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Once a Nazi...: Nazi victim

Nazi victim

Lallier: Then and now

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.

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  • by Pedro Eggers - September 17, 2006, 3:52 pm

    Nazis are scum. Nazis are evil. Nazis deserve to die. Nazis should burn in hell.
    ~
    It’s so easy to judge, isn’t it? If you were a Nazi you automatically forfeit any forgiveness and are stripped of even the most basic of human considerations. It’s an easy call to make for many because, these people are monsters, monsters that helped the most insane and wicked death machine roll over nations and lives as if they were dirt. It’s easy to judge…at least until the facts come in. WWII happened and without going over all the points of that horror it really needs to be said that not all Nazi soldiers were the monsters we believed them to be. Yes, many were but some were essentially forced into taking part in Hitler’s regime at gunpoint. Many German families were political opposed to Hitler and his plans but you rarely hear about them. These families were either outright executed for protesting against his grand design or coerced into sending the males of the family into military service with the understanding that the continued existence and safety of the rest of the family was in their hands. It isn’t spoken of often but blackmail was a powerful force in joining the Nazi ranks. This is fact. I make no judgements or apologies for the blood on their hands or the lives lost. Nobody can or ever could. That isn’t my job, it isn’t yours either, by the way. Until we’re placed in an extremely compromised position in extreme times none of us can fully judge another’s actions or choices.
    ~
    So why say this? Because regardless of what you might think of Adalbert Lallier as a person you have to respect his courage in coming out as he did and why. I imagine there’s no fanfare or great support for Lallier these days but at least he can take comfort in that he’s owning up to the sins of his past. This man raises many confusing emotions and issues for lots of people and that’s exactly why I find this doc fascinating, grim but fascinating.

  • by Steve Landry - September 17, 2006, 6:19 pm

    Compelling title for the latest documentary by Montreal filmmakers Frederic Bohbot and Evan Beloff, “Once a Nazi”. Courageous of former SS soldier Adalbert Lallier to have risked and come forward in the Nazi trials to give testimony to charge his commanding officer. So many of these German soldiers had no choice but to do whatever their leaders told them to do (not unlike the American GI in Iraq).
    How many ex-Nazis are living in our community? Generally, fewer and fewer as they grow old and die with their hidden whereabouts and stories of inhumanity and hellish genocide. But, you don’t to look back as far as WWII to find bastards responsible for mass killings and extermination. Where are the soldiers responsible for the genocide in Rwanda and Burundi? Where are the ones responsible for the Somalian extermination and the massive fire in Bali?
    Everyone must go to their graves with their consciences filled with how they treated others while they graced this Earth. In Lallier’s case, he’s not off the hook but the barbs on the hook are not as sharp as they would be if he had not done what was right and come forward with his story.

  • by Martin Dansky - September 18, 2006, 12:19 am

    I have no forgiveness for Nazi criminals that orchestrated the elimination of some of my family, particularly an uncle his family and a grandparent that died of a heartattack because of the impending Hitler invasion. I would like to see forgiveness but it is difficult to come by when a man comes out of his shell after living 50 years in relative obscurity over the ordeal. I would feel tremendous shame if I were a witness to such an atrocity and did not speak out about it. What a total coward! On the psychology of the war oriented psyche we can see today a similar pattern of power abuse happening in the United States as had occured in pre war Germany, even though one doesn’t think of Naziism and the US is supposed to represent ‘democracy’ worldwide. Bush wants to skew public opinion in favor of trying suspected terrorists at any cost. He is quoted as wanting to be on the side of the generals and not politicians to resolve the Iraqi quagmire when it was his political-economic standing that got him there! He is busy building racial tensions. All this smacks of similar attitudes that ran through Germany when the Nazi party came to power.

  • by Mark St Pierre - September 19, 2006, 7:41 pm

    Well, you just know that this doc isn’t going to be an easy ride – with a title like Once a Nazi…, you know that their is a certain amount of ambiguity that will come into play…can someone escape their past, especially one that’s so incredibly harrowing and horrific?…moreover, will we the viewer allow him or forgive him for that matter? This doc will, no doubt, divide opinion along very sharp lines but it promises to be an enlightening look into a man’s attempt at redemption and atonement….

