Stealing The Fire

Josh S. Friedman and Eric Nadler's probing documentary traces the roots of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's nuclear capability to a disturbing source: the Nazi war machine. Friedman and Nadler began their investigation in January 1996, when a German member of the UNSCOM team conducting arms inspections on a chicken farm in Iraq found German documents...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Josh S. Friedman and Eric Nadler's probing documentary traces the roots of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's nuclear capability to a disturbing source: the Nazi war machine. Friedman and Nadler began their investigation in January 1996, when a German member of the UNSCOM team conducting arms inspections on a chicken farm in Iraq found German documents detailing the latest advances in the centrifuge technology. The centrifuge, which was developed by Nazi POW scientists in post-WWII Soviet laboratories, enriches uranium which can then be used to fuel a nuclear device. The weapons inspector suspected his former colleague Karl-Heinz Schaab, a totally undistinguished engineer who had been working on the centrifuge since the early 1970s, of international espionage. When the finding was made public by a German tabloid, Schaab fled to Brazil — where he's alleged to have helped construct yet another centrifuge system — but was later extradited to Munich to stand trial for high treason. But, as Schaab's flashy defense attorney, Michael Rietz, puts it, Pandora's box was opened long ago. In tracing the history of the centrifuge program and its "export" to countries like Iraq, the film exposes some extremely dark goings-on that stretch all the way back to the Third Reich, Nazi nuclear scientists and the very shady post-war history of giant German chemical corporation Degussa. Under Hitler, Degussa expanded to become one of the largest businesses of its kind, mostly due to "Arayanization" of Jewish property: Degussa helped "process" gold-filled teeth torn from the mouths of concentration camp victims. Leybold, a German subsidiary of Degussa, held patent rights to Zyklon-B, the poison gas used as part of Final Solution. According to Khidhir Hamza, former director of the Iraqi nuclear arms program, during the 1980s Degussa knowingly sold restricted equipment to Iraq, while a German journalist alleges that Leybold assisted A.Q. Khan, the "father of Pakistan's atom bomb," with his project by making available secret documents. Through a series of interviews with historians, journalists, German scientists and eyewitnesses, Friedman and Nadler reconstruct a compelling narrative that's filled with the stuff of a great espionage thriller. An idyllic Bavarian town is a "nest of spies," and avuncular scientists turn out to have been valued members of Hitler's SS. The reality of the situation and the nightmarish consequences they suggest, however, are frighteningly real.

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  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Josh S. Friedman and Eric Nadler's probing documentary traces the roots of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's nuclear capability to a disturbing source: the Nazi war machine. Friedman and Nadler began their investigation in January 1996, when a German… (more)

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