Monday, 19 March 2018

August Benda, high police official

Scene Babylon Berlin S01 E01
August Benda
August Benda is a senior Berlin police official. He is honest and scrupulous. While being Jewish, he plays the organ in a Catholic church: Sankt Antonius. He invites Gereon Rath, a Catholic, recently arrived in the capital, to come to church.

Jews were not numerous in the police. But there was one exception: Bernhard Weiss, head of the Berlin political police in the 1920s. I suppose B.Weiss is the model on which the character of August Benda was created in Babylon Berlin.

Member of the liberal party Deutsche Demokratische Partei (DDP), he played a central role during the political tension in the Weimar Republic and was a staunch supporter of the democratic republic against all kind of extremists. From the beginning, the republic was attacked from both extremes of the political spectrum. Weiss devoted himself to make Kripo (the criminal police) a tool in the service of parliamentary democracy.

Bernhard Weiss - the first unconverted Jew to reach such a high position - did wonders in his new position and climbed quickly in the hierarchy. After leading the political police, he became head of all the police in the capital. He made from the beginning blow a wind of modernity in the fight against crime.

He introduced the latest advances in science, microscope, blood tests, lie detectors, and so on. And, in a few years, he turned the Kripo into an instrument as effective as the well-known British Scotland Yard.

But his role was not limited, by far, to hunt down criminals. Many Germans rejected the new regime, or supported it without conviction. B. Weiss was one of the few senior officers to loyally defend the Republic. And when in 1926, the Nazi party decided to settle in Berlin, he came in conflict with Joseph Goebbels, an anti-Semitic fanatic. Until then, in fact, the movement of Hitler had raged mainly in Bavaria. But the real power of the state was in the capital, where the party has only a few hundred members.

Photo Bernhard Weiss
Bernhard Weiss

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