The Gruninger Case

In this 1997 Swiss film Richard Dindo continues a career-long examination of his country's role in World War II and the Holocaust. Paul Gruninger was a police captain who admitted as many as 3,000 Austrian Jews to Switzerland following the 1938 annexation of Austria by Germany, until he was fired for breaking a new law passed to prevent the country's “Jewification.” Later Gruninger was tried (his court-appointed lawyer seems to have been a Nazi sympathizer) and convicted of forging dates on entry documents. Dindo restages the trial in the original courtroom, with testimony from refugees whose lives Gruninger saved; though artificial, the narrative device seems to acknowledge the impossibility of rewriting history. Gruninger was a broken man after his 1940 trial, and the film's most moving segment is an excerpt from a TV documentary made in 1971, a year before his death: looking undeniably morose, the former captain unhesitatingly says he'd do it all again, citing his “human sense of duty.”

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