one of his contacts brought him into contact with diaries that the Führer himself is said to have written between 1935 and 1945 – secretly, of course. Diaries that show the monstrous Adolf Hitler in a different, more humane light. The “Stern” soon believed that the history of the Third Reich had to be rewritten. No one suspects that the actual author of the 62 books is the one posing as an intermediary. For him, Konrad Kujau, it is the biggest coup in his career as an art forger. For journalist Gerd Heidemann, however, it is the biggest defeat and the end of his career.

It took two years from the first contact to the presentation of the Hitler diaries at an international press conference on April 25, 1983. Two years in which there were many moments when Heidemann could become suspicious – or even suspicious. But it is through his narcissism, his ambition and the pressure of his superiors that he pushes ever growing doubts aside. And it’s the witty, often outrageous excuses Kujau throws at him when he doesn’t keep up with the promised books. In the end, he got some nine million Deutsche Mark, which Heidemann lured from the publisher’s ribs.

In the context of these real events, “Faking Hitler” tells the fictional story of the young journalist Elisabeth Stöckel (Sinje Irslinger), who elaborates for “Stern” the SS past of “Derrick” actor Horst Tappert. She discovers that her own father, a left-liberal college professor (Ulrich Tukur), has an equally inglorious background. This B-line, which is closely intertwined with the diaries, is also about coming to terms with the past and abuse of power.

deceitful friendship

Anyone who knows the podcast “Faking Hitler” knows the special relationship that developed between Heidemann and Kujau, as there are numerous recordings of the telephone conversations between the two men. Heidemann took them in for emergencies. However, when he finally went to court for fraud, they did not help him. He was nevertheless sentenced to prison. But they show the listener how Kujau increasingly became a kind of friend to Heidemann, while Heidemann continued to lead him down the slippery path with crude stories. This special relationship is now also noticeable in the series in scenes between Lars Eidinger and Moritz Bleibtreu.

Born in Munich and moved to Hamburg, Bleibtreu behaves like a Kujai with a Swabian accent in an extremely devious way. And Eidinger, who is used to playing a man possessed. This time, however, someone who is not – like his triple ‘Tatort’ character Kai Korthals – obsessed with murder, but with fame and success. He plays it with a tragic undertone, without exposing his character to ridicule. What increasingly fades into the background over the course of the series and allows identification with both characters in the first place, is their own fascination with National Socialism. It was their supposedly right-wing position that brought them together in the first place. At this point every hair on the back of the viewer’s neck would stand on end and yet you find yourself sympathizing with both characters time and time again.

And of course you ask yourself more than once: how did it come to this? How could Heidemann miss the signs? But the case of Claas Relotius in 2018, as well as all the fake news of current affairs, shows that people are only too happy to believe what they want to believe. And so “Faking Hitler” is optically retro-esque and thanks to the great equipment and the suitable choice of music, fans of this time will have a lot of fun, but the story is unfortunately still quite topical.

Three episodes of “Faking Hitler” will be shown on VOX Free TV on September 14 and 21 at 8:15 PM. The series can also always be seen on RTL+.

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