Concordia professor makes amends for his time as an SS soldier in new doc by Montreal duo
In war there are no unwounded soldiers. That’s how the famous war proverb goes, and in Once a Nazi…, the latest documentary by Montreal filmmakers Frederic Bohbot and Evan Beloff, it proves prophetic.
Adalbert Lallier, a retired Concordia economics professor, is haunted by his past: three years spent as an SS soldier during which he (silently) witnessed the murder of seven concentration camp prisoners by his superior officer.
The film follows Lallier after he voluntarily comes forward, more than five decades later, to publicly own up to his Nazi past and to travel to Germany to testify in the last Nazi war crimes tribunal. Although 50 witnesses were called in, his testimony was the key to the eventual conviction of his SS lieutenant, Julius Viel. It also marked the first time a Waffen-SS man ever turned against his superior in a civil court. While many German lawyers and members of the media – not to mention his fellow colleague at Concordia – doubt Lallier’s intentions, many others, including Montreal Rabbi Reuben Poupko and Nazi hunter Steven Rambam (a New York private eye who came to Canada in 1997 to expose suspected Nazi war criminals living with impunity here), believe his shame and suffering to be genuine.
Lallier’s participation in the trial, his crisis of conscience and his desire to atone for his actions (and inaction) fuel Once a Nazi…, a careful, beautifully constructed suspense documentary that plies the questions of how we forgive and judge, ourselves and others, during and after war. The filmmakers ask pointed questions of a myriad characters – journalists, Waffen-SS experts, judges and lawyers – on the topics of Lallier and war generally. Ultimately they paint a portrait that’s as much a study of the psychology of conflict and genocide – its skewed forms of logic, allegiance and accountability, and dehumanizing potential – as it is a redemptive tale about the personal conviction and fortitude it requires to ask and grant forgiveness.
Don’t miss the premiere screening at Concordia University’s Hall building, where Adalbert Lallier and other main characters from the documentary will be present for a question and answer period.
Once a Nazi…
At the Concordia Hall building
(1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W, room H-110)
Sept. 19 at 7:30 p.m.