Roses for the Prosecutor (1959)
|Awards||4 wins & 4 nominations.|
|Company||Kurt Ulrich Filmproduktion|
Roses for the Prosecutor
Roses for the Prosecutor (German: Rosen für den Staatsanwalt) is a 1959 West German comedy film directed by Wolfgang Staudte and starring Martin Held, Walter Giller and Ingrid van Bergen. It was one of the few German movies of the 1950s which openly addressed the German Nazi era.
It was shot at the Göttingen studios. The film's sets were designed by the art director Walter Haag.
In the final stages of World War II, in April 1945, German soldier Rudi Kleinschmidt (Walter Giller) is arrested for the perceived theft of two boxes of chocolates which, in reality, he bought on the black market. Through the efforts of prosecutor Wilhelm Schramm (Martin Held), who accuses Kleinschmidt of Wehrkraftzersetzung and aiding the enemy, the latter is sentenced to death. His execution is prevented however by an Allied air raid and he escapes.
After the war, Schramm keeps his Nazi past a secret and portrays himself as having resisted the regime, rising through the ranks to become a senior prosecutor. His political views have not changed, however, and he aids a man accused of antisemitism by allowing him time to escape by delaying the prosecution. The latter sends Schramm roses as a signal that he has escaped successfully.
Fifteen years later, Kleinschmidt passes through the town Schramm lives to visit a female friend, Lissy Flemming (Ingrid van Bergen). Kleinschmidt encounters and immediately recognises Schramm while the latter is initially unsure where he met Kleinschmidt before, but feels uneasy about him and perceives him as a threat. Schramm does eventually remember the circumstances and has Kleinschmidt, a street vendor, harassed by the local police, attempting to force him out of town. Kleinschmidt is initially willing to leave and to forget about the death sentence he once received. But he changes his mind and decides to smash a shop window and steal two boxes of the same chocolates. He is arrested and charged. Schramm once more serves as the prosecutor in his case and initially defends Kleinschmidt rather than prosecuting him, casting suspicion on himself. Eventually, Schramm slips up and demands the death sentence for Kleinschmidt, thereby bringing the trial to a halt.
Schramm attempts to escape while Kleinschmidt initially plans to leave the town but changes his mind and stays behind with Lissy Flemming.
Staudte did not believe the film could actually be made and stored the idea for it in his desk, where it was discovered by Manfred Barthel, who forwarded it to his boss, producer Kurt Ulrich. Ulrich found a company willing to produce the film for DM 900,000, the Europa-Verleih, but Staudte estimated that it would cost DM 1.3 million to make. Europa-Verleih, which had financed a number of socially critical, poorly received films before, and lost money in the process, was unwilling to invest that much. It took a further three months to find a film company willing to invest, now the Neue Filmverleih in Munich.
Staudte had to reduce his budget to DM 1 million and change the script from a drama to a comedy in order to be able to make the film. Despite this, he still had to moderate the film to allow it to appeal to the general West German public and not offend it.
- Martin Held as senior prosecutor Wilhelm Schramm
- Walter Giller as Rudi Kleinschmidt
- Ingrid van Bergen as Lissy Flemming
- Camilla Spira as Hildegard Schramm
- Werner Peters as Otto Kugler
- Wolfgang Wahl as Defense Counsel
- Paul Hartmann as president of the country court Diefenbach
- Wolfgang Preiss as Attorney General
- Inge Meysel as Erna, housemaid at the Schramms
- Werner Finck as Haase
- Ralf Wolter as Hessel
- Roland Kaiser as Werner Schramm
- Henry Lorenzen as Graumann, waiter at Lissy
- Wolfgang Neuss as Paul, a truck driver
The Nazi area received very little coverage in the first decades of the post-war West German movie industry which was dominated by Heimatfilm and light entertainment. Roses for the Prosecutor was one of the rare instances in which the German justice system under the Nazis was openly discussed in West German film. Few directors dared to touch on the subject, but Wolfgang Staudte's Roses for the Prosecutor typified post-war Germany, where former Nazis rose to high ranking political and government positions without consequences for their previous actions.
The film was criticised for making Schramm too comical a figure for such an important subject, while Giller received praise for his convincing portrait of Kleinschmidt as a victim of wartime and postwar justice.
In the movie, Schramm can be seen purchasing the far right Deutsche Soldaten-Zeitung, which subsequently used this fact for advertising in cinemas, using the slogan "Read the Deutsche Soldaten-Zeitung, like Dr. Schramm".
The antisemitic Zirngiebel who is allowed to escape with Schramm's help reflects the real-life case of Ludwig Zind, who had to escape Germany for a time after verbally abusing Jewish concentration camp survivor Kurt Lieser with an antisemitic tirade.
During filming, the case of judge Otto Wöhrmann in Celle came to light, which had many similarities to the fictional Schramm. During the war, Wöhrmann had sentenced two German soldiers to death for Wehrkraftzersetzung, but the court documents were destroyed in a bombing raid. Subsequently re-tried, the two received jail sentences instead. Wöhrmann's story came to light in 1959 and he went on leave while also requesting an investigation, which cleared him of perverting the course of justice and had him re-instated.