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The collective crimes against humanity known as the Holocaust have been well-documented since the end of World War II, but lingering questions remain about how much was known about the Nazi mass-extermination schemes outside Germany, and what could have been done to prevent them. Political filmmaker Costa-Gavras confronts this thorny issue in this film, adapted from the stage drama The Representative and based in part on actual events. Kurt Gerstein (Ulrich Tukar) is a German chemist whose work on various government health projects led to him being added to the scientific staff of the Nazi SS. While working on disinfection and water purification programs to stem the tide of typhoid among German troops, Gerstein creates a toxic cleanser called Zyclon B. Gerstein soon learns that the SS has found a different use for Zyclon B -- in gas form, it is being used to exterminate Jews and other political undesirables en masse. Gerstein, a man of strong Christian faith, is horrified by this revelation, and he is determined to tell the world in hope of stopping the genocide; however, in Germany, Sweden, and the United States, Gerstein's story falls on deaf ears. One man who does believe Gerstein is Riccardo Fontana (Mathieu Kassovitz), a Jesuit with ties to the Vatican and close contact with Pope Pius XII (Marcel Iures). Fontana urges the Pope to speak out against the ongoing massacre, but the Pope declines, believing Russia is a greater menace to the Catholic Church than the Nazis. In time, desperate to spread the word of the holocaust, Gerstein and Fontana find themselves joining ranks with Roman Jews being rounded up by Nazi forces in occupied Italy. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

  • Release date:January 24, 2003


Awarded by
French Academy of Cinema Armand Amar Best Original Score 2002 Nominee
French Academy of Cinema Patrick Blossier Best Cinematography 2002 Nominee
French Academy of Cinema Pierre Gamet Best Sound 2002 Nominee
French Academy of Cinema Mathieu Kassovitz Best Actor 2002 Nominee
French Academy of Cinema Costa-Gavras Best Screenplay 2002 Winner
French Academy of Cinema Costa-Gavras Best Director 2002 Nominee
French Academy of Cinema Dominique Gaborieau Best Sound 2002 Nominee


Ulrich Tukur
as Kurt Gerstein
Mathieu Kassovitz
as Riccardo Fontana
Ulrich Mühe
as The Doctor
Michel Duchaussoy
as The Cardinal
Ion Caramitru
as Count Fontana
Marcel Iures
as Pope Pius XII
Frederick von Thun
as Gerstein's Father
Hanns Zischler
as Grawitz


Claude Berri
Jean Claude-Grumberg
Rolf Hochhuth
Book Author
Patrick Blossier
Armand Amar
Composer (Music Score)
Laurent Levesque
Musical Arrangement
Yannick Kergoat
Ari Hantke
Production Designer
Maria Miu
Art Director
Roland Pellegrino
Associate Producer
Pierre Grunstein
Associate Producer
Dieter Meyer
Associate Producer
Michele Ray
Executive Producer
Edith Vesperini
Costume Designer
Pierre Gamet
Sound/Sound Designer
Dominique Gaborieau
Sound/Sound Designer
Laurent Levesque
Andrei Boncea
Line Producer