Ich klage an

Ich klage year (in French:Am I a criminalorAm I a murderer 1 ; literally “I accuse”) is aGerman filmdirected byWolfgang Liebeneiner, releasedin 1941.

It is a Nazi propaganda film in favor of euthanasia . It is presented to an informed public.


Hanna Heyt is a woman full of life. When her husband, Professor Thomas Heyt, calls her on the phone and tells her that he got a position as an institute director in Munich, she prepares a party with her friends and colleagues. But she falls inexplicably on the stairs of the house. When she plays the piano for the guests, she feels a cramp in her hand and can no longer play. But the numbness does not disappear the next morning, her husband sends her to Dr. Lang, an old friend of the couple. After examinations, he is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis . He reveals his suspicions to Thomas, who, collapsed, asks a specialist. The latter explains to him that the disease is incurable and advises not to tell Hanna to always be optimistic and does not lose the faith in a healing. Now, after his work, the teacher stays hours in his laboratory to discover the pathogen of the disease and the means to cure it.

But Hanna’s disease is progressing. She realizes that after her paralysis, she can less and less move her arms and legs. She then asks Dr. Lang, when she is very ill, to “deliver” her. She wants her husband to be happy one day when she will die at the end, that he will have put herself in her place and that she “was only a burden.” Dr. Lang replied that his request was unethical. She later announces her request to her husband who tries to convince her of a quick cure.

The disease rapidly aggravates his state of health. An advance in the professor’s research proves unsuccessful. While Hanna suffers from respiratory paralysis, she asks her husband to help her now. He steals bottles from Dr. Lang and administers to his wife a fatal overdose. The doctor is beside himself, he accuses Heyt of assassination and breaks their friendship. His brother-in-law, Eduard Stretter, publicly denounced him.

In the criminal proceedings for murder, before the assizes, the testimonies show the “delivery” of the wife and that this is an almost humanitarian act. These testimonies are in majority the opinions of the witnesses, if they hold specific incidents for possible, they have no relation with the facts that they knew. The jurors are discussing during a one-hour break in the proceedings, due to Dr. Lang’s announcement of a controversial fall in the consultation room, the presiding judge of the jury is asking for the stay of the trial, Is more simple in the way it was presented. There is no evidence of a formal request for assisted suicide by the person who was about to die to the accused.

Dr. Lang, who initially had no charge, appeared before the court. With the confrontation with a child with mental disorders, he was led to change his way of thinking. He tried by all means to keep a child affected by meningitis alive . His parents Marie and Herbert Günther asked him why he did not let him die, because now he is blind and paralyzed as a result of treatment, suffering from mental disorders and vegetation in an institution. He confesses once again the request of Hanna Heyt.

Dr. Heyt now breaks his silence in court and makes a brief plea to defend himself. He wants a judgment that will make the clarity for himself and the other cases to come.

Data sheet

  • Title: Ich klage an
  • French Titles: Am I an Assassin? Or Am I a criminal?
  • Director: Wolfgang Liebeneiner assisted by Peter Pewas  (de) and Hilde Vissering
  • Screenplay: Eberhard Frowein  (de) , Harald Bratt  (de) , Hermann Schwenninger  (de)
  • Music: Norbert Schultze
  • Art Direction: Fritz Lück  (de) , Fritz Maurischat
  • Photo: Friedl Behn-Grund
  • Sound: Hans Grimm  (from) , Hermann Storr
  • Editing: Walter von Bonhorst  (de)
  • Production: Heinrich Jonen  (de)
  • Production Companies: Tobis-Tonbild-Syndikat  (de)
  • Distribution company: Tobis-Tonbild-Syndikat
  • Country of origin: Germany
  • Language: German
  • Format: Black and White – 1.37: 1 – Mono – 35 mm
  • Genre: Drama , Propaganda
  • Duration: 125 minutes
  • Release dates
    •  Germany :.
    •  Denmark :.
    •  France :.
    •  Sweden :.
    •  Finland :.


