CBS-TV 60 Minutes 10 July 94
Produced by John Tiffen
Transcript of: NASTY GIRL
MORLEY SAFER: The face looks innocent enough, a chubby 34-year old mother of two little girls, hard-working, determined. And yet she is hated so much, she's known in her hometown, a small town in Germany, as 'the nasty girl,'
And all because as a teen-ager, she began research for a school essay about what her town was like during the second World War. She, like other young people in town, had no memory of the war but believed what older people told her, that the place had been a center of resistance to the Nazis.
That fitted in perfectly with her own strict [Roman] Catholic upbringing, that in bad times good people resist.
Then, as we first reported last January, she started asking questions.
SAFER: Did you have any suspicions about what you might discover?
Ms. ANNA ROSSMUS (Did Research on Passau): No, not at all. No idea what I could find, no idea what happened. (Footage of Passau a cathedral; citizens)
SAFER: (Voiceover) She is Anna Rossmus and she lives in Passau, a picture postcard of a town of 50,000 on the banks of the Danube. Passau is strictly [Roman] Catholic.
Its great cathedral is part of the heart and soul of every Passauer. Its values are old and homespun. Its food and drink and culture as German as good beer and old-fashioned Oom-pah-pah. Gemutlichkeit is the word for it: coziness. But for more than a decade now, Passauers are not so cozy, and all because of the girl with the nasty questions.
Ms. ROSSMUS: Several of them used even the word 'shut up,Õ and 'don't ask any more questions about this time. Don't you think you ask nasty questions?'
(Footage of Passau during Nazi occupation; the archives)
SAFER: (Voiceover) The questions were all about World War II:
" What did you do in the war, Passau ? "
The answers were in vivid black and white in the archives.
Back then, Passau took great pride in its Nazi connection.
Anna's history odyssey began 13 years ago when she entered a national high school essay competition and chose as her subject My Hometown During the Third Reich. Her belief that Passau had resisted was dashed when she found in the archive an old newspaper, one that had been edited by a family friend.
Ms. ROSSMUS: I couldn't believe it. There was not at all anything about resistance. There were anti-Semitic articles, there were hatred-filled articles, anti-democratic articles.
(Footage of a paper with a picture of Adolph Hitler in it; Rossmus talking on the telephone; photographs of town citizens)
Ms. ROSSMUS: (Voiceover) And he requested all the [Roman] Catholics:
"Let's pray for Adolf Hitler, our leader."
The more she looked, the more she asked, the more she found:
[Roman Catholic] Priests who were active Nazis;
virtually every prominent family members of the [Nazi] party long before it came to power.
And the more she found, the more the town turned on her.
"Why dig up rubbish from the past ? " people asked.
Ms. ROSSMUS: But what I found was just awful. The [Roman Catholic] bishop himself told me, "We haven't had Jews in town, no. Passau was such a small town we've never seen Jews." (Footage of a photograph of a woman)
SAFER: (Voiceover) But she traced a Jewish woman in New York who knew the bishop very well.
Ms. ROSSMUS: This bishop, Antonius Hoffman, was sitting at the same school bank as she did for years and years in Passau.
SAFER: In the--in the same classroom
Ms. ROSSMUS: In the same classroom, beside her. These both were sitting together for years. (Footage of photographs of Jews and buildings)
SAFER: (Voiceover) The woman's family was forced out, as were most of the 400 other Jews of Passau. And all of their property, much of which is now a fashionable shopping mall, was confiscated and Aryanized.
(Footage of a sketch of a man)
Ms. ROSSMUS: The mayor of Passau picked out several of them personally and brought them to the train station and told them,
"Now you have to leave forever."
(Footage of Rossmus winning the essay contest; three books on Passau)
SAFER: (Voiceover) Her school essay won a prize. It was followed by a book, then two more books. And to Passau's dismay, in 1989, a movie called Nasty Girl was made, portraying Rossmus' efforts and the town's anger and faulty memory. It became an international hit.
(Excerpt from Nasty Girl )
Unidentified Woman #1: (English subtitles)
"You want my consent to rake up the old muck and lies about my husband?"
Unidentified Woman #2: (English subtitles) "I want facts, not lies."
Unidentified Man: (English subtitles)
"There's intimate information about other people here too."
(End of excerpt from movie)
SAFER: (Voiceover) The movie also dealt with the obstruction she faced when she sought particular files from the local archives.
