Hitler And Me: Camera – Action!

by Paul Kuttner

In the summer of 1933, when I was 10 years old, and in August 1937, when I was 14, I had two brief encounters with the two top leaders of the Nazi regime, Hitler and Goring.

Through most of the 1920’s until his dismissal by Dr. Goebbels in the fall of 1933, my father, Dr. Paul Kuttner, was the doctor-in-residence at the world-famous Ufa movie studios in Neubabelsberg outside Berlin. I often visited him there as a child during my school vacations and met a few of the stars, like Emil Jannings, Heinz Ruhmann, Conrad Veidt, Hans Albers, Willy Fritsch, Lilian Harvey, etc. One day, in June or July 1933, while I was watching an indoor scene being shot with actress Marianne Hoppe, a thunderous banging of fists on the huge sliding doors outside completely destroyed the shooting of the scene.

Director and performers cursed the person responsible for this calamity since a flashing red light outside each studio building always indicated that a scene was being shot indoors. A stagehand opened the doors and a second later about two dozen of the tallest SS men came storming into the studio, forming a gangway by facing each other and joining their arms in akimbo fashion. Even at this early stage of the Nazi regime the SS was feared by everybody. The angry muttering inside the studio had died down completely as everyone, puzzled and frightened, stared at the blinding sunlit summer scene outside.

Within seconds the mystery of the disturbance was solved. A smiling Adolf Hitler, in a light-colored raincoat, came sauntering into the studio and the movie director rushed forward to welcome him. I was scared out of my wits and looked for my father in order to join him. I saw him standing behind one of the SS bodyguards (Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler) on the other side of the free passage prepared for Hitler. Unthinking and immature, I ducked under the joined arms of two of the SS men and raced across the “corridor” provided by the black-uniformed giants for their Fuhrer.

What I had not bargained for were the innumerable movie-camera cables snaking across the floor. Halfway across the free path made for Hitler, I tripped over one of the cables and fell flat on my face in my Tyrolean leather outfit, about five yards from the Nazi dictator.

Realizing that the movie cameras were focusing on him, he took this golden opportunity to rush forward and help me off the floor. I rose, apologized, and Hitler, conscious of the propaganda value of showing the world how much he liked children, stooped to hug me for a second, asked if I was hurt, gave me a chance to explain that I was okay and only visiting my father, then straightened up himself, patted my cheek and went on his way to meet the movie crew.

This scene, of course, was shown in cinemas throughout Nazi Germany and made my life, thereafter, very much easier for me in the school I attended, Berlin’s Bismarck Gymnasium.