  • by Gareth Hedges - September 20, 2006, 1:26 am

    While a provacative documentary, ONCE A NAZI… is imperfect in a number of areas, not the least of which being the title, which is one of the goofiest titles for a film about conscience and genocide ever. Complete with the ellipsis, ONCE A NAZI… sounds more like a cloying punch line from a wacky sitcom about ex-Nazi’s hiding out in the suburbs.* But its flaws can be forgiven as the case of Adalbert Lallier has a way of prompting discussion and stirring up raw emotions.
    Unfortunately, if the Q & A session at Concordia following the film is any indication, any dialogue can quickly degenerate into anger and absurdity. Beyond the shouting and grandstanding-questions are the Q in Q&A!-at one point, a man asked Lallier if he knew how tall Adolf Hitler was. Because we soon learned, this man had seen a man who looked exactly like Hitler on a street car.
    Thought the film repeatedly appeals to issues of conscience, the notion of shame is more appropriate. Issues of conscience are often conflated with shame. Dr. Lallier responded to a Holocaust survivor’s anger by telling the auditorium that he was “ashamed” of his life for not having prevented the killings he witnessed. Shame is a powerful force. This was born out at a long and low point of the discussion, in which, a wilfully bald Con-U student asked an ambiguous question that mentioned holocaust deniers. The stupidity in asking an ill-timed, ill-thought and poorly-worded question found the student shamed by the audience.
    Speaking of ill-timed, ill-thought and poorly-worded stupidity: Steven Rambam, the private investigator Lallier initially confessed to, may have the greatest name ever & STEVE RAMBAM: NAZI HUNTER would make an awesome weekly crime drama.
    * That sitcom, perhaps called THIRD REICH ON THE LEFT, would be unproducible, no matter how Hogan’s Heroes-esque. Incidentally, is Hogan’s Heroes symptomatic of Western society’s inability to deal with the Holocaust directly in its immediate aftermath?

  • by Shira Katz - September 25, 2006, 10:56 pm

    This is an important film because it raises issues such as, after a genocide has been committed, how important is it to give a voice to those who took part in the perpetration of such a genocide? What if the perpetrator was young at the time but was able to go into hiding after the war for many years, realizing that with age, that he is truly sorry for what happened and he will do anything to make up for those atrocities, by giving back to the community of people who suffered the most? Is it possible to forgive? If the person can never be forgiven, will that mean that the person will never speak, for speaking will cause shame and a possible prison sentence? And if the perpetrators of the genocide go into hiding and never confess the truth, and therefore we only hear from the victims, does that mean that future citizens will start to “deny” that the genocide occurred, because it is too painful to hear the truth? The truth hurts. Six million Jews died in the Holocaust.
    First society has to decide if they want to hear from the perpetrators or not, before even thinking of making a “deal” in exchange for “truth” as an issue. Karla Homolka is a good example of someone who was given a “deal” in order to speak the truth, though she was not innocent herself. Shall we do the same for the perpetrators of genocide? The problem is that if we don’t, then they die in silence, and then you get citizens who don’t want to believe the other voices of the genocide, the victims. But who wants to hear from someone who took part in such atrocities unless their belief system has changed? If they should they be punished no matter what, then what if they never confess? How important is it for history to hear their confessions? At what cost, lesser punishment? At least should the punishment be lessened if they are truly sorry?
    Congratulations to Frederic Bohbot and Evan Beloff, for making a film about this important subject, and to Lallier for his courage to speak and say he is sorry.

  • by Douglas Ungredda - December 26, 2006, 11:32 pm

    As a former Dr. Lallier´s honours economics student I had the priviledge to forge a close friendship. As such I could appreciate his strong sense of justice as one of his most outstanding qualities. It must have been very painful for him after all these years to muster the courage to remember and come forwardin in times when it was “politially correct” to forget. Justice was duly served. Dr. Lallier´s actions earned him the right to look right up at God´s face when the time is ripe.

  • by Don Anderson - May 18, 2010, 10:14 am

    The goal of Canadian multiculturalism is to coerce a dominant culture into surrendering their chauvinistic identity for a promise of a new piety that accommodates the chauvinism of other cultures who managed to attain victim status. Thirty years of beer hall eaves dropping convinces me that Roma Gypsy culture is the last sacrificial whipping boy; providing the bigotry necessary to hold the rest of Canada together. If asked, many condemn Gypsies as a hoard of n’er do well thieves and pick pockets passing through tolerant communities; leaving a trail of raging short changed residents. The reason for all the paranoid disdain is the way their nomadic life manages to leave no record of their conquests.

    Adalbert Lallier was a young man who found his identity and life purpose as a member of the once popular Nazi Waffen-SS. Young men are easily led to do foolish and even evil deeds. As the war ended and the pointy end of our distain required some measure of just revenge, the search was on for the likes of Lallier and his fellow Waffen-SS members. He managed to evade arrest and found a home in the same country that eagerly offered understanding to violent members of the FLQ. Like those who fled after the October crisis and soon returned to forgiveness and positions of power and prosperity, Lallier lived out his life as a respected professor at Montreal’s Concordia University.

    I sense that what drove Adalbert to man up to his past may have something to do with spiritual belief promising peace of mind. As for Canadian multiculturalism, maybe it’s time to look back at the 1950′s and count our blessings.

  • by kenneth lallier - January 21, 2011, 1:27 pm

    this movie or documentry has answerd a lot of the dark side of family but this only scraches the
    surface

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