During WWII SS officer Kurt Gerstein tries to inform Pope Pius XII about Jews being sent to extermination camps. Young Jesuit priest Riccardo Fontana helps him in the difficult mission to inform the world.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Riccardo Fontana
Michel Duchaussoy ...
Count Fontana
Gerstein's Father
Antje Schmidt ...
Mrs. Gerstein
Erich Hallhuber ...
Von Rutta
Burkhard Heyl ...
Bernd Fischerauer ...
Bishop von Galen
Pierre Franckh ...
Pastor Wehr


In World War II, the sanitation engineer and family man Kurt Gerstein is assigned by SS to be the Head of the Institute for Hygiene to purify the water for the German Army in the front. Later, he is invited to participate in termination of plagues in the concentration camps and he develops the lethal gas Zyklon-B. When he witnesses that the SS is killing Jews instead, he decides to denounce the genocide to the Pope to expose to the world and save the Jewish families. The idealist Jesuit priest Riccardo Fontana from an influent Italian family gives his best efforts being the liaison of Gerstein and the leaders of the Vatican. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

ss | priest | pope | jesuit | jew | See All (216) »


Biography | Crime | Drama | War


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Release Date:

27 February 2002 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Eyewitness  »

Box Office


FRF 103,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$998,674 (France) (25 January 2002)


$274,299 (USA) (8 August 2003)

Company Credits

Production Co:

, ,  »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Stefan Lux was a Jewish Czech journalist, who committed suicide in the general assembly room of the League of Nations during its session on July 3, 1936, to alert the world on the perils of German anti-Semitism. After shouting "C'est le dernier coup" ("This is the final blow") he shot himself with a revolver. See more »


In addition to the black SS parade uniforms worn by characters in the film long after their discontinuation in 1939, earlier scenes show these uniforms adorned with the swastika armband of the Hitler Jugend, The Hitler Youth, not the black rimmed armband of the Allgemeine SS and other branches of The SS wearing the black tunics of the 1930s. See more »


[first lines]
Stephan Lux: [interrupting a session of the Assembly of the League of Nations, Geneve, 1936] My name is Stephan Lux. I am Jewish. The Jews are being persecuted in Germany and the world doesn't care.
[He draws a pistol]
Stephan Lux: I see no other way to reach people's hearts.
[He shoots himself]
See more »


Referenced in Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (2010) See more »


The Bishop's Complaint
Arranged and Composed By Laurent Levesque
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User Reviews

Painful, Questioned, Controversial History as Art
31 January 2003 | by (New York, N.Y.) – See all my reviews

"Amen," a film based on the largely accurate account of German SS officer Kurt Gerstein's multiple attempts to alert the Vatican to the ongoing highly efficient mass slaughter of Jews and others - for which he bore no small responsibility as a technician facilitating efficient genocide - is well done with excellent acting. Yet in the end Costa-Gravas's film is somewhat unsatisfying and not sufficiently responsive to the viewer's need to know what Gerstein was all about. Why?

"Amen" begins with the Nazi euthanasia program aimed at murdering retarded and mentally ill Germans. A campaign, spearheaded by both Protestant and Catholic clerics and their flocks, forced the regime to end the killings. Some have argued that this sole widespread public rejection of Nazi homicidal machinations might well have been repeated if Germans were alerted

  • internally or through specific denunciations by the pope and foreign

leaders - of the fate of deported Jews and those rounded up in conquered territories. "Amen's" Kurt Gerstein and his priest friend both believe that would have happened.

That argument is at best questionable and, more likely, reflects the human need for the wish to spawn the thought. Whether one accepts the Goldenhagen thesis of mass complicity by Germans in the Holocaust, the fact remains that when the slaughter began Germany was at war and, as a character in "Amen" notes, defending the Reich and winning the war, to say nothing of staying clear of what would be seen as treasonous ideas, was the only realistic option.

Kurt Gerstein is a mystery. As Hannah Arendt wrote of Eichmann as an example of evil's often banal incarnation, historian Saul Friedlander described Gerstein years ago in terms of the ambiguity of good. Gerstein sincerely and at risk to his life tried to warn the Vatican of the Nazi death camps. But he also worked efficiently to make those camps operationally efficient. "Amen's" Gerstein is tortured but also highly compartmentalized. He gives quick and accurate advice to improve destruction of the "units," as the Jews were referred to, and then tries to prevent use of the Zyklon B gas he helped develop with almost unbelievable declarations that shipments are defective and must be buried.

This film owes its origin not so much to Friedlander's compelling account but to Rolf Hochhuth's controversial (still so after many years) "The Deputy," presented as a play to the outrage of many. Hochhuth portrayed Pope Pius XII as insensitive and unwilling to use his moral authority to challenge an extermination program he knew to be in progress.

In the film Gerstein is aided by a young Jesuit priest whose remarkable moral and physical courage was demonstrated by a few, or perhaps too few, clerics who knew what was happening. The pope is shown as a remote, unemotional figure. The now standard explanations for the Vatican's unwillingness to take on the Nazis are included in catalogue format. Allied unwillingness to bomb the death camps or take in refugee Jews are recited almost for the record. Complex questions still debated are reduced to the equivalent of sound bites. They need no repeating here.

Hochhuth's thesis which outraged many decades ago and which still brings angry denunciations has been partially rehabilitated by scholarly works such as John Cornwell's provocatively titled study, "Hitler's Pope," an exaggeration which belies the serious research and analysis within the book's covers.

Cornwell's pope is personally unpleasant, haughtily autocratic, rabidly fearful of Communism, at least mildly anti-Semitic and certainly emotionally and politically pro-German if not pro-Hitler (he wasn't that). The Pope Pius of "Amen" lacks the depth a more accurate and compelling portrayal would have provided.

The strongest moments in the film are those briefly showing the efficiency of the death camps focusing less on the victims, most of whom aren't shown, but rather on the chillingly competent technicians and logisticians without whose efforts millions could not have been murdered.

Director Costa-Gravas deserves much credit for bringing a difficult to tell complex story to the screen. Ultimately, however, we know less about Kurt Gerstein than we need to and the Vatican, from pope to bureaucrat, is too colorless. Was Gerstein a victim or a collaborator with a schizophrenic sense of morality? Even scholar Friedlander couldn't answer that question. Did the Vicar of Christ shame his church's vision of Jesus by putting political expediency ahead of moral imperative? That is a very alive issue today but "Amen" gives us a largely one-dimensional Supreme Pontiff.

The cast is unknown to American viewers but all act with varying but generally strong ability. Gerstein and the Jesuit priest are especially well portrayed as men of deep conviction.


44 of 62 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Much superior to 'Schindler's List', 'The Pianist'. panchaud
Should be in every Christian's movie library Shannon-32
Best scene? french-ingenue17
some one pls explain the ending to me i got confussed on what happened rileymckenna
Who was the man who kills himself at the start? Labyrint
'The Lives of Others'? davidinberlin
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