About Stephan Bleek

Documentary film author and managing director of zb Media

Houston, we’ve had a problem

Houston, we’ve had a problem

A drama that shook the world. The story of Apollo 13 is the story of an almost trivial routine mission, which suddenly culminates in an almost hopeless fight for the lives of three astronauts.

On April 11, 1970, NASA launched its third mission to the moon. The launch platform for Apollo 13 was platform number 13. After just nine months before, more than one million people had witnessed the first live launch to the moon of Apollo 11 at Cape Kennedy, the 80,000 space enthusiasts at this launch were a manageable size. Among the guests of honour was the German Chancellor Willy Brandt, but for NASA and its audience the greatest adventure of mankind had apparently already become a trivial routine event. All this was to change suddenly – a few hours later, on April 13, 1970.

The drama of Apollo 13

“Okay, we’ve had a problem” the pilot of the command module “Odyssey” Jack Swigert radioed to the ground station with hardly surpassable coolness. Commander James Lovell confirms this with the legendary words, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”

Astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert are already more than 300,000 kilometres away from Earth when an explosion ruptures one of the Apollo spacecraft’s oxygen tanks. Not a “problem”, but an impending or rather already occurred catastrophe. The spacecraft races away from Earth on a trajectory that puts it in a safe orbit around the moon. Once in orbit, the spacecraft would have become the tomb of the three men. Imagine a memento for eternity. The damaged Apollo 13 “Odyssey” orbits our satellite as a steel grave of three men forever and ever.

In our film “The greatest adventure of mankind” Ulrich Walter describes the situation.

The Problem

Film excerpt: “The greatest adventure of mankind”

At the moment of highest danger Houston shows the great ability of a team of people who cannot and will not give up. Scientists – among them first and foremost rine Johnson and Margaret Hamilton – calculate in a few hours the possibility of changing the flight path with the resources still available in the two space capsules. The situation appeared to be completely hopeless – as Ulrich Walter reports.

At an end?

Film excerpt: “The greatest adventure of mankind”

The Lunar Module’s fuel reserves would have to be sufficient to accelerate the team by means of a precalculated engine ignition in such a way that the trajectory would return to Earth at exactly the right angle after entering the lunar gravity field. To do this, the ship would have to be rotated and, above all, the on-board computer would have to be reprogrammed in order to be able to carry out the ignition and burn time exactly.

New flight path

Film excerpt: “The greatest adventure of mankind”

Ignition by hand would be too imprecise. The computer scientists from MIT and IBM work feverishly all night long on the necessary codes. The new flight program has to be uploaded to the on-board computer by radio in time, because the maneuver could not be performed by the ground station alone, because it has to be done without radio communication. Homer Ahr was one of IBM’s “Maneuver Control Programmers” on the Apollo 13 mission: “We didn’t even think about getting it back, we simply did everything we could to get it back”.

The first ignition is successful only 5 hours after the catastrophe occurred. But still the ship is too slow. Only a second ignition of the engines will accelerate Apollo 13 so that the oxygen reserves on board are sufficient.

Aquarius saves the crew

Film excerpt: “The greatest adventure of mankind”

Meanwhile, the lives of the astronauts in the spaceship must be saved. The Odyssey’s systems are shut down, the 3 men squeeze into the 2 man capsule of the Aquarius lander. Here another problem will soon arise. The lunar module does not have enough lithium hydroxide air filters to absorb the toxic CO2 from the breath of three people. The sufficient lithium hydroxide cartridges of the command module Odyssey do not fit into the ports of the lunar module. In the control centre, the scientists improvise a CO2 filter from the materials available to the astronauts in the Aquarius: Hoses, a box, a sock. This also works.

The rescuing improvisation talent

Film excerpt: “The greatest adventure of mankind”

The film also shows how the public on earth reacts to the drama. If the launch of Apollo 13 was perceived more as a minor matter, the audience is back at the moment of the catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands fear for the lives of the spacemen, praying for the success of the rescue operation. This has to do with sensationalism, the fascination of the catastrophe. The actually scientifically sober space flight can suddenly be translated into fate.

The public’s sympathy

Film excerpt: “The greatest adventure of mankind”

The astronauts were helped by the talent of the scientists and engineers, their great knowledge, their ability to keep their nerve, to work together and to reach the saving point with improvised solutions. It just went well once again. A miracle? I think not. President Kennedy’s grand vision of “reaching the moon, not because it’s easy, but because it’s difficult” has inspired and brought the NASA team together in a unique way. Kennedy calls on the entire nation to achieve this goal. The Apollo Project has up to 400,000 people at times working on the realization of their president’s “mission”, which remained as his great legacy after his assassination. Here is the central excerpt from Kennedy’s speech on September 12, 1962 in Houston.

Excerpt from President Kennedy’s speech 12.9.1962, Houston Texas

The greatest adventure of mankind

The Apollo program was indeed the “greatest adventure of mankind” – comparable perhaps only to the departure of Christopher Columbus in 1492, and the near tragedy of Apollo 13 shows the tremendous risk that the astronauts took. The last film clip shows once again the uncertain moment of the landing of the capsule, when the radio communication was interrupted for several minutes.

Film excerpt: “The greatest adventure of mankind”

The cause of the accident

The explosion of the oxygen tank of Apollo 13 was thoroughly investigated by NASA. The result of the investigation revealed a defect in a thermal switch that had happened on the ground before launch and went unnoticed. NASA has posted a summary of the investigation.

The historical role of Apollo

Some today claim that the Apollo program was a waste of money. I would disagree with that. The Vietnam War at its height cost the USA more dollars in a single year than 10 years of the Apollo program. Not to mention the tens of thousands of victims of the war. President Kennedy in his speech in Houston conceived the Apollo Program as part of a peaceful competition of nations. It was the answer to Khrushchev’s vision of peaceful space travel. To me, both embody productive visions for our technological and scientific development. The fact that, especially after the assassination of Kennedy and the disempowerment of Khrushchev, the destructive forces in the foreign policy of the two superpowers gained the upper hand, ultimately devalued the vision of Apollo at the moment of its greatest triumph of the successful moon landing of 1969 and robbed it of its chances. The dying in Vietnam continued unimpressed. But the rescue of the Apollo 13 astronauts proves that we must never give up hope. The sign of a spaceship orbiting the moon with three dead astronauts does not exist today.

