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Nazis We Love to Hate
Posted July 20, 2011 to photo album "Nazis We Love to Hate"
In John Madden’s The Debt, a trio of Mossad agents go after a Nazi war criminal, dubbed the Surgeon of Birkenau, who’s hiding out in East Berlin in the 1960s. Played by Jesper Christensen, this character joins a list of Nazi villains going all the way back to 1939.
The Surgeon of Birkenau in The Debt
In John Madden’s The Debt, three Mossad agents (played by Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington, and Marton Csokas) are sent on an undercover mission to go to East Berlin to capture the Nazi war criminal Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen), who earned the moniker the Surgeon of Birkenau, and who is masquerading as the kindly Doktor Bernhardt. As with others tasked with giving a face to evil, Christensen’s job was not making the character any more horrible, but with making him believable. The Copenhagen-born actor explains, “The man is so terrible that I didn’t have to make the audience any more disgusted with him than they already are. What I needed to do was to bring out his dimensions, the humanity that he does possess, and the rationalizations that he has built around his past.” His performance, capturing simultaneously the man and the monster, highlighted the reason why Nazis make such great screen villains. Their ideology automatically assigns them villainy, leaving the actor to find that part – however perverted – of a humanity that makes them credible.