Prisoner Of Paradise

Nominated for the Best Feature Documentary Oscar in 2003, this chilling documentary about Kurt Gerron, the German Jewish actor/director who made an infamous Nazi propaganda film makes a strong case against the notion that there have a few too many Holocaust documentaries in recent years. This is one story that must be seen to be believed. In 1920s Berlin,...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Nominated for the Best Feature Documentary Oscar in 2003, this chilling documentary about Kurt Gerron, the German Jewish actor/director who made an infamous Nazi propaganda film makes a strong case against the notion that there have a few too many Holocaust documentaries in recent years. This is one story that must be seen to be believed. In 1920s Berlin, Gerron quickly went from featured player in risque Weimar stage revues to become one of Germany's most beloved stars of stage and screen; his turn in The Three Penny Opera helped make "Mack the Knife" a huge hit, and Gerron's unforgettable appearance in THE BLUE ANGEL (1930) is now, as the film claims, a part of cinema history. Never a leading man, the rotund character actor was nevertheless amazingly successful, and Gerron soon stepped behind the camera. But by 1933, the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses reached the soundstages of Germany's film industry, and while the likes of Fritz Lang and Billy Wilder soon left America, Gerron went into exile in Europe, first in France, then Holland. With a disregard that would later cost him dearly, Gerron passed on two separate opportunities to join his colleagues in Hollywood; by the time the Nazis rolled into Holland, it was too late. In 1944, Gerron was put on a cattle car bound for Theresienstadt, Czechoslovakia, a picturesque 18th century garrison that had been turned into a miserable ghetto where doomed Jews awaited deportation to the camps. When the rest of the world got around to wondering what had become of Europe's Jews, Nazi Germany proudly pointed to Theresienstadt. In reality, the ghetto was teeming with misery and disease, but when a naïve representative from the International Red Cross was invited to tour the facilities, he saw only soccer games, symphony orchestras and smiling Jewish children who complained of having too much to eat. To make this atrocious deception complete, the Ministry of Propaganda decided to produce a film that would show "Hitler's gift to the Jews" to the rest of the world. And they knew just the person to direct it: Kurt Gerron. Accurately describing the whole project "an object lesson in Nazi insanity," filmmakers Malcolm Clarke and Stuart Sender clearly empathize with Gerron's dilemma: Refusing meant certain death. But many other artists did just that, and the excuse given here that Gerron couldn't resist one last opportunity to direct, even under the most grotesque circumstances, is really no excuse at all. It's impossible to gauge just how much harm Gerron's film ultimately caused, but it should be mentioned that THE FUHRER GIVES A CITY TO THE JEWS remains popular among many Holocaust deniers.

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  • Released: 2003
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Nominated for the Best Feature Documentary Oscar in 2003, this chilling documentary about Kurt Gerron, the German Jewish actor/director who made an infamous Nazi propaganda film makes a strong case against the notion that there have a few too many Holocaus… (more)

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