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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 E. Guggenheim Broadcast Schedule Credits

Interview with Charles E. Guggenheim Page 1 Page 2 Page 3
DM: Now, that must have posed certain problems. Was it as difficult as you expected it to be?

CG: It was less difficult than I expected it to be for a couple of reasons, which have to do with contemporary history. This is a story that took place in East Germany. East Germany was locked in time for 50 years. When I went to Germany to film in March two years ago, the Berlin Wall had come down [only a few years before]. So these young people had [until recently] been under Russian rule for 50 years. Forty percent of them were unemployed. There was very little future in their lives.

There were some older people in the towns we were working in who would come up and tell me how many American planes they shot down. But the townspeople, generally speaking, were grown people in their middle age, and I realized they hadn't even been born when the war started. So the answer to your question is, We had total cooperation.

A young Charles Guggenheim, member of the 106th Division, 424th Infantry Regiment, Company E, Second Battalion Company.
DM: Just finding the men that you interviewed for the film must have been a task in itself. It wasn't as though they all came to a reunion or something.

CG: Biggest problem we had -- how do you start finding these people? And then you don't know where they live, or whether they're living or dead.

DM: You don't know whether they'll be willing to talk.

CG: Most of them, with mitigating circumstances, did. The thing that saved us was the National Archives, which had a list of everybody who was at Berga at the slave labor camp -- some obscure document. And we knew there are still records at the Veterans Administration. They said, "We'll tell you if they're living, but we won't tell you where they are, because that's a violation of privacy." So we took a circuitous route -- we had help from someone on the Hill who wrote to them to see if they're interested in doing this film. We got a pretty good response -- 30 or 40 percent said they'd participate. And we had great help from an army captain, Mack O'Quinn, who I'll always be indebted to. He was doing a thesis on this story and he helped us find these people.

DM: There's a point in the film where one of the survivors talks about how painful it is to remember. And then he pauses and says, "But you have to remember." We must remember. You're making it possible for all of us to remember.

CG: I don't think anybody would doubt it if you say you remember the Holocaust. But these were Americans, and we can identify with them. They're the people next door. When you hear these men testify, they're not somebody they imported from someplace. I mean, they were shopkeepers, one's a doctor, the other one is an architect, another guy is a salesman. So you say, "This could happen any place with a mindset and with a sickness." It comes upon the world every so often.

© 2003 Educational Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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