Malte Ludin, director

Born 1942 in Bratislava (CSR).
Finished school at Schloss Salem/Lake Constance.
Studied political studies in Tübingen and at the Otto Suhr Institut, FU Berlin.
1968 diploma in political studies.
1969-1970 work experience at radio station Sender Freies Berlin.
1970-1974 studies at the Deutsche Film und Fernsehakademie Berlin (DFFB).
Diploma film: "Kennen Sie Fernsehen?", which opened the XXIV Internationale Mannheimer Filmwoche 1974. Since 1976 freelance author and film maker, including: Producer at Polyphon Film, Studio Hamburg, Lecturer at the Deutsche Film und Fernsehakademie (DFFB), FFA scholarship at Pro Video, Berlin and Third Coast Studios Austin, Texas, USA, Tutor at the DFFB. Since 1990 managing partner in Svarc.Filmproduktion, Berlin.


Essays on Joris Evens, Luis Bunuel, Charlie Chaplin, Siegfried Kracauer, Leni Riefenstahl (among others). Movie, TV, and book reviews for newspapers and magazines (Der Monat, Frankfurter Rundschau, Frankfurter Hefte, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, medium, ZOOM, Deutsches Allgemeines Sonntagsblatt among others) and radio (SFB, Rias, SWR, WDR). Radio features and reports (SFB, SWR, WDR). Book: WOLFGANG STAUDTE, Rowohlt Verlag.

Films (selection)
„2 oder 3 Dinge, die ich von ihm weiß“ (2 or 3 Things I know About Him) Documentary, screenplay & directing, Deutschland 2004,
1/4 Blues“ Documentary video, screenplay & directing, production 2003.
Als Großvater Rita Hayworth liebte“ (When Grandpa Loved Rita Hayworth) Feature, producer, 1999/2000.
Max Ophüls Preis 2001, FIPRESCI 2001, Grand Prix Sochi Prix Europa 2001.


Blick aus dem Fenster“ Children's feature, producer, ZDF 1995. Golden Gate Award, San Francisco 1995 among others.
Böhmische Dörfer“ Screenplay & directing, production, short feature, Czech Republic, 1995. International Documentary Festival Munich 1996, International Documentary Festival Oberhausen 1995, International Film Festival Karlovy Vary 1995.
Mulo, eine Zigeunergeschichte“ Children's feature, producer, ZDF 1993. Prix Futura 1993.
Schalom Tatjana“ Children's feature, producer, Ukraine, ZDF 1992, repeated: 1993/1994/1995.
Keine Experimente. Filmzensur in der Ära Adenauer“ Documentary, screenplay & directing, production, ZDF 1989.
Die Frau seines Lebens“ Short feature, producer, Rom, Villa D‘Este 1990. Bundeskurzfilmpreis 1991, among others.
Karel Capek“ Short feature, screenplay & directing, Czech Republic, WDR 1990. LiteraVision, Munich 1991.


John Cheever" Literary film portrait, screenplay & directing, WDR 1990.
Witold Gombrowitz" Literary film portrait, screenplay & directing, WDR 1990.
Keine Experimente. Filmzensur in der Ära Adenauer“ Documentary, screenplay & directing, production, ZDF 1989.
Videobrief aus Buenos Aires“ DokumentarHi-8, screenplay & directing, Argentina, ARD 1987. XXXVIIIth Berlin International Film Festival Berlin.
Trümmerfilme“ Documentary, screenplay & directing, ZDF 1986.
Fabrik zum Selbermachen“ Documentary, screenplay & directing, WDR 1985. „Zoom ins Ungewisse“ Documentary, screenplay & directing, SFB 1983.
Flusslandschaft und nasses Grab" Feature, screenplay & directing, ARD 1983.
Das donnernde Geschäft" Feature, screenplay & directing, ARD 1983.


