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IndianaGreen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-17-09 10:49 PM
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Nazi behind Winslet film role is revealed
Nazi behind Winslet film role is revealed

Professor unmasks 'Bitch of Buchenwald' as the inspiration for the British star's award-winning role in The Reader

Rajeev Syal and Adam Luck
The Observer, Sunday 18 January 2009

The woman Kate Winslet plays in the Oscar-tipped movie The Reader has been revealed as one of Germany's most notorious war criminals.

Known as the "Bitch of Buchenwald", concentration camp guard Ilse Koch was sentenced to life imprisonment before she committed suicide, just like Hanna Schmitz, the fictional character played by Winslet.

Bernhard Schlink, whose controversial book examining German post-war guilt was adapted for the film, has always refused to reveal the basis of Schmitz's character. But Professor Bill Niven at Nottingham Trent University, an authority on Schlink and on his book, believes the parallels between Schmitz and Koch are unmistakable. "No other known female camp guard comes close to matching up with Schmitz," he said.

In the film, which begins in 1958, German teenager Michael Berg meets tram conductor Schmitz. The pair have a passionate affair, with Schmitz becoming abusive. Then she disappears and Michael is left fixated on their relationship. Eight years later Michael attends a war crimes trial in which a number of German women face justice for their actions as concentration camp guards. To Michael's horror, Schmitz is one of the defendants and is sentenced to life in prison. Michael begins to send taped books to the illiterate Schmitz. The day before her release from prison Schmitz commits suicide.

Koch also killed herself while serving a life sentence. She had recently been reunited with her illegitimate son, Uwe, who had only just discovered her true identity and guilt. Niven, an expert on contemporary German history and literature, said: "We are told that Ilse's son wrote poems to her in prison and that Michael and Hanna were united by reading. What also struck me was that Ilse was accused of using a riding crop to strike prisoners and Hanna, in the book, strikes Michael with a belt. This gratuitous violence is also echoed in the fact that both Hanna and Ilse selected prisoners for execution, and that there was a suggested sexual element underlying this. Ilse was accused of having affairs with prisoners, while Hanna was suspected by her camp inmates of selecting female prisoners to have sex with."
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cynatnite Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-17-09 11:22 PM
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1. I just finished reading the book...
There are similarities, but it's not enough to convince me that Koch was his inspiration.
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