The Dissident

Creator: Leonid Leonov
Age rating: 17 and older
Based on the true story of Konrad Morgen, a Nazi Judge that attempted to thwart the Holocaust from the inside, his story is told as an American GI works to force a postwar POW Morgen to admit his guilt & part in the Holocaust in order to have him executed as a war criminal.
Synopsis: Based on the true story of Konrad Morgen, the Nazi SS Judge who attempted to fight against the Nazi regime from the inside by using its own system against it.

In postwar Germany, former SS Judge Konrad Morgen arrives at Dachau, a concentration camp converted into an Allied POW camp. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Julius Greenberg, a young American from a Jewish background that had moved away from the area before the Nazis took over, arrives as a new interrogator for Colonel Talbot, the commander of the camp. Talbot teases Greenberg about breaking the boycott on giving food to the Germans when he feeds a stray dog and says that he expects Greenberg to live up to his reputation as being hard on the Nazis. The American public is starting to turn on the ongoing Nuremberg Trials and Talbot wants to have as many former Nazis admit guilt to their war crimes as possible before the trials get shut down entirely.

After beating one former Nazi into a confession, Greenberg faces Morgen for the first time. Morgen, however, has no interest in admitting guilt and begins to tell his story. He insists that he investigated the camps for murder rather than participate in the Holocaust with the rest of the SS. A flashback reveals Morgen returning to Berlin, a broken man after being sent to the Eastern Front as punishment for zealousness when investigating internal problems. Himmler welcomes him personally and assigns him a young assistant to 'look after him': Putsch.

Morgen is unimpressed by both Putsch and Putsch's hopes to pursue possible crimes within the SS, including when Putsch manages to get a concentration camp guard to admit that killings are occurring at Buchenwald. After considerable pressure from Putsch, Morgen agrees to go and investigate. They arrive to find a strange camp run by a cruel man, Karl Koch, and his even crueler wife, Ilse Koch, 'The Witch of Buchenwald.' However, there is no immediate evidence of prisoners being murdered - every death is listed as an attempted escape. However, Morgen and Putsch settle in to investigate.

In the present, Greenberg is unimpressed and reminds Morgen that dozens of thousands died at Buchenwald. Morgen responds that it was a prison during war, many died from starvation and disease. Furious, Greenberg orders Morgen to be beaten. After, Greenberg walks outside and remembers his own part in the liberation of Dachau, which ended with a massacre of all the German guards. Through the fence, he can see a young German girl trying to scavenge food, but she runs off. The next morning, Greenberg tells Morgen that he's willing to give him another chance. Morgen relates how after months he was able to discover evidence that Koch executed prisoners unnecessarily and put him on trial for murder. As Morgen is both judge and jury, Koch is quickly executed on the grounds of his own concentration camp.

Greenberg then asks Morgen to relate evidence against Ilse Koch, but Morgen refuses to falsify testimony because he never found anything tying her to her rumored crimes. Greenberg once again turns the screws and demands to know what Morgen knew of Auschwitz and what he did there. When Morgen becomes silently morose, Greenberg sends him back to the barracks. Still bothered by recurring images of his part in the Dachau Massacre, Greenberg takes a trip down to the nearby town. He notices the starving girl again and more starving children. When he tries to give his and other soldiers' rations to the children, Talbot arrives and stops him for violating the boycott and forces him to search the girl for food. When Greenberg is properly chastised, Talbot tells him that Greenberg is running out of time to get Morgen to admit his guilt. If it doesn't happen soon, Talbot will make Morgen simply disappear.

One final time, Morgen is brought before Greenberg and told that his guilt or innocence now depends on what Morgen did when he learned of Auschwitz and if he did enough. Morgen insists that for most of the war, no one knew anything about the extermination camps, but admits that eventually Putsch and Morgen found enough clues to investigate personally, though not before being threatened by the Gestapo to stay away. They travel to Poland and are invited to a lavish dinner party at the Majdanek camp, where they are confused by the amount of food and luxuries so close to the Eastern Front. The commander, Hoss, explains that they have complete freedom to investigate anything they'd like, as their orders come straight from Himmler. Noticing their clothing is not appropriate for the cold, Hoss allows them to pick a coat from their collection. This is when Morgen realizes where the luxuries and clothing are coming from: collected at Majdanek from millions of dead prisoners across Poland.

To Greenberg, Morgen explains that he was outraged, but helpless. It was state sanctioned, so not legally murder. It was no different than the firebombing of Dresden or the atomic bomb or the relocation of the American Indian, mass death but by the official arm of the government. As a judge, he had no standing. Greenberg assails him for not doing enough, not standing up. Morgen attempts to argue, but Greenberg bears down on him for being just another bystander to an atrocity. Heartbroken and frustrated, Morgen signs the admission of guilt. Talbot congratulates Greenberg, but outside Greenberg fully remembers his own actions during the Dachau Massacre, his own participation. Later, he asks Talbot for a transfer out of Dachau, but is refused.

Conflicted after being berated for not being American enough to punish the Germans properly, Greenberg visits Morgen in the barracks and asks what Morgen really did do. Morgen explains that after being horrified by witnessing Auschwitz firsthand, he tried to do what he could - and paid the price for it. Putsch and Morgen began slowing down the process by arresting SS officers for the smallest infractions, the tiniest loopholes: the Auschwitz doctor was arrested for euthanasia with unclean needles. Soldiers that took from the loot were arrested for theft. However, the hammer came down hard in return. Putsch was murdered by the Gestapo and Himmler personally intervened to send Morgen back to Germany. Greenberg, however, is upset that, in the end, an order is what finally stopped Morgen. As Greenberg storms out, Morgen recollects many of the times with Putsch, but now the Gestapo agents following them are more obvious.

After Greenberg leaves, Morgen is approached by Virchow, the very first SS guard that Morgen and Putsch sentenced together. Deeming Morgen a traitor, Virchow attacks and brutally beats him. Morgen pleads with the other prisoners to help him, but none step forward. Meanwhile, Greenberg steals a truck full of food from Dachau and drives it into town in order to pass the food out to the starving population. When Talbot intervenes, Greenberg is able to confront him in front of witnesses to the point of being threatened with a pistol. He perseveres, but Talbot promises a court martial. When Greenberg returns to camp, he finds Morgen in the infirmary, ashamed of himself for having been little more than another man watching evil and doing nothing. Greenberg disagrees and reminds him that the shame wasn't that he didn't do enough, but that there weren't more men like him. In addition, Greenberg had swung by the record office and changed Morgen's plea to innocent. The two sit together as soldiers walk down the hall to arrest Greenberg for insubordination.

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