A film by Valentin Thurn, length: 30 minutes
Premiere broadcast: WDR TV, Sunday, 13 Sept. 2009, 4:25 p.m. (“tag 7”)
Rerun: Saturday, 19 Sept. 2009, 9:30 a.m.
On the 30th of August, 2001, Rudolf Schmenger decided: “My loyalty to the Constitution outweighs my loyalty to my boss.”
Until then he had been an efficient tax investigator and had received a number of commendations from his employer, the Frankfurt Tax Office. His work on its behalf leads him to a major bank. While investigating he turns up evidence of tax evasion in which millions are being smuggled to accounts abroad. Without offering the slightest reason his employer enjoins him from pursuing these ‘cases’ any further. Presumably a politically motivated directive from the Hessian State Ministry of Finance. Why? Because investigations at banks would have a negative impact on this German state as a prime location for business and commerce.
“When it comes to tax evasion, it just can’t be that we hook the little ones and let the big ones go,” says Rudolf Schmenger. But, in the end, the Ministry of Finance closes down his department.
Rudolf Schmenger fights back – until the department chiefs eventually come up with a way to get rid of him: by commissioning an expert opinion. A psychiatrist attests that Rudolf Schmenger displays a bent towards ‘troublemaking’ and prescribes that he be declared ‘unfit for service for life’.
Against his will he is sent into early retirement in his early 40s. Meanwhile the Hessian Medical Council has accused the psychiatrist of having written a made-to-order expert opinion tailored to accommodate the interests of the state government. As Rudolf Schmenger battles to defend his reputation he has gathered more civil servants around him, people who, like him, want to do what their conscience tells them is right.
We use an investigative feature to re-open the “Schmenger Case” and ask: What enables this person to place his ethical principles above his personal career, despite hefty resistance?
Video (ca. 10 min)
Screenplay and Director: Valentin Thurn
Scene Re-enactments: Caroline Nokel
Camera: Frank Kranstedt, Roland Breitschuh
Sound: Sven Lentzen, Thorsten Czart
Editor: Manuel Herold
Costume Designer: Miriam Dadel
Cast: Frank Riede, Harald Heilig, Gabriele Kau, Nicolay Weller, Sascha Keller
Make-up: Kerstin Jahn
Scenery: Eric Fischell
Location Manager: Katja Matthias
Executive Producer: Angelika Wagner
A production of Schnittstelle and THURN FILM
commissioned by WDR