  • Paul Hartmann : Professor Dr. Thomas Heyt
  • Heidemarie Hatheyer : Hanna Heyt
  • Mathias Wieman : Dr. Bernhard Lang
  • Margarete Haagen : Berta Link
  • Charlotte Thiele  (de) : Dr. Barbara Burckhardt
  • Christian Kayßler  (de) : Judge Kriebelmeyer
  • Harald Paulsen  (de) : Eduard Stretter
  • Albert Florath : Prof. Schlüter
  • Ilse Fürstenberg  (de) : Marie Günther
  • Karin Evans  (de) : Erna Balg
  • Hans Nielsen : Dr. Höfer
  • Franz Schafheitlin : The lawyer Straten
  • Erich Ponto : Prof. Werther
  • Otto Graf : Attorney Engel
  • Leopold von Ledebur : The magistrate Knevels
  • Hansi Arnstaedt  (de) : Ms Klapper
  • Just Scheu : Dr. Scheu
  • Paul Rehkopf : The Judicial Officer
  • Karl Haubenreißer  (de) : Schönbrunn


Some sequences of the film are inspired by the epistolary novel Sendung und Gewissen (“Mission and Belief”) by Hellmuth Unger . The book appeared in 1936 and was reissued in a new version in 1941. The title of the film is inspired by a sentence of this second edition. The novel has no direct action, so its adaptation totally rethinks it. Viktor Brack , who is appointed by the Führer Chancellery of the Aktion T4 , asks Hermann Schwenninger to do so. Schwenninger first wants to make a documentary on euthanasia . The scenario project contains the scene in court, in which the assistant to suicide appears as a hero.

Wolfgang Liebeneiner rejects this first project. He participates in the working group which writes the scenario of a drama, to alleviate the polemic of euthanasia 2 . The new project is titled Drei Menschen – Ein Film um das Gesetz des Herzens (“Three Men – A Film on the Law of the Heart”) and refers to a right to euthanasia whose debate is stifled by protests by Religious communities. The project brings the important element of a relationship to three, between a woman and two men, and brings the doctor husband to face death. This project is also rewritten. Later, Liebeneiner denies having justified the euthanasia towards the mentally ill but admits taken into account the case of an “unworthy life”. The film resumes this relationship to three, the trial and adds the story of parents who want the death of their child severely disabled.

The theme of the film is death on demand. It is now considered a propaganda film for Nazi euthanasia, voluntary or not, and also a plea for assistance to suicide. Death on demand is ethically different from active euthanasia. It is different for German law from manslaughter or murder.

The importance of the film is the question of an “unworthy life”. Euthanasia appears as a euphemism, in front of the Aktion T4 which ends in the genocide. Heyt’s claim for “hundreds of thousands of hopeless sick” leads to this sense.

The original version of the film – also known as the “ministerial version” by the Reich Ministry of Education and Propaganda, which gives it the labels “künstlerisch besonders wertvoll” and “volksbildend” – was completed in early May 1941 and under heavy censorship cuts in July and then in August 1941 due to the pastoral letter of the German bishops and the proclamation of Clemens August Graf von Galen 3 .

The censorship concerns criticism of the religious reserve and well proselytized scenes. It does not touch the symbols of Nazism. An euthanasia experiment on an animal is not shown directly.

There are three different versions of the film: a the Federal Archives , one Deutsches Filminstitut  (de) in Frankfurt am Main and the Potsdam Film Museum 4 .

Notes and references

  1. ↑ http://www.encyclocine.com/index.html?menu=72608&film=5505  [ archive ]
  2. ↑ Karl Heinz Roth: “Ich klage an” – Aus der Entstehungsgeschichte eines Propaganda-Films. In: Götz Aly : Aktion T4. 2., erw. Aufl., Berlin 1989, ISBN 3-926175-66-4 , S. 96.
  3. ↑ Christian Kuchler: Bischöflicher Protest gegen Nationalsozialistische “Euthanasia” -Propaganda im Kino: “Ich klage year.” In: Historisches Jahrbuch der Görresgesellschaft. Nr. 126, 2006, ( ISSN  0018-2621 ) , S. 269-294.
  4. ↑ Karl Heinz Roth: “Ich klage an” , S. 116, Anm. 15.
  • ( Of ) This article is partially or entirely from the article in German entitled ” Ich klage year (1941) ” ( see the list of authors ) .