Gebirtig - By Birth
Year of production: 2002
The film takes us back to the year 1987, when
the "Waldheim-Affair" brought Austria negative
The story is of a Jewish émigré Hermann Gebirtig
(Peter Simonscheck) who has made a name for
himself as a pop-composer in New York and
believes that he has left both his time in a
concentration camp and his hometown of Vienna
far behind him. But history catches up with him,
secure in the safety of success, even far away
Susanne Ressel (Ruth Rieser), a beautiful young
Viennese journalist convinces him with cunning
and persistence to confront his past and to
testify against a former concentration camp
warden. Vienna is, however, also the city of
Danny Demant (August Zirner) Cabaret performer,
and all around Bohemian and womanizer.
At first Danny has a liaison with Susanne followed
the young ER doctor Chrissi (Katja Weizenböck).
In his circle, the children of perpetrators mix with
those of victims and in his Cabaret piece "Mix-
epoch" Danny sings about his home town: "Once
the world capital of anti-Semitism, it is now the
capitol of forgetting…" Danny Demant, himself a
Viennese Jew, is hired as an extra by a local film
crew to play a one of the city's Jews at
Ausschwitz. During the filming, he meets Konrad
Sachs (Daniel Olbrychski) a further key figure in
the drama of origins.
Arts journalist Konrad Sachs from Hamburg has
suppressed the fact that he is the son of a former
high-ranking doctor in a Polish concentration
camp. The image of his father in his dashing NS
uniform has burned itself into his memory, along
with the guilt that gives the son no peace.
When Sachs drives to Ausschwitz to cover the
filming, this memory hits him with full force.
He follows his past back to Vienna, where, with
the help of Susanne, Danny and Gebirtig he finds
a way to cope with his haunting memories.
Susanne's retired father Karl Ressel (Ernst
Stankovski) survived the Nazi era as a political
prisoner in the concentration camp Ebensee.
During a harmless excursion to the Rax Mountains,
his past catches up with him. After decades of
forgetting, Ressel meets a former concentration
He is the former Commander Rudolf Pointer (Edd
Sztavjanik) - the "Skull Cracker of Ebensee."
The brief encounter becomes a fatal finale to
Ressel's memories - the excitement causes him to
have a heart attack, and his daughter Susanne
has to confront the past head on. She will give
her all to find the long-sought Pointer, defiler
of humanity, and bring him to justice.
But what is justice? Susanne manages to coax
the celebrity composer Gebirtig, former camp
inmate, to leave his self-imposed exile in New
York to come back to Vienna. The trial takes
place, but Pointer is acquitted for "lack of
Was Gebirtig's trip in vain? "So what," Hermann
Gebirtig would say, "Vienna is a beautiful city.
A city to die for." He may find more than inner
Georg Stefan Troller