We told the dramatic story of Apollo 13 in our film “The greatest adventure of mankind” for ZDF. The film can be seen in the media library of ZDF and will soon be available on the streaming platform.

A historical documentary film

The movie “Houston, we’ve had a problem” was produced for NASA in 1970. It mainly shows NASA’s mission control room and the work of engineers and scientists in rescuing the spacemen. The restored archive material can be obtained from us.

“Houston we’ve got a problem” Documentary of 1970 – remastered by zb Media

By |2020-03-11T13:56:09+01:00March 6th, 2020|Blog, News|0 Comments

Buchenwald Concentration Camp April 1945

Buchenwald Concentration Camp

The Buchenwald concentration camp had been reached by US troops on 11 April 1945. The film was shot 5 days later, on 16 April 1945. The US army had brought a selected group of Weimar citizens to the concentration camp.

It’s a sunny and warm spring day. On April 16, 1945, Weimar citizens were taken to the concentration camp only 10 kilometers away to show them the inhuman horror of the Nazi regime. The shots will be shot by an American film team from William Wyler’s “Special Film Project”. Unfortunately, the shots are not in a very good condition. The later American President General Dwight D. Eisenhower writes about the background of the action:

“I have never been able to describe the feelings that came over me when I first saw such an undeniable testimony to the inhumanity of the Nazis and their unscrupulous disregard for the most primitive commandments of humanity. […] Nothing has ever shaken me as much as this sight. […] As soon as I returned to Patton’s headquarters in the evening, I telegraphed to Washington and London and urged the government authorities to immediately send a number of newspaper editors and people’s representatives to Germany without further ado. I thought it right to make this evidence immediately available to the public in America and England in such a way that there was no room for cynical doubt.”

Buchenwald Tisch

Weimar and Buchenwald

For us Germans, Weimar means Goethe, Schiller, German classical high culture. In contrast, Buchenwald describes the bestial rule of the totalitarian Nazi regime. Only ten kilometres lie between the centre of Weimar, the city of poets and thinkers, and the Buchenwald concentration camp, which was built on the Ettersberg in 1937. The Buchenwald concentration camp is one of the largest camps in the Third Reich. Almost 280,000 people from over 50 nations were imprisoned in Buchenwald over the 8 years of its existence. About 21,000 prisoners were liberated by the US troops on April 11, 1945.

It is not plausible that the citizens of the small Thuringian town of Weimar knew nothing of the existence of the camp. Could they have guessed the conditions? Shortly before the end of the Nazi regime with almost certainty. After bombing raids, concentration camp prisoners were used to clean up the middle of the city. And in the weeks before the liberation of the camp, thousands of prisoners had been driven on death marches to clear the camp at the last minute. This could not have remained hidden from the population.

Buchenwald Femme

The reactions to the horror

The film footage shows to a certain degree the extent of horror and the disturbing reactions, especially of women. At the crematorium, piled up corpses can be seen. The horror is written all over the faces of the viewers. The American soldiers have set up a table on the roll call square. Objects from the medical test area of the camp can be seen on it. Above all glass vessels with preserved human organs inside. The killing of prisoners during human experiments was part of everyday life in the camp. The faces of most of these Weimar people, to whom an American officer explains the background to the creation of the showpieces, remain apathetic and unbelieving.

S. Bleek

We have scanned the archive films on HD. The rights of use can be requested from us.

By |2020-03-06T19:18:19+01:00February 2nd, 2020|Blog, News|0 Comments

Mont Blanc and High Savoy

Mont Blanc and High Savoy

A documentary about Savoy, Chamonix and the Mont Blanc massif. (BR 2000)

Written and directed by Stephan Bleek
Camera: Benedikt Preisinger
Editing: Katharina Sanders

Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps, was first climbed in the summer of 1786. The birth of mountaineering. The glacier world of the Mont Blanc massif is one of the most beautiful landscapes on earth. Hochsavoien is a land for the active, for dreamers, for connoisseurs. The film shows alpinists in the massif of Mont Blanc, portrays the people of the valleys.

By |2019-12-07T14:15:00+01:00December 4th, 2019|Films|Comments Off on Mont Blanc and High Savoy

Leonore Goldschmidt School

Film footage from the Leonore Goldschmidt School in Berlin

The Dr. Leonore Goldschmidt School in Berlin was founded in 1935 as a Jewish private school in Berlin to enable Jewish children to attend school without reprisals. Jewish schoolchildren were systematically harassed in Nazi Germany since 1933 and finally excluded from attending school at the end of 1938. The Goldschmidtschule offered hundreds of children protection and a good education. In 1939, most of the children were able to emigrate from Germany.
Leonore Goldschmidt Registrierungskarte

The School

Dr. Leonore Goldschmidt, born Tacke, was a historian and English specialist with a doctorate. In 1923 she married the lawyer and notary Ernst Goldschmidt. She works as a teacher in Berlin. In 1933 she is put into temporary retirement by the Nazi authorities because she is married to a Jew.
In 1935 Mrs. Goldschmidt founded the private school for Jewish children in Berlin-Grunewald, Kronberger Straße 24, where in the summer of 1937 more than 500 Jewish children were taught by 40 teachers.
Mrs. Goldschmidt was given the status of a bilingual school by hiring a British teacher, and her qualifications were recognised by the University of Cambridge. In this way the children can be prepared for the foreseeable emigration. At the beginning of 1938, the school was granted permission to carry out Abitur examinations. But the events in Vienna in March 1938 reveal the brutal action of the Nazi state against Jews. The Goldschmidts prepare themselves and their school for emigration. In the summer of 1938 they travel to the USA to negotiate the admission of the school there. After their return, however, this project is prohibited by the Berlin authorities. Finally they transfer the ownership of the school to the English teacher. As a result, the school was run as a foreign institution. As a result, the school was not touched in the November pogrom of 1938. This saves the children’s lives. In winter and spring 1939 they can emigrate to England with the children’s transports. Ernst Goldschmidt left Germany on 10 November 1938. Dr. Leonore Goldschmidt left Germany definitively on 20 July 1939. Her school was reopened in Folkestone. Some of the school’s teachers were arrested on 9 November, but are released at the beginning of December. Not all teachers and children can leave Germany in 1939. Many parents of the Goldschmidt students were also not granted the rescue and they died in the death machinery of the Holocaust. Leonore Goldschmidt’s daughter wrote a detailed account of the history of the Goldschmidt School.

