13 Minutes: Hirschbiegel’s Account of Attempt to Kill Hitler

Oliver Hirschbiegel, who made a big splash a decade ago with Downfall, revisits German history with 13 Minutes, written by the father-daughter team of Fred Breinersdorfer (Sophie Scholl), and Leonie-Claire Breinersdorfer.

Christian Friedel (The White Ribbon) plays Johann Georg Elser, a simple craftsman from the countryside, who loved life, love, music and freedom, and was turned into a resistance fighter by totalitarian Nazism.

While his country is falling under the spell of National Socialism, Elser feels a strong need to act.  In November 1939, in Munich’s Bürgerbräukeller, site of Hitler’s annual ‘Beer Hall putsch’ speech, he nearly succeeded in changing world history.

The bomb Elser had personally assembled would have torn apart Hitler and his henchmen. But this was not to be, the man he wanted to kill to stop the bloodshed had left the Bürgerbräukeller 13 minutes before the explosion, resulting in major failure.

Captured as he fled, Elser was interrogated by the head of the Criminal Police, Arthur Nebe (Burghart Klaussner) and the leader of the Gestapo, Heinrich Müller (Johann von Bülow), trying to unearth his accomplices.

Though Elser acted all on his own, his captors refused to believe  that an ordinary man very nearly took out the “Führer.

Goebbels propaganda machinery made sure that the world knew that Elser is just a puppet on the string led by the English. Nebe and Müller try to make Elser give over his instigators. But they never do.

Nebe, who is quite impressed with Elser’s steadfastness, remarks to Müller: “You can’t get more out of him than the truth.” Müller disagrees: “We decide what the truth is!”

When they realize that Elser will not name any accessories, he is conveyed, via Sachsenhausen, to the concentration camp Dachau. While there, in March 1945, Georg Elser is murdered by a shot to the neck, on order of Adolf Hitler himself.

His killing occurred shortly before the end of WWII on April 9, 1945, only 20 days before the liberation of the concentration camp by the US Army.