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  • "Aus einem deutschen Leben" (literally "from a German life", but titled "Death is my Trade" in the subtitled version) is a Holocaust film like none other that I've seen. Where "The Gray Zone" focused on life in Auschwitz, and "Jakob der Lügner" (aka "Jacob the Liar") focused on life in a Jewish ghetto, "Death is my Trade" centers on the life of Rudolph Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz II-Birkenau for the majority of its existence.

    The main character's name in the film is Franz Lang. This name change was deliberate to ensure that the character is not automatically viewed as being some sort of villain or demon. Franz is an average German kid growing up during World War I. The film follows Franz as he grows up and becomes a hard, efficient, organized worker who eventually joins the National Socialist party in Germany. Impressionable young Franz takes orders as one of the utmost points of honor and duty, so when he is eventually asked by Heinrich Himmler to become commandant of the largest extermination camp built during WWII he barely hesitates to consider how heavy such a burden will be.

    The film is based on the memoirs written by Rudolph Höss during the last few months of his life in a Polish prison before his execution in 1947. This is a beautiful look into the life of a German caught up in the Nazi "revolution" in Germany. It is beautiful because it does not demonize the Nazis as being inhuman; they were just as human as you and I. This film shows how it could have been anyone, but it just happened to be Rudolph Höss. A good piece of history even if it isn't the greatest work of cinema for the time. This movie wasn't made for entertainment; it was made to inform the ignorant.

    7/10 for a film, but a true look into the humanity of the Nazis.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is a depressing movie, but told in a clear and precise style from an unusual insider perspective on the creation of the Nazi regime in Germany.

    Contains spoilers.

    I just heard recently about the movie, when its main actor, Goetz George, turned 70 and journalists looked back on his main works. To most Germans first and foremost known for his role as police inspector in the hugely popular "Tatort" TV-series, I was genuinely surprised to discover this fine piece of acting from his earlier work. This movie is relatively unknown, but would deserve much more attention.

    The movie follows its main character, Franz Lang, from his youth during WWI until the end WWII and his incarceration. The movie portrays a man with a high degree of self-organisation, consequence, a firm belief in honour and a strong belief in hierarchy and obeying orders from superiors. At the same time, he develops a firm, however abstract idea of patriotism. These traits and believes should later dominate almost all of Franz' decision-making in life.

    The movie shows the economic hardships after WWI as well as the crushed self-esteem and disorientation of men, many of them veterans, after the collapse of the royal Kaiserreich. Their longing for a hierarchical system that promised guidance and order, but also for the re-installation of lost honour and old values made it easy for the still-insignificant NSDAP to win over Franz, who joins the SA. Franz gets noticed by party officials for his loyalty in the fight with communists and "enemies of the state".

    Franz gets more and more entangled in the NSDAP, and does not refuse the call to become commanding officer in a new type of (as he first believes) "educational camp" - the KZ in Dachau. He later gets transferred to Auschwitz and after some time is asked to convert it into a mass-murder machinery. Franz accepts this call, not questioning the order. He takes no responsibility for these actions as his own ones, but follows his leaders blindly with unlimited faith.

    Franz is shown not as a careerist or opportunist, neither imbued by hate. Instead, he carries out the mass murder in a somewhat detached manner, which made it ever more intense, as behind all of his actions, you can still see the human being. That is in my view one of the main achievements of this movie.

    Franz is very well played by Goetz George, who shows some very precise acting, never giving in to the temptation to over-play. Also great job from Hans Korte, subtly playing cold-blooded Heinrich Himmler.

    The movie is rather low-budget and shot in simple style. It is slowly paced, and unagitated, in a well-observing style. Overall, the movie left me in a depressed mood and deeply moved. Worth seeing.
  • I saw it when I went to school and was impressed. Germans should go and see it since it is a (dark) part of their History that may not be forgotten. They should show it in History class at junior school
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Aus einem deutschen Leben" or "Death Is My Trade" is a West German German-language film from 1977, so it will have its 40th anniversary next year. The German title is actually fairly neutral as it basically means "About a German Life". The film comes pretty close to the 150-minute mark and it stars actor Götz George, who sadly died recently, as Franz Lang. Now that name will not be known to many, but it is actually the story of Rudolf Höß, the man who operated the Auschwitz concentration camp. This is the most known cinematic work by writer and director Theodor Kotulla and he adapted Robert Merle's novel here. One important aspect that people sometimes not understand is that this is about Rudolf Höß and not Rudolf Hess, another high profile German Nazi. I will not go into detail about the latter, who he was and what he did as this will only make things more complicated. So this one is about Höß. And it does not only focus on the days when he worked in Auschwitz, but also about his early days, during World War I for example and between that first big war and the Nazi reign. But looking at the film's runtime, this should not surprise anybody. I am quite a fan of George and this is probably why I enjoyed the film more than other people might. I think it is important to make biopics about truly evil people if you can call Höß that? Your decision to make. And not just about the likes of Hitler or Stauffenberg. Höß is certainly somebody who deserves a biopic because of his role in history. A big part of the film has to do with the question how much can you blame him for following orders because if he hadn't done it (killed all these people), then somebody else would have in his place. And this does not refer to the days after the Nazi reign, but already to the days during said reign. Höß' woman plays a major role in this question of moral. She is played by Elisabeth Schwarz who really wants her husband to succeed and is always happy when he is about to get a promotion, quite the opposite to Höß, who is a calm thinker and very reliable man who does not display any emotions at all, a true professional. But when she finds out about what he does, she cannot just accept it. Or can she in the end? Anyway, I also liked the brief intertitles in-between scenes in this movie. It definitely helped with the chronology for such a long film and helped audiences to not lose a connection with when we are right now as it's also not a problem if you are not 100% concentrated during one time or scenario. George played actually quite a few criminals in his long career and I think he did a fine job here. After launching his career next to the Schneider women and appearing in some Karl May westerns afterward, this film here is a big improvement for him and, if he wasn't before already, it catapulted him into the elite of German actors, where he stayed until his recent death. I do believe that this film has some lengths, but it also has some very rewarding moments and I recommend it to everybody with an interest in German politics of the 20th century (especially the years of Nazi Germany). Go see it.