Visa Julien Bryan

The film footage

The films of the American journalist Julien Bryan were probably shot in the summer of 1937 or the following year. His recordings of the Goldschmidtschule were never published.

A few years ago I saw them in the Library of Congress and received a scan permit. We had the HD scans technically edited and improved without changing the original film footage too much. The exact dating of the recordings is not proven. On page 12 of the passport a withdrawal of money in Heidelberg in September 1937 is noted.

Thea Wolffsohn, a former student of the Goldschmidtschule, has seen the pictures and believes to recognize herself on a picture in the classroom. However, she attended the school in 1938. Then these pictures would possibly have been taken after the Goldschmidts had returned from the USA in the summer of 1938.

Passport Julien Bryan

By |2019-12-07T14:13:53+01:00December 4th, 2019|News|0 Comments

Online Banking 1973 – History of Computers

Online Banking 1973 – History of Computers

During the last half century, banking has undergone a revolution. Technology has transformed the way we obtain financial services. The film about In-touch telephone computing was released in 1973. It shows telephone banking as a new possibility for the ‘near future’. An insight into the history of technology that shows how we humans develop ideas, how we want to act differently in the future and what benefits we expect. In most cases, things will turn out differently.
InTouch Telephone Banking

On June 4, 1973, a new home computer service with touch-tone telephones and a voice output system for output was put into operation in Seattle. The service, called In-Touch, is launched by a start-up company, Telephone Computing Service, a subsidiary of Seattle-First National Bank. Retail customers paid $6.50 for various data processing services, including automatic payment of bills by phone, preparation of income tax, and operation as quadruple computers. For the monthly fee, subscribers received 100 minutes of use and paid four cents per minute. The system used all twelve keys of the touch-tone phone. Templates on the buttons instructed subscribers to use the system. Each user had a personal phone-computer connection. There were six main services: Money transfer for bill payment, family budgeting (telephone data collection and weekly mailing), wage tax processing, calendar reminder service, household recording and pocket calculator.

First Mover Fate

After four months of experience with this service, Seattle-First National claimed that the response had been “fantastic” and “several hundred” subscribers had registered since the service was launched in June 1973. But only 2 months later, the president of Telephon Computing Service announced that the company would retire by end of the year 1973. It was stated that a major obstacle was the requirement that customers have touch-tones phones. While business leaders felt that the procedures for operating the computer via the touch-tone phone were simple, they were too complicated for many people. “We were ahead of our time”.

15 years ahead of the times

“Despite the failure of this project, In-Touch is an example of a type of service that can be modified, simplified and offered over a two-way cable” says a commentator from Michigan University in 1976. He states that a way out could be the invention of a two-way cable TV system. “A CATV system will be able to offer both pay-TV and other services which, together with a home computer service, can form a package that addresses a sufficiently large percentage of cable subscribers to make the provider company profitable.”

It needed another 15 years similar home banking services saw growth during the 1980s and early 1990s. However, online banking started not before the late 1990s to become a widespread service.

The film about in-touch telephone computers was released in 1973. It shows telephone banking as a new possibility for the “near future”. Footage of an HD copy is available at zb Media.

By |2019-12-06T19:57:39+01:00December 2nd, 2019|News|0 Comments

Films by Mrs. Hitler

Films by Mrs. Hitler

The films by “Frau Hitler”, by Eva Braun, are among the few testimonies of the everyday life of Adolf Hitler and the powerful of the Third Reich. The films were shot in the years after 1936. They mainly show scenes on the terrace of the Berghof am Obersalzberg in Berchtesgaden, but also their excursions in Upper Bavaria or trips to Scandinavia or Italy. Hitler’s entourage at Berghof is captured in many scenes. They present the harmless face and behaviour of a society of murderous followers of the leader of the Third Reich. One example is the smart young man Dr. Karl Brandt, Hitler’s on-call doctor. Since 1939 he has been responsible for tens of thousands of euthanasia murders. In 1945 the Berghof is bombed, another film from May 1945 shows the ruins of the Obersalzberg area.

The “Photohaus Hoffmann” in Munich’s Amalienstraße has just moved into 25 new, larger business premises. On a Friday evening at the beginning of October 1929, a man arrives, he is in his early forties and at one meter 75 rather average, the few steps from his office in Schellingstraße across to visit his friend and party comrade Hoffmann in the new business. He enters the shop and Hoffmann asks him into the next room. As so often, the visitor is nervous and restless. Hoffman thinks a snack will do him good. That’s why he calls his new apprentice to get beer and Leberkäs from a nearby innkeeper.

Hoffmann and Hitler

Leberkäs and beer for the “Wolf

When the young trainee returns with jugs and meat cheese, the men stand at the light table bent over new photographs. Hoffman fetches plates and cutlery and asks the trainee to sit with them.

Eva Braun is just 17, has finished her commercial school in Munich and started her apprenticeship a week before. The special guest is called “Herr Wolf”. As Hoffmann remarks, he has less eyes for his meal than for the girl he is staring at all the time. Since it is already late, Eva wants to go home. The visitor offers to drive her home in his cabriolet, but she refuses.

The following morning, her boss Hoffmann asks if she had not recognised Mr Wolf? “Have a look around, he is Adolf Hitler, who hangs here on so many photos of us”. For example – reconstructed from stories told by the Braun family – a story begins that will be one of the best kept secrets of the Third Reich. And which leads to the films of “Frau Hitler”.

A month of fate

October 1929 is a historically significant month. Hitler and his NSDAP were still a small splinter party in Germany. Only 2.8 percent of the voters had voted for the party in the Reichstag elections the year before. But Hitler’s party already has rich financiers. And a few days after the first evening meeting between Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun, the New York stock exchange crashes. The collapse of the world economy becomes a chance for the populist Hitler to become an important political power factor in the country overnight.

