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Hafner’s Paradise

An old SS officer with unrepentant Nazi sympathies is the subject of "Hafner's Paradise."

An 83-year-old SS officer with unrepentant Nazi sympathies is the subject of Guenter Schwaiger’s well-meaning but misguided docu “Hafner’s Paradise.” Paul Hafner enjoys a peaceful retirement in Madrid, where he was welcomed by the Franco regime after WWII. He’s also an affirmed Holocaust denier, openly hoping for the creation of a Fourth Reich. Schwaiger reveals the monstrous ideas behind the man’s sympathetic veneer, but without an examination of broader implications there’s an air of irrelevance; still, the History Channel might be interested.

For 52 years, Hafner has lived the good life in Spain, socializing with fellow fascists — including a man who personally bombed Guernica — and raising a family (never seen). Schwaiger accompanies him to Marbella, where a number of Nazis live, but apparently only Hafner is deluded enough to glorify Hitler on camera. In an especially unnecessary touch, Schwaiger brings Hafner face-to-face with a Dachau survivor: What does he hope to achieve by getting an old Nazi to admit to the extermination camps? Better to have focused on Spain’s harboring of these men, or the church’s tacit support for Francoist parties. Tech credits are standard.

Hafner's Paradise

Austria - Spain

Production: A Mosolov-P (Austria)/Guenter Schwaiger PC (Spain) production. Produced by Guenter Schwaiger. Directed, written by Guenter Schwaiger.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W, DigiBeta), Juan Lucas; editor, Martin Eller; music, Ulrich Fussenegger, Bernhard Lang, Ernesto Molinari. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (Critics' Week), Aug. 6, 2007. German, Spanish dialogue. Running time: 72 MIN.

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