Script: Günter Schwaiger, Julia Mitterlehner
Camera: Günter Schwaiger
Editing: Günter Schwaiger, Martin Eller
Sound: Stefan Rosensprung, Julia Mitterlehner
Line Producer: Julia Mitterlehner
Producer: Julia Mitterlehner, Günter Schwaiger
Producution: Günter Schwaiger Film Produktion (Austria)
Supported by: Österreichisches Filminstitut, FISA Filmstandort Österreich, Land Oberösterreich, Land Salzburg, Österreichischer Zukunftsfonds
Freistadt Int. Film Festival (Aug. 2023, Austria)
Hof Int. Film Festival (Oct. 2023, Germany)
Radstadt Int. Film Festival (Nov. 2023, Austria)
Jewish Filmdays Innsbruck (Nov. 2023, Austria)
Jerusalem Jewish Filmfestival (Dec. 2023, Israel)
- Audience Award – Freistadt International Film Festival, Austria, Aug. 2023,
- Hans Vogt Filmpreis – Hof International Festival, Germany, Oct. 2023
- Opening Film – Radstadt Film Festival, Austria, Nov. 2023
“We are living in the shadow of the past…”
Actually, I wanted to accompany an exciting re-polling process on film: I had learned that the social institution Lebenshilfe (Live Aid) was planning to take over the house where Adolf Hitler was born. In my first film shot in Austria, I saw an opportunity to show how much progress my country had made in the process of coming to terms with National Socialism. But things turned out quite differently, and what was originally a simple project became a multi-layered, long-term documentary film that took five years to shoot.
Apart from the fact that it is the first feature film ever to be dedicated to the subject of “Adolf Hitler’s birthplace”, WER HAT ANGST VOR BRAUNAU? (WHO IS AFRAID OF HITLER’S TOWN?) is structurally based on three different basic dramaturgical ideas that correspond to the three phases that the five-year shoot went through: First, an almost classic documentary phase, in which I portrayed the stigmatized city and the positive conversion process; a second investigative phase, in which I examined the background that had led to the polemical change of mind regarding reuse; and finally, due to the stagnation of the conversion process, the development into a personal essay film, which led to an examination of memory culture and family memory. During this long process of development, it gradually became clear to me that the stigmatization of Hitler’s birthplace as a “brown city” and the institutional treatment of the birthplace ultimately results in an arguably undesirable but nevertheless apt metaphor for the failure to come to terms with our Austrian history of perpetrators and fellow travelers. For even though much has been done in our country in recent years for the victims of Nazi terror, there is no real coming to terms with our history of perpetrators. I do not mean the Nazi celebrities or the perpetrators of the extermination process. I am referring to the fact that the majority of us in Austria are descended from perpetrators, followers and sympathizers or those who were brought up in the Nazi state, and not from victims. Instead of looking into one’s own family history, the guilty are always sought and found outside. Thus Braunau undeservedly becomes a “brown (nazi) town” and is found guilty in the process. Thus an old house, in which the baby Adolf spent only a few months, is elevated to the status of the
“birthplace of evil,” from which a new façade is supposed to remove its poisonous attraction. I call this mechanism of displacement the stoked “fear of Braunau”. It is convenient, serves emotions and prejudices, and has as its object a small town that can hardly defend itself against it.
However, this artificial fear does not help me as an Austrian. Quite the opposite. I no longer believe in an institutionally controlled view of history. For too long it has obscured the view of the true involvement of our ancestors in the Nazi regime. We must finally discover our history for ourselves and take on the responsibility that the people of Braunau, despite decades of experience, are not believed to have with regard to Hitler’s birthplace. Working on this film, I discovered for myself that a dialogue with one’s own family history, freed from external paternalism, can give hope and relief. Because it answers to questions and thereby makes orientation possible. Hidden in it is a great opportunity to make up on a small scale for what has been neglected on a large scale. That’s why I don’t see the film, despite all its intensity, as an indictment or a reckoning with the Austrians’ coming to terms with the perpetrators, but rather as an invitation to reflection that might do us all some good. What are we afraid of when we look back? What was our own family like during the Nazi era? What of it is still in us today? How can we come to terms with our family history of perpetrators and fellow travelers without always having to hide behind new facades? What can we learn from those few who acted differently and offered resistance?
A thorough reappraisal of history can never take place only on the surface and with clichéd projections. Nor should it be merely scientific, neither should it be directed from above nor replaced by symbols. Coming to terms with history means, above all, talking and listening.
About the Film