Black Box BRD - a movie by Andres Veiel

I stumbled upon this documentary when travelling through Germany this summer. It had an interesting title and a catchy poster and I had nothing better to do that night - so I went to see it. In a small, slightly over-heated, underground cinema I got to see a very touching and for me a very educational movie. I learnt about a time where things were different than today - and this time was not so long ago as it might have seemed to me before.


Till the late nineties Germany is shaken by a constant test of power between the state and the RAF (Red Army Faction). Society is torn apart - the state persecutes its critics. Wolfgang Grams and Alfred Herrhausen are symbols for the two opposing forces in a polarised society. One radicalises and goes in hiding, the other dies on the peak of his power. In 'Black Box BRD' their biographies are compared, as different as they might be.

Wolfgang Grams grows up in the sixties. And just like many from his generation he rebels against the system, his parents and the "Konsumterror". On the lookout for alternatives he gets in touch with a militant leftist group in Wiesbaden. But while his comrades one after the other turn their backs to the "revolution" he moves on. In 1984 Wolfgang Grams disappears.

Alfred Herrhausen is born in 1930. As a child he attends an NSDAP elite-school. After the war he makes a skyrocketing career. In the eighties he's on the top of the "Deutsche Bank" (German Bank) and is therefore one of western Germany's most powerful men. He combines politics with business, he's controversial, he's unorthodox. He's the "Lord of the Money" as "Der Spiegel" (German political magazine) calls him.

There's also the "other" Herrhausen. He fights for a debt relief for the third world, but has no real chance against his own bank. When he wants to radically re-organize the bank the other managers start mutiny. Herrhausen thinks of resigning. Two days later, on 30 November, 1989 he's assassinated.

At that time Wolfgang Grams has been underground for 5 years. The "wanted" posters hang in every post-office. He's thought to be member of the leading group of the third RAF generation. That generation which organized assassinations of managers, industrial executives and high-ranking officials. To the day none of these assassinations have been clarified. Grams dies in 1993 on the Bad-Kleinen train-station in an exchange of fire with the police. The official explanation is suicide. He dies betrayed by a police informer, isolated from society.

The film begins with the incident that ends Alfred Herrhausen's life. A mine explodes his armoured Mercedes on his way to work. In the following interviews with friends and relatives of both - Wolfgang Grams and Alfred Herrhausen, old news recordings and private home-videos are combined to paint an oppressive picture of a polarised country.

'Black Box BRD' asks questions. Some answers are given by Grams's parents, his brother, by Traudl Herrhausen - Alfred Herrhausen's widow. Top-manager of the "Deutsche Bank" give their viewpoints as well as Wolfgang Grams's political companions. People who up to today can't understand their opposite's point of view.

The fight is over but the wounds are still open.

To me this film opened a new chapter of recent history. It awakened my interest and in the end led me to writing this article. I liked the patchwork-like make of the film. It doesn't judge any of the incidents, nor persons, nor decisions. It just shows the facts and the feelings of the people involved. The answering of the questions and the newly awakened hurt and pain of the interviewed person never fails to stir the audience's emotions. Sometimes the camera remains very long on people's faces and you can see how hurt they are and that they don't want to be filmed any more. I think the director should have respected this - but that's about the only negative point I could mention.

Interviewees - (in order of their appearance)

Traudl Herrhausen - Alfred Herrhausen's widow

Rainer Grams - Wolfgang Grams's brother

Dr. Thomas R. Fischer - management board member of the "Deutsche Bank"

Hilmar Kopper - chairman of the supervisory board of the "Deutsche Bank"

Dr. Rolf E. Breuer - spokesman of the board of the "Deutsche Bank"

Werner Grams - Wolfgang Grams's father

Ruth Grams - Wolfgang Grams's mother

Albert Eisenach - a friend of Wolfgang Grams

Matthias Dittmer - a friend of Wolfgang Grams

Jürgen Schneider - a friend of Wolfgang Grams

Anne Koch - Alfred Herrhausen's sister

Roswitha Bleith-Bendieck - a friend of Wolfgang Grams

Kurt Rehberg - a friend of Wolfgang Grams

Gerd Böh - a friend of Wolfgang Grams

Paul Brand - a friend of Alfred Herrhausen

Almut Pinckert - Alfred Herrhausen's secretary

Wolfgang Grundmann - Ex RAF member

Winnie Wolff von Amerongen - a friend of Traudl Herrhausen

Dr. Michael Endres - management board member colleague von Alfred Herrhausen

Padre Augustinus - a friend of Alfred Herrhausen

Dr. Helmut Kohl - a friend of Alfred Herrhausen and former federal chancellor of Germany

Irene Eisenach - an acquaintance of Wolfgang Grams

Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado - former president of Mexico


Note: The nodeshells "Konsumterror", "Wolfgang Grams", "Alfred Herrhausen" and "Andres Veiel" will be filled - eventually.

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