The following correction was printed in the Guardian’s Corrections and clarifications column, Monday 15 March 2010
Claus von Stauffenberg was shot for his failed attempt to assassinate Hitler and remove the Nazi party from power in 1944, not hanged as we say below.
Germany’s state broadcaster is locked in a row with the Church of Scientology which wants to block an upcoming feature film that depicts the controversial organisation as totalitarian and unethical
Bis Nichts Mehr Bleibt, or Until Nothing Remains, dramatises the account of a German family torn apart by its associations with Scientology. A young married couple joins the organisation but as the wife gets sucked ever more deeply into the group, her husband, who has donated much of his money to it, decides to leave. In the process he loses contact with his young daughter who, like his wife, is being educated by Scientology instructors.
Scientology leaders have accused Germany’s primary public TV network, ARD, of creating in top secret a piece of propaganda that sets out to undermine the group, and have demanded to see it before it is broadcast.
The 90-minute film reflects an unease in Germany about the organisation, which boasts several thousand members across the country and has its headquarters in central Berlin. The church is considered anti-constitutional by its critics.
Tension reached its peak during the making of Valkyrie, the 2008 film about the plot to assassinate Hitler, when opponents said Scientology leaders had engineered the placing of Tom Cruise, its most prominent member, in the role as Nazi resistance fighter Claus von Stauffenberg, in order to win German supporters. The organisation dismissed the claim.
The filming of Valkyrie sparked numerous clashes between the filmmakers and the government, which initially prevented them from filming on several historical sites, including the Bendler Block where Stauffenberg was hanged, due in part to Cruise’s association with Scientology. The ban was eventually lifted.
According to the makers of Until Nothing Remains, the €2.5m (£2.3 m) drama, which is due to air in a prime-time slot at the end of March, is based on the true story of Heiner von Rönns, who left Scientology and suffered the subsequent break-up of his family.
Scientology officials have said the film is false and intolerant. At a preview screening in Hamburg members distributed flyers in which the filmmakers were accused of seeking to “create a mood of intolerance and discrimination against a religious community”.
Jürg Stettler, a spokesman for Scientology in Germany said: “The truth is precisely the opposite of that which the ARD is showing.” The organisation is investigating legal means to prevent the programme from being broadcast.
Stettler said the organisation was planning its own film to “spread our own side of the story”.
ARD’s programme director Volker Herres has dismissed the accusations, saying the aim of the drama is to reveal the truth about the organisation.
“We’re not dealing here with a religion, rather with an organisation that has completely different motives,” he said. “Scientology is about power, business, and building up a network. Its lessons are pure science fiction, it’s no religion, no church, no sect.”
The film team said it had been “bombarded” with phone calls and emails from the organisation during production. The head of the Southwest German broadcasting organisation, Carl Bergengruen who was involved in the project, said Scientology had “tried via various means to discover details about the film” and that the film crew was even tailed by a Scientology representative.
“We are fearful that the organisation will try to use all legal means to try to stop the film being shown,” he said.
Thanks to JT Hundley for the link.