Ms. ROSSMUS: At first I had to sue them to get access, then they told me they lost it. It happened over and over again. 'Oh, Miss Rossmus,' the archivist told me, 'no, no, this file we found it. We found it recently.' And when I asked, 'Well, may I see it now? - 'Well, we made it at a certain place for you. I don't know for the moment where the place is. We've put them aside for you.'
(Footage of a [Roman Catholic] church archive; Herbert Wurstal)
SAFER: (Voiceover) The archive of the Passau archdiocese contains much more than church records. There were the details of daily life in town, about prominent citizens and their activities. Dr. Herbert Wurstal runs the archive. He was the man Anna had to deal with.
Dr. HERBERT WURSTAL (Runs The Church Archive): She tries to paint this image of typical Passau bestiality, and that's just not true.
That is not fair to the people of this town. They have to be considered according to that what was usual in Germany and then you can say, 'OK, the Passau people were worse or not worse than the average.'
Ms. ROSSMUS: I -- I have to reject such a statement because one hand, there happened so many crime. And wherever crimes have happened, I think we have to go for the perpetrators and we have to find out what happened with the victims.
(Footage of a list; photographs; a monument and wall)
SAFER: (Voiceover) She found out about some of the victims.
She found out that no one in Passau wanted to talk about them or about the eight concentration camps in the area; three in town, five in the countryside. And what shocked her most was what she found out about a memorial to the victims put up by survivors after the war; a little plot hidden by trees with a wall containing six tablets bearing the names of 250 Jews who perished. Today there are no names.
Ms. ROSSMUS: An official reason was never given. They said just--at first,
'There has never been any inscriptions.'
(Footage of Rossmus looking at a photograph in a projector)
SAFER: (Voiceover) She went to Israel and found photographs of the memorial's dedication. Under enlargement, it's just possible to read the names of the dead.
Ms. ROSSMUS: I asked back, 'What happened?' The official answer was,
'Well, it must have been the bad weather; all the snow and all the rain in Bavaria who washed them out.'
Then I asked back to the ministry.
'Sorry, these names haven't been washed off by the snow.
These names have been engraved.'
Then there was the official answer,
'Well, once upon a time, in '57, that's true.
We--we gave the order to cut them out.'
(Footage of a cemetery)
SAFER: (Voiceover) With particular bitterness, she took me on a stroll through Passau's cemetery, grand and beautifully maintained tombstones, a roll of honor of the worthy men of Passau who practically to a man were supporters of Hitler as early as the 1920s.
Are there, as you call them, perpetrators among these names?
Ms. ROSSMUS: Of course there are bad guys amongst them. Kommerzienrat Franz Stockbauer is one of the first financiers of Adolf Hitler in his movement in the region.
(Footage of photographs of men with Stockbauer close up)
Ms ROSSMUS: (Voiceover) A very wealthy man who supported him a lot.
You find Pfaffinger.
He used hundreds of concentration camp inmates for slave labor.
And wherever you look, you find such people and I think it's so ashaming. On one hand, you take away even the names of -- of the real victims; on the other hand, you remember publicly people who shouldn't be - - who shouldn't be recalled as -- as the good guys of Passau.
SAFER: Men--men of honor.
Ms. ROSSMUS: Men of honor, no.
(Footage of a memorial)
SAFER: (Voiceover) And a few steps further along, a place of special honor to the victims of the war. Buried here, believe it or not, are the bodies of 500 members of Hitler's SS, including the notorious General Erich Hassenstein.
Ms. ROSSMUS: He was responsible for the massacres during the last few hours of World War II on about 2,000 Russian prisoners of war - - defenseless people.
(Footage of a photograph)
Ms. ROSSMUS: This grave is blessed by the [Roman Catholic] church, and he -- he's declared to be a victim. I think that's incredible.
(Excerpt from Nasty Girl;
Rossmus' wedding picture; letters and postcards;
a [Roman Catholic] nun attacking a camera;
a German newspaper headline; photographs of slave laborers)
SAFER: (Voiceover) The curiosity has brought her nothing but grief.
The movie gave some idea of how the town reacted to her snooping. In real life, her husband left her. There have been death threats and obscene phone calls. She says she can't let her two daughters go to a playground alone. When a Dutch television crew set up their cameras to film her, they were attacked by a group of furious [Roman Catholic] nuns.
