Author quits Hitler TV drama after row over historical accuracy

A NEW TV series about the life of Hitler has been criticised by an award winning historian who left the drama because of a dispute over historical accuracy.

Sir Ian Kershaw’s biography Hitler: 1889 - 1936: Hubris was to have formed the basis of the series which charts the rise and fall of the German dictator with Robert Carlyle in the lead role.

The US network CBS, which is funding the series, suggested Sir Ian’s biography was too dry to air on prime time TV.

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Last week, the author gave no detail on why he left the production but said: "I took the decision some months ago. I have not fallen out with the production company but have had no dealings with them since I withdrew."

The rights for Sir Ian’s book were bought by production company Alliance Atlantis, which admitted the author had left because it wanted to adapt the work for film by making it more dramatic.

It also took the view that film is a different medium to historical research and to follow the book exactly it would need to be a 30 hour documentary series.

Peter Sussman, chief executive of Alliance Atlantis, said: "We realised that while Ian is a fantastic individual and very knowledgeable, he is not the only expert in the world."

Producers at Alliance Atlantis say they have now completed their own extensive research, including many books, periodicals, documentaries, archival information and journalistic or historical accounts, as well as the involvement of some of the most respected historians and educators on the subject.

The president of CBS, Leslie Moonves, said the film was no longer based on Hubris because the book was an academic piece and was "quite dry and needed more incidents".

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But last year Ed Gernon, the co-producer of the 14 million series, said that CBS was committed to producing an historically accurate rather than sensationalist portrait of Hitler.

He said: "We wanted to make sure we had the most unimpeachable material and it took a lot of convincing to let an American network use his book to make this."

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Jewish groups in the United States feared Hitler would be portrayed in a heroic role which could arouse sympathy for the dictator, and Sir Ian’s involvement quelled their concerns.

A spokesman for the Jewish Union, a political activist group based in the US, said: "Obviously we feel that any portrayal of Hitler that is historically inaccurate and is going to water down the terrible and horrific effect he had on the Jewish people as deleterious." Filming is under way in Prague with a supporting cast of Peter O’Toole, who plays Paul Von Hindenburg, a German field marshal who later served as German president from 1925 to 1934.

The West Wing star Stockard Channing will play Klara, Hitler’s mother, and Matthew Modine portrays Fritz Gerlich, a German journalist who tried to expose the truth about Hitler and was murdered.

The four hour series, called Hitler: The Rise of Evil, is expected to be aired in the US in May and Sir Ian has asked for his name to be removed from the credits.

Hubris was shortlisted for the 1998 Whitbread biography award and the first Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction. His sequel, Nemesis, was the first winner of the British Academy book prize.

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