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Berga: Soldiers of Another War
Stories of Berga What Would You Do? Timeline & Maps Berga and Beyond War Crimes
About the Film
Intro Description The Filmmaker Interview with Charles Guggenheim Broadcast Schedule Credits

Interview with Charles E. Guggenheim Page 1 Page 2 Page 3

In September 2002, Charles Guggenheim shared a copy of his film BERGA: SOLDIERS OF ANOTHER WAR with the historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough (JOHN ADAMS, TRUMAN, THE JOHNSTOWN FLOOD). Then the two long-time friends sat down in Guggenheim's home to talk about the veteran filmmaker's most personal project to date. This was Guggenheim's last interview before he passed away one month later.

Following are some excerpts from the two-hour conversation:

David McCullough: This has been a long journey for you, longer than most people might imagine. Somewhere along the line something must have just clicked for you, that you had to do this film. How did you get started? When did you go into the army? Let's start there.

A young Charles Guggenheim, member of the 106th Division, 424th Infantry Regiment, Company E, Second Battalion Company.
Charles Guggenheim: I was drafted in the Army in May of 1943. I ended up with 106th Division, 424th Infantry Regiment. Company E, Second Battalion Company.

DM: And then your unit was sent overseas, and you were in the hospital.

CG: I had an infection in my foot. It turned out to be blood poisoning. So I was delayed, and the delay saved my life, really.

DM: And your life then went on, but somewhere along the line you then got a hint of this story. But that was many years later, yes?

CG: Actually, when the men were coming back after the war was over, I started to talk to some of my comrades -- guys that I had been in the Army with and who I'd been friends with. I said, "What happened to so-and-so?" and they said he died in a German salt mine. I think he was explicit that it was a slave labor situation, but I was not alarmed at that point, because there were so many tragedies involved in that war. That was the first time I had any indication that something was sort of strange.

And then I kept running into articles, little ones in small newspapers, Arizona or Florida someplace. There would be a paragraph about some veteran digging tunnels for the Germans in a slave labor camp, or something like that. Finally I decided to look it up and go further into it.

DM: And where did you find the first real evidence?

CG: National Archives war crimes file. There was a war crimes trial because an American prisoner had been shot trying to escape. He had obviously been recaptured and shot, and that violated the Geneva Convention.

DM: So when you saw those records at the Archives, you knew something was there, a story that had to be told.

CG: Then I found books that were written much later, as late as 15 years ago. It was very superficial material, but enough to tell me that the genesis of this story was worth exploring.

The majority were not Jewish. 80 out of 350 were Jewish. The Germans figured if his name is Rigerio or Zaccaria ... they said, That's a strange name -- it must be a Jew, you know.

© 2003 Educational Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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