For he now has access to the mass press of the Hugenberg newspaper group and can drum his message all over the country: I, the Führer, am making Germany great again. The Mummenschanz in party uniforms pretends to be serious, secure and strategic. The party is a male alliance, arm of a military organization, held together in the minds of the narratives of the front fighters of the world war. “My struggle” – with success. In 1930, the NSDAP achieved 18 percent of the votes. Today we would call that the success of a populist.

For the simple mind of Hitler, who himself believes in his role as Redeemer with religious fervour, this success may have been connected with the entry into his life of the blonde Madonna figure of Eva Braun.

Berchtesgaden 1945


A few years earlier, in 1923, Adolf Hitler had come to Berchtesgaden for the first time to meet his party colleague Dietrich Eckart. Eckart was the editor of the party newspaper “Völkischer Beobachter”. After his conviction and imprisonment in Landsberg, Hitler returned to the mountains immediately after his release. 1926 he writes there on volume 2 of “Mein Kampf”. His preference for young women is already evident here. Mizzi, the 16-year-old Maria Reiter, succumbs in the autumn of 1926 to the “stabbing gaze” of the party leader, who is 21 years older. Half a child, half a woman, an easy-to-control playmate, an immaculate Madonna, after that is the “wolf”. Until 1931 the unequal liaison lasts, with which the girl let “everything happen with (herself)” according to her own statement. However, whether “everything” actually happened, whether Adolf Hitler seduced the minor, can no longer be clarified.

In 1928 Hitler was able to permanently rent a holiday home on Obersalzberg, the Haus Wachenfeld. And again a young woman comes into play. His niece Geli Raubal, whose guardian he is, becomes entangled in a tragic love affair with her uncle. She ends in suicide in 1931.

Hitler und Speer auf der Terrasse des Berghofs 1937

Eva Braun films her lover Adolf Hitler…

Hitler comes to money and power and buys the house Wachenfeld in 1933. Now the idyllic holiday home is transformed into a stately summer residence according to Hitler’s specifications. The Obersalzberg becomes a restricted area. The Führer-Versailles of the dictator in the mountains.

A court belongs to a pleasure palace. Eva Braun is also part of the party at the Berghof. A relationship has developed between the wolf, Adolf Hitler, and the 33-year younger since the first encounter in October 1929. After the death of Geli Raubal, Eva Braun became Hitler’s new muse and lover. Simple and nice, finds Albert Speer. A simple Munich girl. She is 19 years old, he is now 42. Eva Braun also makes two suicide attempts. Because the party leader does not make the relationship public. Marriage is out of the question. But he lets his relationship cost him something, buys Eva Braun a house, provides her with a princely income. Keeps her in the golden cage “Berghof”.

… in colour

Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler’s in-house photographer, was one of the first to gain access to the new Agfacolor colour films developed by AGFA in 1936 in the mid-1930s. Eva Braun is able to capture the scenery at Obersalzberg with this film material. Frau Hitler’s films, which were kept top secret during the Third Reich, allow an unusually close look at Hitler. The films were found and confiscated in 1945 by American soldiers in Eva Braun’s villa at Wasserburgerstrasse 12 (now Delpstrasse) in Munich’s prestigious Bogenhausen district and in Austria.

In the first part of our cut you can see Hitler in white NSDAP party uniform in conversation with his adjutant SA-Gruppenführer Wilhelm Brückner in brown uniform jacket. Albert Forster, then an important official of the German Labor Front, can also be seen with his back to the camera. Hitler had four adjutants who can be seen in other parts of the films. There were also three military adjutants. One sequence shows Hitler in a brown uniform, an excursion in a convertible and a bumpy scene at the staircase to the Berghof building. After all, the always irritable dictator appreciates his girlfriend’s passion for film and plays his role as ruler in the film well-behaved. Often for the pleasure of those involved, who come into the picture by chance. It is said that at the Berghof Hitler felt like he was part of the family. Private shots, however, look different. There is no casualness to be seen. Hitler tries like a bad actor to play the nimbus of the leader infallibly led by Providence.v

Important protagonists

Hitler pats the children of his architect and later arms minister Speer, Albert (junior) and Hilde. We see a smart Albert Speer on the balustrade of the Berghof terrace. Speer, by the way, ridiculed the building, which according to Goebbels was Hitler’s favourite place and his real home, as the work of a dilettante. What was meant was Hitler himself, who had his architectural ideas realised there. The Speer couple nevertheless became regular guests at Obersalzberg and belonged to the closest circle around the dictator. There was the power and the money. And power is a beguiling plant. Albert Speer’s arrogance becomes visible on the film. Johanna Morell, wife of Hitler’s doctor, can also be seen. And Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. A photograph from the summer of 1938. Then again Speer and Gerhard Engel, who was the liaison to the General Staff of the Army.

The colourful film show…

Hitler tried to hide his relationship with Eva Braun from the public. Eva Braun was not allowed to attend any official reception in Berlin. When visitors came, she, the mistress, was also hidden on the Berghof in the next room. Eva Braun attempted two suicides to escape this difficult double life. The first in 1932, even before Hitler had come to power, the second in 1935. An outcry of deepest despair. Because Hitler must have felt his love for Eva Braun as a flaw and weakness. It is said that he treated her contemptuously in the circle of the faithful of the Berghof.

… for distraction?

But she seems to have found joy and happiness in the magnificent Bavarian mountain world around the Obersalzberg and on summer excursions to the Bavarian lakes. Because Hitler enables her to lead a luxurious life in idleness. She has cut together her private film footage as “Bunte Filmschau”. A film clip shows a bathing excursion with the Braun family, the parents Franziska and Friedrich and Ilse, the younger sister Evas and secretary of Albert Speer, the actress Else von Möllendorff, Annie Rehborn-Brandt and Karl Brandt, Sofie Stork and her clique in the sports pool Fleischmann, Steinebach am Wörthsee. The film title “Die bunte Filmschau” was drawn by Sofie Stork.

