Ernst S., a soldier who sold information to the Germans, was killed in 1942, the first of 17 Swiss traitors executed for helping the Third Reich. This 1976 Swiss film, made by Richard Dindo and Niklaus Meienberg, examines this incident through interviews with historians and people who knew the subject, including family members and a man who witnessed his shooting. The film's accretion of tiny details can be tedious, but it makes for a rich tapestry that's true to the nature of history: “small” events such as a single execution can be understood only in an ever-widening context such as the film gives us here. We ultimately learn that Ernst S. grew up in near poverty, that the information he provided was of little importance, that high officials in the Swiss government were sympathetic to the Nazis, and that a group of 200 rich Swiss even petitioned to have the nation annexed by Nazi Germany.
By Fred Camper