And still she continues to dig into the town's past. Lately she's been looking at the lives of slave laborers brought to the region from Poland and the Ukraine to work in farms and factories.
She found documents and eyewitnesses who told her that when the women farmworkers became pregnant and gave birth, the babies were poisoned.
Where -- where did they live when they were alive?
Where were the children --
where were the children, the babies?
(Rossmus - talks to a man in German)
SAFER: The big white house?
Ms. ROSSMUS: Yeah, yeah, yeah. (Footage of a big, white building)
Ms. ROSSMUS: They had to be killed because they would have been useless consumers of food -- as I was told very clear -- useless consumers of food from whom the Germans wouldn't have any profit.
(Footage of a house; a photograph of Franz Clarentz; records)
SAFER: (Voiceover) She upset a neighboring community when she dug into the past of a loved and respected doctor, Franz Clarentz. She said that Dr. Clarentz performed forced abortions on 220 slave labor women; some without anesthetic, some on women eight months pregnant, with [Roman Catholic] nuns assisting him.
Mr.WURSTAL: There were cases in the beginning.
SAFER: In which [Roman Catholic] nuns were involved in abortion?
But the point is, as soon as the leading man of Passau church knew of this affair, he took his measures and prevented any further participation.
(Footage of Mrs. Clarentz and her daughter)
SAFER: (Voiceover) Dr. Clarentz's wife and daughter say Anna distorted the events.
Ms.CLARENTZ (Daughter of Franz Clarentz): Nobody denied the abortions he had done, the 220 abortions, which were absolutely legal at that time. He did abortions, but in the most correct medical way.
(Footage of a document)
SAFER: (Voiceover) Abortion was illegal in Germany, but a special law was passed for foreign women only.
Ms.CLARENTZ: And for all Poland and Russian and Ukrainian women, abortion was nothing -- was nothing unusual because they were used to it. They went to the --to-- to get an abortion like we go to the dentist.
SAFER: These slave laborers...
SAFER: ...............these women...
SAFER: ...............had no rights at all, correct? They had no rights. They were -- they were slave laborers.
Ms.CLARENTZ: Yes, they were slave labor.
SAFER: A pregnant slave laborer is not a good worker.
Ms.CLARENTZ: Is not a good--but--well, you might be right, but Mrs. Rossmus always puts it out like this, as our father had forced the woman. Our father didn't force a woman. He didn't put them over the table and, you know, without anesthetic and -- and took the baby away. It's....
Mrs.CLARENTZ (Wife of Franz Clarentz): And my husband was very good to these women.
SAFER: He was good to them'?
Mrs. CLARENTZ: My husband very good.
(Footage of a photograph of Dr Clarentz; newspaper with The Nasty Girl advertisement and Rossmus' photograph)
SAFER: (Voiceover) At the end of the war, Dr. Clarentz was arrested by American troops for war crimes, but was released after 22 months and went back to practice medicine until he died. But Rossmus will not let him or anyone else rest.
Dr. WURSTAL: This town is trying, but she just isn't giving us a chance. The town administration has accepted her proposal to invite a - - former Passau Jews into this town. The town did it. So who's talking about that? The town published a book on a former Jewish painter from Passau, edited by Frau Rossmus. Who cares about that? People are trying. What else could we do?
SAFER: Well, what's interesting -- I mean, what you're saying is that all of the initiatives that you describe wouldn't have happened without her. Every one of the initiatives was because of this one schoolgirl.
Dr. WURSTAL: Yes, she certainly has a part in -- in her initiatives. That is true.
(Footage of Rossmus; Passau; of Nazis)
SAFER: (Voiceover) What makes the nasty girl so nasty here is not that she digs into Germany's past -- Germans are used to that -- it's that she digs into Passau's past.
She discovered no major monsters, no Eichmanns or Mengeles; just the little men who committed the little murders and the minor-league massacres that were part of everyday life in this romantic Danube [Roman Catholic] town 50-odd years ago.
And the town hates for her doing it, for rubbing their noses in it.
Rossmus discovered something else, something that many had discovered before her: That evil can have a very ordinary face.
SAFER: Anna Rossmus stood her ground for almost 14 years, but now she's leaving, moving with her family to Washington, DC.
*END QUOTE* (CBS-TV "Sixty Minutes")