Hitler Schreiben Brandt zur Euthanasie

Dr. med. Karl Brandt can be seen on many photographs. He belongs to the regular crew of the Berghof. Since 1934 he was a constant companion of Hitler as a surgeon, the “accompanying physician”. If Hitler had been involved in an accident, he should help immediately. The young, slim, tall man is an SS group leader and doctor at the Berlin University Surgical Clinic. In 1939, Brandt was personally commissioned by Hitler to lead the euthanasia program.

A thousandfold murderer

Brandt was responsible for the murder of thousands of mentally handicapped people. The idea of defining the value of a human life “at human discretion” is not an invention of the National Socialists. Eugenics had been an internationally recognized research discipline since the end of the 19th century. Francis Galton, the cousin of Charles Darwin, had founded this scientific teaching. High-quality genes were to be promoted, inferior ones excluded. From here, euthanasia, which can mean either euthanasia or deliberate killing, was also scientifically legitimized. Karl Brandt later tries to persuade himself that the responsibility for a killing lay with the doctor treating him.

Karl Brandt Berghof

A friendly looking intelligent young man

How can the scientific discourse in society slide in this gruesome direction? There was hardly any discussion in the medical profession of the Nazi era about the admissibility of killing programs. Under the conditions of the Nazi society, what did it mean to “extend the powers of physicians to be appointed by name” in such a way that “at human discretion” “at the most critical assessment of their state of illness” “grace death can be granted”? Well over 100,000 people were killed at the end of these instructions, as Braun himself confirmed during his interrogation. Scientific arguments serve to destroy humanity. Braun was therefore sentenced to death and executed in 1948.

Also today we can only act correctly in the discussion of euthanasia if we are aware of the influence of the circumstances of our environment on our judgement. But science is not value-free, not “true”, but always a child of its time. In this respect it is a deceptive basis, especially when it comes to the decision about life and death.

The women of the Berghof

The Berghof became Hitler’s most popular and important residence in 1935. Eva Braun’s films immortalize a number of women who belonged to the court. The NSDAP originated from the military male unions of the time of the First World War. The propaganda of the NSDAP saw the role of women as helpers and fellow combatants of men. Hitler was always able to cast a spell over women. The ecstatic scenes at NSDAP major events are well-known, at which women enthusiastic about leadership are close to powerlessness.

Little dots on the mountain

Eva Braun has titled a film sequence “Pünktchen am Berg”. “Pünktchen” is the Munich actress Else von Möllendorff. She was a close friend of Eva. You can also see Gerda Bormann, Herta Schneider and Evas Braun’s sister Gretl. Casual posing of the protégés of a powerful man who is about to reach for world domination. He has tens of thousands of Jewish families humiliated and destroyed without hesitation at this time, he does not shrink from any act of violence, he plans the great war that will cost millions of victims and destroy Germany as well as Europe. The little dot on the mountain – despite all its harmlessness in detail a disturbing document of naive normality.

Fit für den Führer

Einige der sommerlichen Filmaufnahmen von den oberbayerischen Seen zeigen Eva Braun bei Fitnessübungen. Also kann man annehmen, dass sie Hitler mit diesen Aufnahmen beeindrucken wollte. Wie immer die Beziehung zwischen den beiden aussah, Körperkult und Sex spielen für Hitlers Muse eine große Rolle.

Die First Lady? Offizielle Besucher

Die Rolle der “First Lady” des Dritten Reichs spielt seit 1931 Magda Quandt, die später Josef Goebbels heiratet. In Berlin zeigte sich Hitler auf offiziellen Empfängen an ihrer Seite, sehr zum Missvergnügen seines Propagandachefs. Goebbels bemerkt über Hitler, er habe bei Frauen kein Glück, weil er ihnen zu weich sei. Jedoch gehört zum Mythos Hitler seine Rolle als alleinstehender, im Prinzip für alle Frauen erreichbarer Hohepriester. “Wenn das der Führer wüßte” lautete ein Topos im Volk, mit dem die Untaten, die Korruption und das Versagen der NS Funktionäre zwar bemerkt, Hitler und sein totalitäres System aber entschuldigt wurden. Deswegen wurden zig-Tausende Eingaben, Beschwerden und Bittschriften aus der Bevölkerung an den Führer geschickt, im naiven Glauben an den gerechten Führer und Messias.

Nur auf dem abgesperrten Gelände des Berghofs konnte Hitler eine private Rolle spielen. Die Lage über dem Berchtesgadener Tal entsprach seinem Selbstbild als weitsichtiger Visionär und Künstler. Der Berghof wurde mit den ausgedehnten Aufenthalten von Hitler zu einer Art Regierungssitz. Für die Reichskanzlei unter Hans Heinrich Lammers wurde eigens eine Aussenstelle in Bischofswiesen errichtet. Der Berghof war mit Telefon und Fernschreiber rund um die Uhr erreichbar. Die Sekretärinnen und Adjutanten arbeiteten im Gebäude. Dennoch liebte Hitler es, sich hier unerreichbar zu machen. Andererseits gingen Parteigrößen ein und aus und offizielle Staatsbesuche gab es auch am Berghof.

Ein offenes Geheimnis?

Die Rolle von Eva Braun konnte nicht verborgen bleiben. Offiziell wurde Eva Braun als Hitlers Sekretärin geführt. Und vielleicht gab sie sich als Angestellte der Firma Heinrich Hoffmann und Fotografin aus, wenn sie Filmaufnahmen der Besucher machte? Die Aufnahmen zeigen bei sorgfältiger Durchsicht jedoch, dass niemandem im Führungszirkel des Dritten Reichs die Rolle von Eva Braun verborgen geblieben war.

Mussolinis Aussenminister Graf Galeazzo Ciano kokettiert auf einem Foto mit ihr. Und Josef Goebbels grüßt jovial in die Kamera, auch Himmler scherzt entspannt. Dem mächtigen NSDAP Schatzmeister Franz Xaver Schwarz wirft sich Eva kokett an die Brust. Er oder Martin Bormann steckten ihr Kuverts mit Bargeld zu. Hermann Esser, Parteibuch Nummer 2 der NSDAP, führt sie feixend am Arm.