Mayers Traum oder das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technologischen Reproduzierbarkeit“ 1 inch video, screenplay & directing, ARD 1982. Preis der Photokina Cologne 1982, 1.Metropoles Film- u. Videofestival Munich 1983.
Die Revolution findet nicht im Kino statt“ Film essay, screenplay & directing, WDR 1979.
Stabile Preise“ Co-Author & Co-director with R. Hoffmeister, ZDF 1978. Observations on the Adolf-Grimme competition, Feature.
Kein Untertan. Wolfgang Staudte und seine Filme” Documentary, screenplay & directing, ZDF 1977.
Energie für Euro 9" Documentary, screenplay & directing, ZDF, 1976.
Kennen Sie Fernsehen?“ Satire, screenplay & directing, DFFB diploma film. Opening film at the Internationale Mannheimer Filmwoche 1973.
Partnerschaft“ Satire, screenplay & directing, DFFB 1972. Internationale Mannheimer Filmwoche 1973.

An interview with Malte Ludin

You introduce the story of 2 or 3 Things I Know About Him with the following commentary: “This is the story of my father, a war criminal, my mother, my brother and sisters, my nieces and nephews. A typical German story.” What do you think is typical about it?

I think that keeping silent about a considerable period of their lives is a common thing among the parents of my generation. These historical and biographical omissions are still causing repercussions and uncontrolled dynamics to the present day. With this film I have pursued a very personal project, but the story goes far beyond the private — beyond my family. What I have to tell may be found — perhaps not so extremely — in very many other, perfectly normal German families.


Your mother is no longer alive. Was it an important consideration for you — whether she would have given the film her blessing?

Not for nothing do I say at one point in the film that I would probably not have dared to make this film as long as my mother was alive. It’s likely that, had she still been alive, I would have faced some of the conflicts less directly—because there would have been a danger of splitting the family otherwise. The strange thing is: my mother supported the idea of making this film. As we had often argued over this matter, she was well aware what I thought of the questions surrounding my father. But I believe it was unspokenly obvious for her and her view of the world that I would feel obliged — if not to rehabilitate — at least to present a view of things which would conform to the family’s interests. Coming from that kind of emotional situation I did not rush to start this project.


Iva Švarcová und Malte Ludin

It was presumably part of the “unspokenly obvious” for her that the guilty verdict and death sentence on your father by the war crimes court in 1946 was not legitimate and not right.

My mother was absolutely definite that her husband was condemned completely unjustly and that he was a noble, even “true-hearted” Nazi. This is the point of view she put clearly in a television interview with Christian Geissler in 1978 and which I cite in my film.


But perhaps she thought that it had not been made clear enough even then. It took me a very long time to realize that my mother all her life tried to protect the image or rather the memory of her husband. In fact she always worked towards cementing the myth first formulated in Ernst von Salomon’s “Fragebogen” (Questionnaire): “He told me he took his task as ambassador to Slovakia very seriously. It was a very difficult task, but he had always felt an inclination towards the Slavic peoples—far more than towards the rotten West—and he said he was proud that it was him who had succeeded, as he believed, in protecting the Slovaks to a large degree from all the things that would have led inevitably to ill-will in the course of the occupation and the war.”

There is another interview with your mother in the film ....

I recorded it myself, a year before her death.


Did you intend then to use it in the context of a bigger project?

Yes, back then I had the feeling it might be my last opportunity to speak to her about it again. To be honest, I was not very courageous in the way I went about it. And I also suspected that my mother was by far the more political of the people in the relationship.

And you make that suspicion very clear. You let your mother speak three times extensively. Once when she is talking about your father’s time in the SA, she tells us that he sometimes had scruples and feelings of doubt; then she finishes by saying that she comforted him by telling him, to make an omelet, you have to break eggs.

I’m pretty sure that she gave him a great deal of strength, and that also means in a way, always brought him back to his senses...


What is the general state of material and archives on your father? Have many significant new facts come out which might be relevant for a revision of the verdict back then, or on the other hand might even serve to support it?

In the late fifties my mother took legal action against the Federal Republic of Germany because she wanted to sue for her civil servant’s widow’s pension. She only got a modest war widow’s pension, and I remember as a young man going to the Foreign Ministry library in Bonn to dig out all they had on my father and his life. It was all there, more or less nothing was missing—everything necessary for a decision in the Ludin case—but in those days I was not particularly interested in it. But because my mother filed all these documents neatly away in folders, I found them much later when I began systematic research for this film. As far as the facts go, I haven’t been able to find out much more that was new.


Neither your mother nor your sisters seem to regard the question of guilt as having been adequately answered by documents or the trial. They either see it as a matter still open or they have answered the question for themselves: Not guilty! You portray your sisters as very interested, self-confident, and even critical women. I found that very surprising.

