The Berlin Film Festival has suspended its Alfred Bauer Prize following revelations that the award’s namesake and the Berlinale’s first director was much more closely affiliated with the Nazi Party than previously known.
Bauer, a film historian, was appointed to head the festival in 1951 following its inception by Oscar Martay, a film officer in the U.S. Army who worked in the Information Service Branch of the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany. Bauer oversaw the Berlinale until 1976. The festival introduced the Alfred Bauer Prize in his honor following his death in 1986.
While it was known that Bauer worked for the Nazi government’s Reich Film Office in the 1940s and also advised the British military government on film issues after the end of the war, a new report by German newspaper Die Zeit has uncovered evidence that his association with the Nazis went far deeper.
Working with amateur film researcher Ulrich Hähnel, Zeit reporter and film critic Katja Nicodemus discovered documents at the German Federal Film Archive that offered what appeared to be damning evidence of Bauer’s Nazi past. In one government document written by a Nazi party official, Bauer is described as “an avid SA man,” referring to the Nazi party’s Sturmabteilung (Storm Detachment) paramilitary wing.
After 1942, Bauer apparently became a high-ranking official in Germany’s Reich Film Directorate, which fell under Joseph Goebbels’ Reich Ministry for Propaganda and Public Enlightenment. There he oversaw the country’s film production activities, including the employment of actors and directors, and could decide who was exempted from military service and who was sent to the front, according Die Zeit. After the war, Bauer is said to have systematically blurred the traces of his Nazi past.
Berlinale organizers found out about the revelations on Wednesday following the article’s publication. In a statement, the festival said the report “cast new light” on Bauer’s role “in the film politics of the National Socialists. The interpretation of these sources suggests that he had held significant positions during the Nazi era.”
The Berlinale suspended the Alfred Bauer Prize, part of the Silver Bear awards series, with immediate effect. The award was presented for feature films that opened new perspectives.
Berlinale organizers will seek professional assistance in further researching the festival’s history in light of the findings. In a statement to Variety, Berlinale spokeswoman Frauke Greiner said, “The sources seem to be serious but we need time to begin a deeper research with the support of external experts.”
Winners of the Alfred Bauer Prize over the years have included the likes of Baz Luhrmann (“Romeo + Juliet”), Joshua Marston (“Maria Full of Grace”), Jayro Bustamante (“Ixcanul”), Agnieszka Holland (“Spoor”) and, last year, Nora Fingscheidt for the hit drama “System Crasher.”