Nach dem Ende des Naziregimes wird Esser versuchen, mit einem Manuskript “Frauen um Hitler” Kasse zu machen. Schon 1938 wurde in einer tschechischen Zeitschrift auf Eva Braun hingewiesen. Jedoch hat der amerikanische Reuters Korrespondent in München, Ernest Pope, der einige Kenntnisse des Nachtlebens der Münchner NS Prominenz in den Jahren vor 1940 ausbreitet, zu Eva Braun nur wenig berichten können. Die deutsche Öffentlichkeit erfuhr von diesen Vermutungen allerdings nichts. Weil, so Josef Goebbels , der Führer “sich voll und ganz der Nation widmet und kein Privatleben hat …”. Aber die Neugier der Deutschen war risengroß, Tausende defilierten in den Sommerwochen am Zaun des Berghofs.

Das Ende

Am 28. April 1945 diktierte Hitler seiner Sekretärin Traudl Junge: “Da ich in den Jahren des Kampfes glaubte, es nicht verantworten zu können, eine Ehe zu gründen, habe ich mich nunmehr vor Beendigung dieser irdischen Laufbahn entschlossen, jenes Mädchen zur Frau zu nehmen, das nach langen Jahren treuer Freundschaft aus freiem Willen in die schon fast belagerte Stadt hereinkam, um ihr Schicksal mit dem meinen zu teilen.” Eva Braun wird für 24 Stunden zu Hitlers Ehefrau. Dann enden beide durch Selbstmord. Zeitgleich am 25. April wird der Berghof von britischen Bombern in Schutt und Asche gelegt. Amerikanische Soldaten filmen Anfang Mai 1945 die gespenstische Szenerie.

Beitrag: Stephan Bleek. Lizenzierungsanfragen für Texte, Film- und Fotomaterial bitte an zb Media.

By |2020-03-06T17:55:38+01:00December 2nd, 2019|Blog, News|0 Comments

A.D. 1999 – Future 50 years ago

How Silicon Valley envisions the future in 1967

In retrospect, it usually seems rather funny how people once imagined their future. In contrast, the film A.D. 1999, made in 1967, shows an astonishing technological vision. It accurately predicts the future of life with the computer at home in many respects. Most of the technological ideas in the film come from NASA. We see how important the Apollo program is for today’s world.

Videotelefonie Vision 1967

A.D. 1999 – the 21st century almost real

The film shows the “House of the Future 1999”. A vision of what life will be like in the 21st century. Large flat screens in the office, children’s room, living room and kitchen. A central home computer with a network connection, video telephony, e-learning or home shopping. In contrast to the mostly completely unrealistic science fiction films, this vision of the future is not too far away from our life of today. A server IT with terminals is presented. Functions such as video telephony, home shopping, private finance or education are running on terminals with only one function at a time.

Today, on the other hand, we have multifunctional devices that can handle several functions. But the decisive and fascinating thing is the prediction of the applications themselves. And even today, architecture, house energy and utilities have not been developed as the film predicts. The power of the future apartment comes from a fuel cell that supports precise controls of energy consumption. The apartment is built from honeycomb-shaped individual modules, which could be supplemented with additional honeycombs depending on the size of the family. We see the realized dream of a self-sufficient American single-family house. It lies solitary in a beautiful, dry coastal landscape of California. The fact that the fuel cell also produces drinking water is therefore very advantageous in this climate.

The first film clip starts at a beach. How will we live in the 21st century?

Ford Seattle Car 1962

Mobility of the future

The car in the movie is a scoop! It is a Ford Seattle-ite, one of the great concept cars in history, which Ford presented at the “World Exposition of the 21st Century” in Seattle in 1962. The first thing that stands out are the four front wheels, which were designed to significantly improve the efficiency of traction and braking. The entire drive part of the car could be separated from the passenger cell in order to couple the passengers with other driving systems.

Inside, the car no longer has a steering wheel. It has a computer that programs the itinerary. The glass roof is thermochromic, so it can absorb heat automatically. The car is steered with fingertips. A screen shows the engine power, road and weather conditions and the position of the vehicle. An automatically rolling road map is not yet a navigation device of today, but the concept is the same. The engineers are already anticipating the self-driving car. This car is powered by a fuel cell. Or with a compact nuclear fusion drive.

At the time, nuclear fusion was seen as a safe and sustainable source of energy, but of course the enormous problems of plasma technology were not seen. Nuclear technology is completely unrealistic in cars. The ideas, however, like most of the other examples in the film, come from space travel. And the fuel cell is still the most important drive concept for the future.

Kind Computerunterricht E-learning

The family of the 21st century

The family depicted in the film belongs to the white American middle class. Michael, 45, is an astrophysicist, Karen, 43, a housewife, artist and part-time employee. Their only son James is 8. They live the dream of a modern American family. The apartment is spacious, the building services are controlled by computers. Michael works in his home office, his computer is networked with the laboratories of NASA. He can talk to colleagues via video phone.

E-learning …

James has to learn. He watches a film about the moon landing on a large screen. The moon landing is also still the future. The real landing of Apollo 11 will only take place two years after the film was made. But the film people know their stuff. Their client is one of the companies working on the Apollo program. James’ father was already working on a Mars project in 1999. NASA actually expected to land on Mars in only 30 years. Of course James also learns on the computer. The computer trains his knowledge of physics via multiple-choice questions. In the “Space Age” of 1967, astrophysics is the leading science of the future.

E-kitchen menu discussion

Cyber Kitchen…

The computer suggests the lunch menu. Mother Karen is responsible for the household. So, sociologically speaking, we are not confronted with any particularly surprising visions of the future. A classic home of one’s own, classic roles of man and woman. But in return, all the more technical support. Father and son communicate their wishes via video telephony. The computer calculates the exact number of calories and warns the individual eaters to avoid too many calories. The menu is reduced until the amount of calories is correct. This is the way modern health apps work today.

The computer takes the selected menu from its stock of frozen ready meals. The portions are thawed in the microwave, heated and ready. To illustrate the speed of this modern cuisine, the boy is counting down a countdown – just like the NASA rocket launches.

