Author Claus Hant

In January 1996 a 90-minute feature film was shown on Germany’s SAT1 network. It was my first screenplay to be produced, and was to be the first episode in a four-part movie-of the-week series. Those first four episodes were a huge and unexpected success, and my mini-series became a mega-series with 69 ninety-minute-features. For more than a decade, Der Bulle von Tölz made German TV history with its audience figures. My episodes won the Goldener Löwe and the Romy awards and were nominated for the Adolf Grimme Preis. My latest cinema feature is Der große Kater, an adaption of a novel by Thomas Hürlimann, starring Bruno Ganz (Downfall).

Genesis Of Young Hitler

Between writing assignments, I frequently took time out for my pet project: i.e. researching and writing a screenplay about the life of the young Adolf Hitler. For years I wrote and rewrote the screenplay until I was able to tell the young Hitler’s story in such a way that all the major events of the film were based on fact. By the late 1990s, I had finally produced the final draft - or so I thought.

My agent sent the script to a German producer, who rejected it immediately. He said that Hitler was far too controversial an issue to be made the subject of a fictional film (see Interview). According to the producer, no German film company would ever be able to raise the funds for such a project. In fact, Bernd Eichinger did just that only a few years later with his film Downfall.

I continued my research and came across several new facts that I wanted to include in the story. I asked my agent to stop submitting the script and, as in the preceding years, I went on reading the latest findings on Hitler, about whom many new books are published every year. For the most part, these reiterate well-known facts but once in a while new information surfaces. And in some instances, the passage of time since the events allows for new understandings, which help to interpret the past in a new way. I created files in which I stored my research, and whenever I came to Munich I visited the Institut für Zeitgeschichte, which contains the world’s most extensive collection of original documents and publications about Germany’s Nazi past.

Slowly but surely my research files grew and, rather than forcing me to restructure the story, the new material in fact confirmed the storyline I had established. The new information helped me to improve the dialogue, write more appropriate scenes and add or omit certain elements. When the findings of the researchers Lewis and Horstmann were published in 2003 and 2004, I was particularly pleased. These studies provided valuable insights into what I consider to be the most important turning point in Hitler’s life: the months before his first public appearance. What had been primarily a storyteller’s gut instinct before was now being supported with sound circumstantial evidence. I felt ready to return to the story. This time, however, I didn’t plan to rewrite the screenplay: I wanted to write a “non-fiction novel”, a story in which a fictional thread allowed me to tell the events in chronological order while basing the details relating to the overall circumstances and to Hitler’s character, as well as his actions and utterances, on solid academic evidence. I also decided to include an appendix for readers that wanted to know more about specific aspects of young Hitler’s life.

I had lived in English-speaking countries for many years, first in the US and then in Ireland, but English was - and still is today - a foreign language to me. So I teamed up with two native English writers: James Trivers and Alan Roche.