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A historical probe commissioned by the Berlin Film Festival to investigate the Nazi past of founding director Alfred Bauer has confirmed that his role in the Third Reich’s propaganda body was more significant than previously known. The study also revealed that Bauer had systematically covered up his role in the Nazi bureaucracy after 1945.

The seven-month investigation was carried out by the Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History (IfZ) following the publication of a bombshell article in German newspaper Zeit on the eve of the festival’s 70th edition in February.

Based on documents at the German Federal Film Archive, the Zeit article revealed that Bauer had been a high-ranking Nazi during WWII and prompted the Berlin Film Festival to swiftly suspend one of its major prizes which was named after him.

The study confirmed that Bauer played a key role in the Reichsfilmintendanz, the steering body of National Socialist film policy, which was created by decree of Joseph Goebbels, the Reich Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda in 1942. Bauer served as an advisor to the Reichsfilmintendant and continued his career in the German film industry long afterwards. In 1951, he became the first director of the newly-founded Berlin International Film Festival — a position he held until 1976.

The IfZ study, which was overseen by Dr. Tobias Hof, also shows that Bauer is believed to have been aware of the important role of the Reichsfilmintendanz in the propaganda activities of the Nazi regime. Bauer also joined various National Socialist organizations starting in 1933 and became a member of the NSDAP in 1937.

During his Denazification process from 1945 to 1947, Bauer “tried to conceal his role in the Nazi regime through deliberately false statements, half-truths and claims and instead constructed an image with which he presented himself as an opponent of the Nazi regime,” according to the IfZ study.

“The new and now scientifically researched findings about Alfred Bauer’s responsibilities in the Reichsfilmintendanz and his behaviour in the denazification process are startling. Nevertheless, they constitute an important element in the process of dealing with the Nazi past of cultural institutions which were founded after 1945,” said the Berlin Film Festival’s executive director Mariette Rissenbeek.

“The question, therefore, arises as to which personnel-oriented continuities shaped the German cultural scene in the post-war years. The new knowledge also changes the view of the founding years of the Berlinale,” said Rissenbeek, adding that the IfZ study highlights that “numerous research gaps (remain) in the historical analysis of the post-war film industry.”