In the film, the residence is referred to as the household of Space Age. Each technical application is imagined as its own device of considerable dimensions. So the house mutates into a large control room. This entertaining vision of a future comes quite close to today’s reality. However, today we have individual devices that execute and control a variety of functions and applications.


Home shopping…

Home shopping is not missing either. As early as 1967, engineers imagined the model of the Internet connection to the fashion store of choice and realized it in their film. The Amazon of the 1960s still seemed somewhat clumsy – but at that time, after all, the majority of mankind had no idea of home computers, the Internet or anything similar. The visionaries around NASA knew things their contemporaries couldn’t even dream of.

Homeoffice vision

Home office

The bill is presented by the home office to the husband. Here, too, there are revolutionary ideas for the time. The home computers are connected to the bank, the account statements are sent online to the house. In 1967 we were well away from any practical application of these ideas. However, the military and researchers are already working on their first pilot projects. In the USA, the course has already been set for the development of the Arpanet, from which the Internet will develop two decades later. Today, much of what is shown here for 1999 has become reality. Of course, the technical devices have developed optically and also from the technology inside in a different way than can be seen here. But some applications have been accurately predicted.

Party im Cyber Home 1967

Power supply

The technology used to power the house is also a projection of technologies from the Apollo programme. Because alkaline fuel cells have been developed for the Apollo spacecrafts. In addition to electricity and heat, these cells also produce drinking water. This is exactly how the engineers imagine the central energy supply of their house in the film. A project for a house in a far-off region, without a supply network. The dream of a self-reliant life, networked with society only via computers. So perhaps a training for the colonization of Mars, a project in which Michael is involved. Fuel cell systems are on the advance in today’s building technology. The transformation of energy systems, especially in the transport sector, will hardly be possible without this technology.

The living room with photochromic window panes also shows a technology that is increasingly being used today. Thermochromic layers form a self-regulating overheating protection for windows and facades. They allow light and heat to enter at low outside temperatures, but reflect radiation at higher temperatures. NASA has also developed this technology. It protected many sensitive parts of the Apollo spacecrafts from the extreme temperature fluctuations in space.

Today, darkening and energy absorption via thermochromic window glass is one of the technologies of the future in building technology that is now ready for series production. The window glasses can automatically and energy-saving regulate the climatic conditions in rooms with large glass surfaces.

Houston Mission Control Center

Philco Ford

The film A.D. 1999 was produced by the Philco Ford Corporation on its 75th anniversary in 1967. The company produced household appliances, but was also active in military research and development since the 1930s. Already in the 50’s it built transistor-based computers. Then came tracking systems for guided missiles in the aerospace industry. And NASA commissioned Philco in the mid-1960s with the technical equipment for the Apollo flight control centre in Houston. This major order was the source of some of the technological ideas Philco presented on the occasion of his company anniversary. Philco-Ford also produced a range of consumer goods such as refrigerators, washing machines, televisions, pocket calculators, radios, phonographs, air conditioners, car radios and video game consoles. Computers control household appliances in films, a futuristic process at the time.

Ideas for the future

One can assume that the Philco managers were so proud of their NASA Apollo control room in Houston that they wanted to deliver similar equipment straight into every household. In fact, the film shows revolutionary ideas for the time, which are slowly but surely becoming reality in the world of the 21st century. And they must, because otherwise the replacement of fossil fuels will not be possible. The leitmotif of the film, the work on colonizing foreign planets, is thus still an expression of the visions of the 1960s. Today we urgently need these technological visions to lead our civilisation on our own planet into the future. The great ideas developed by the engineers as part of the Apollo programme still have some potential for solving these future challenges.

Text: Stephan Bleek. For licensing requests for texts, film and photo material please contact zb Media.

By |2019-12-05T16:35:18+01:00December 2nd, 2019|News|0 Comments

Hieronymus Bosch and the Fantastic in Art

Hieronymus Bosch and the Fantastic in Art

A documentary film in 2 parts for ARTE about the medieval painter Hieronymus Bosch.

The painter Jerome van Aaken, called Hieronymus Bosch, lived in the Dutch town of Herzogenbosch between probably 1450 and 1516. Today we see in him an eccentric painter of religious visions, an exceptional figure in the painting of Flames and Europe. The fascinating paintings have a tremendous depth dimension that inspired psychoanalysts such as Carl Gustav Jung and artists such as Max Ernst and Salvador Dali in the 20th century. Recent discoveries make the figure of this painter even more enigmatic, according to which he perhaps cannot be solely responsible for the fantastic pictures.

In two films, “The Inventor of the Unconscious,” and “Dream, Drive, and Self-Knowledge,” Stephan Bleek created a portrait of the painter and his oeuvre that, through close-ups, brings Bosch’s richly detailed paintings to life in a dense and direct way.

The first part deals with the main work “The Garden of Desires,” now in the Prado Museum in Madrid; the second part presents the “Last Judgement,” now in Vienna, and the Lisbon “Temptation of Anthony,” as well as the painting “The Hay Carriage.

The human image of Bosch becomes clear: Man is a fool who is driven aimlessly through the world by desires and obstinacy, without concern, reason, wisdom or meaning. His pictures set against the instinctive nature of man the self-knowledge, the wisdom about which alone the way to happiness and wealth can be found. Bosch’s most important legacy is the tremendous ingenuity with which he stages this world view. Many of these ideas are alien to us and at the same time surprisingly present.

(BR / ARTE 2002)

Hieronymus Bosch Ausschnitt Garten 2

By |2019-12-02T10:35:26+01:00December 2nd, 2019|Films|Comments Off on Hieronymus Bosch and the Fantastic in Art

God is the Light – Chartres

God is the Light – the Cathedral of Chartres

In summer 1996 we came back to Chartres for the first time after many years. The cathedral had already fascinated me during my first longer stay in France in 1971. Now, with the plan to shoot a one-hour documentary film for Bayerischer Rundfunk in my luggage, the encounter was many times more intense.

