Documentary Films



A two-part docu-drama by Carl-Ludwig Rettinger

Produced by Lichtblick Film
In coproduction with IOTA Production (BE) and Vice Versa Films (IL)
In collaboration with RBB/Arte (DE-FR) and RTBF (BE)
Supported by the DFFF, FFA, Medienboard Berlin Brandenburg, Film- und Medienstiftung NRW, Cinema Fund Belgium

Distributor Germany: Farbfilm Verleih

122min / Colour / DCP, 5.1 Digital

The “Red Orchestra” was the most important resistance net in Nazi Germany. Its members distributed pamphlets, helped Jews to flee, hid deserters – and gathered information that was decisive for the outcome of the war.

One of the most charismatic leaders of the loosely knit resistance network in Berlin was Harro Schulze- Boysen. As a ranking officer in the Ministry of Aviation he got hold of Hitler’s plan for the invasion of the Soviet Union and, later, his plans for the advance on Stalingrad. He passed this information to the Allies, with the assistance of a Soviet espionage ring based in Brussels and Paris, whose ranks were predominantly made up of Jewish communists, expelled from Palestine; among them the “Grand Chef” Leopold Trepper.

In 1942, after numerous failed attempts, German military intelligence succeeded in locating the encoded radio transmissions of the Red Orchestra. Hitler was stunned to find out there were still resistance nests under his dominion. He enjoined the Gestapo to seize the traitors. This set off a deadly hunt that extended from Berlin to Brussels and Paris. Only a few survived, among them Leopold Trepper. But when he returned to Moscow, he was sent to the Lubyanka-prison for another 10 years.

Most of the Gestapo henchmen survived the collapse of the Nazi regime. Courted by Western intelligence services during the Cold War, they informed on their victims for the second time. And so the legacy of the Red Orchestra got ground down between the frontiers of the Cold War. In the early seventies, two large- scale film projects were launched concurrently in, astoundingly enough, both sides of the iron curtain: a lavish German-French mini-series shot on 35mm – “L’Orchestre Rouge”; and a 70mm DEFA feature film, titled “KLK calling PTX, the Red Orchestra”, one of the biggest film-projects ever produced in the GDR. The two films differ fundamentally and each only tells part of the truth: on the one hand we have a thriller with red spies and traitors; on the other hand a communist resistance drama.

Excerpts from both films will be used like “re-enactments”, so as to not only relate the story of the Red Orchestra but also the struggle to bring out its true significance. Furthermore, we were able to shoot with contemporary witnesses and descendants of the people involved. Their accounts are combined with the film clips and archival footage, making for a continuous docudrama, that will recount both: the fight against the Nazi regime’s expansion throughout the whole of Europe and the deadly cat and mouse game played with the Gestapo henchmen.

After such audience-grabbing films as “The White Rose” and “Valkyrie”, the time seems more than ripe for a comprehensive filmic account of the most important resistance network during World War II.


Author & Director: Carl-Ludwig Rettinger
Co-Director: Lorenz Findeisen
Producer: Joachim Ortmanns, Isabelle Truc, Gidi Avivi
Image composition: Lutz Reitemeier, Olivier Verdoot (BE, FR)
Montage: Martin Kayser-Landwehr
Sound: Benedikt Gaussling, Damien Rouchaud (BE, FR)
Music: Eloi Ragot

Dr. Hans Coppi
Roberta Böcker