I think that if you try to get anywhere on this subject, you very quickly move into a realm far removed from rational or intellectual considerations. My sisters are all somewhat older than me, and that means they have — unlike me — conscious memories of our father. And on top of that, they were always geographically and emotionally close to my mother. That meant that her idealization strategy thoroughly rubbed off on them despite every possible resistance, whether rational or emotional. I also believe that it was always very important for them to put their own views, attitudes, opinions last, so as to never leave our mother alone with her lifelong lie. This has been and still is a permanently active protective instinct.


You had a fourth sister who has passed away. It seems her attitude was slightly different from your three other sisters.

I think my sister Eri felt her origins to be a burden. She lived in a permanent dilemma, not least because she was the eldest and knew our father best. On the one hand, she loved her father very much, but on the other hand, she had realized more and more that he was someone who was responsible for very bad things. Much of this realization came about through her husband Heiner, because among other things, he had studied at Berkeley and viewed German history very differently from the way it was usually seen in 1950s West Germany. On top of that, she had a lot of Jewish friends, a fact which contributed to her living in a constant dilemma between love and hate, self-castigation and repression. In this dilemma she was caught up more closely than she could bear.


You usually bring yourself in as a counterpoint to your sisters, but in two cases at least, you behave very similarly to them: for instance, when you explain in the commentary to your examination of records in Bratislava: I was silently hoping to find something which would have helped to reduce the burden of proof against him ...

... A hope which unfortunately remained unfulfilled ...

... and that pattern of behavior is even clearer, when you — as the child of a perpetrator — meet with the child of a victim, the writer Tuvia Rübner. His parents and siblings were deported on the order of your father, the then German ambassador in Bratislava, and he himself only survived because his family had him taken to Israel at the start of 1941.


That sequence and my behavior were the cause of many an argument in the cutting room: it was very unpleasant for me to have to see how I myself use the very excuses and bolt holes I know so well when faced with a former victim. We spent a long time debating whether we should put it in at all, because obviously I am not a very good “actor” in that scene.

But regardless of considerations of the quality of acting the important thing here is surely credibility.

I felt that I could not be allowed to gloss it over, that I could not be allowed to make myself better than I am by leaving out that moment from the film. I am not above it all, as my sister Barbel accuses me at one point. I am in it just as deep as she is. All I had was the good fortune to have a different socialization. But although I left the family’s sphere of influence early enough I am still a part of the clan.


What you have done on film, others have done in literature in the past year. To name just two: Monika Jetter’s “Mein Kriegsvater” and “In den Augen meines Großvaters” by Thomas Medicus. These works are both somewhere between the poles of an attempted reconciliation and the surveying of the given distance. Where would you put 2 or 3 Things I Know About Him on this scale?

Perhaps it is an attempt to do him justice, somewhat like my nephew Fabian expresses it: “You don’t do my grandfather Hanns Ludin any favor by trying to rehabilitate him hastily. He stood by what he did, fair and square.”


Malte Ludin

In the film, you describe different stages of your attitude towards your father. When you were a boy your father was a hero, in the time around 1968 he was simply a Nazi criminal, and, as the last moment on this list, you say: “1989. The fall of the Berlin Wall. I met my future wife.” Your wife produced this film. What role did she play in this project?


She was a kind of permanent moral spur. Being Czech she found it perfectly normal for me as a German to be the son of a Nazi, and it was clear to her from the start that this project was not about getting even. She has an ear for wrong notes, and she always noticed when something was askew. She always wanted to face it with her eyes open. We had huge arguments when we talked about my father. For instance, I often exploded when she took the liberty - I felt - of talking badly about him. I was allowed - but was she? It was probably no coincidence that I fell in love with a woman from Czechoslovakia.

What sort of relationship do you have with your sisters now the film is finished, and more importantly, what sort of relationship do they have with you?


They haven’t seen the completed film, so I really can’t say. There’s a tense crackling in the air. Only my sister Barbel, who initially absolutely refused to go on camera, said she would rather not even see the film — so as not to jeopardize our relationship. Maybe there will be a fight. What will happen after that, I can’t imagine.

Interview by Ralph Eue