B&B with a farmer family

We moved into our quarters near Chartres at a very nice B&B with a farmer family near the town. that sounds romantic, the old farmhouse was it too. And the young family with two small children gave us a warm welcome. Agriculture near Chartres means large-scale cultivation of grain. Large machines belonged to the farm. The harvest was imminent. So not a trace of quiet rural seclusion.

The end of the film excerpt has a special story. It shows the cathedral from a place to the east where the sun goes down directly above the church in the evening. It was not easy to find this point on a small road 10, 12 kilometres to the east of the cathedral, especially as the research took place in June, but the photographs were scheduled for September. But we found the place, it is on one of the paths that students from Paris take every year on Palm Sunday on their pilgrimage to Chartres.

The pilgrimage on Palm Sunday

When we filmed the pilgrimage on Palm Sunday 1997, over 5,000 students took part in the pilgrimage. When the pilgrims arrive in Chartres, they gather with their palm branches in front of the closed portal. Cardinal Lustiger opened the royal portal of the church with hard blows and the crowd of pilgrims advanced into the huge nave – symbol of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. An incredibly deeply moving experience. The cameraman Philipp Müller “swam” with his Steadycam in the middle of the students streaming into the church. To the displeasure of the Cardinal, he turned from the altar when the mass had already begun. These are the moments when the director gets into conflict. We were allowed to disturb, yes had to disturb, but better from the background. But the really spectacular shots are at the front.

Chartres Cathedral

The Labyrinth

On one day in September 1996, with some helpers, we managed to get all the chairs out of the church to film the great labyrinth. We had a 10 meter high camera crane into the cathedral. The use of a drone, at that time there were just the first models, had been forbidden. The reason was that a team of the BBC had steered a drone into one of the irreplaceable church windows. The cameras still weighed a few kilos and a few panes broke. But fortunately they were not the most valuable “Bleu de Chartres” specimens. Filming the labyrinth with the heavy crane was a really difficult task. At the end there was the salvation we deserved – the shots from a height of 10 meters were excellent. The mysterious labyrinth invites us to a spiritual journey. Who am I? What is the meaning of life?

Bleu de Chartres

We also studied glass production at that time and finally filmed it in St. Etienne in the south of France. Cobalt, antimony, copper and iron in a sodium melt produce an intensely luminous blue glass. Only in Chartres can you still see this original glass from the 12th century. Today the restorers are very careful to repair damaged glass with new panes made according to the original recipes. But most of the glass surfaces in the cathedral are original. “God is light” – the coloured windows of the cathedral shining in the morning light create an incomparable atmosphere.

Filming is also work with light. At the end of the day, when the Jesse window in the cathedral of Chartres begins to glow, our soul receives the deep contact to that which drives and moves us in our innermost being.

The film “Chartres or the Gothic Spirit” has been shown on various ARD channels and in other European countries. In France, the film by Ulrike and Stephan Bleek was also included in the film programme for schools.

The Places of World Cultures – Chartres and the Gothic Spirit

A documentary about the cathedral of Chartres (BR 1997)

Book: Ulrike Ziegler
Director: Stephan Bleek
Camera: Hermann Reichmann, Philipp Müller
Editing: Katharina Sanders

By |2019-12-07T14:12:14+01:00November 30th, 2019|Films|Comments Off on God is the Light – Chartres

Summer of Love 1967

Summer of Love 1967

“If you’re going to San Francisco…” Scott McKenzie’s song conquered the charts all over the world in 1967. The birth of Flower Power. The song was also played on German radio day and night. “Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair”. We heard him as a teenager, but San Francisco was somewhere far away in the unknown. The filming of Haight Ashbury in San Francisco was found by film researcher Lisa Hartjens in the National Archives in College Park.

When we turned on the radio in the summer of 1967 in the afternoon, “San Francisco” almost certainly came from Scott McKenzie. The hit was perhaps the most important propaganda for the Flower Power movement that has shaped our generation of those born in the 1950s. We knew little about the background at the time. At the age of 12 or 14, we were still firmly embedded in the context of home and school. The music on the radio was the key to the big world outside of one’s own experiences.

When I was working in the National Archives film archive with the film researcher Elisabeth Hartjens a few years ago, she came up with a copy of unpublished film footage from San Francisco in the same year, 1967. I edited the material for this short film. I added the music of Greatful Dead, the legendary band from San Francisco. The band members lived in the neighbourhood the film shows. The music was recorded in 1968.

Idaho Times 1969-04-14 Hippies

Bo Maverick

The “Local Hero”, the bearded old man “Bo Maverick” in the film, appears in various photos and articles from the time. The real name of the freethinker was Edward Bray, he played his role as “King of the Hippies”. “Haight Ashbury Maverick” was the name of an underground magazine of the quarter. A press photo shows the old man handing over a copy of an underground magazine to Vice President Humphrey, Democratic candidate in the 1968 election campaign. In the spring of 1969, Maverick appears as a self-proclaimed hippie leader in an article in the Idaho Times. A Bo Maverick predicted an earthquake on April 19, 1969. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the old man died of a heart attack in September 1969.

Types and Topics

The footage documents typical moments of pop culture at the end of the 1960s, illustrating the turn of time in the Western world, which we now call the ’68 generation’. The imaginative clothes of the flâneurs, their shoes, the hair and beard costumes of the boys, the relaxed hanging around. The poster shop with the Harleys and the psychedelic ornaments. The self-organised medical service set up to deal with the consequences of drug use. Andy Warhol’s film “I, a man” is announced in the cinema. The film is a central document of the sexual revolution. The underground magazine “Haight Ashbury Maverick” also spread the new feeling of sexual freedom. The articles circulated on the campuses of universities around the world.


The film’s images illustrate a profound cultural turning point. Pop culture and the hippie movement have revolutionized the societies of the Western world more than the radical left-wing political movement that ignited in the United States during the Vietnam War. This subtile process of change apparently culminated in the 1990s. The authoritarian harshness of the war generation was overcome by a more open and freer way of life. Only in recent years have authoritarian and repressive trends and ways of thinking returned noticeably.

Author: Stephan Bleek. Film editor: Stephan Bleek. Film material available from zb Media.

By |2019-12-05T15:46:21+01:00November 29th, 2019|News|0 Comments
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