You are on page 1of 4

The history of life and death of the Gestapo chief,

Heinrich Mller, still raises a lot of questions. He always


preferred to remain in the shadows. It has been
established that on 28 April 1945 he was present at
Hitler's bunker in Berlin. After that date he disappeared
without trace. Yet years past, German prisoners of war
started returning from the USSR, and more and more
often sensational gossips came to life - they maintained
that the Gestapo chief Heinrich Mller had been seen in
Moscow, in the uniform of a Soviet Colonel. The more
so, he reportedly took part in interrogations, and
meticulously checked the translations for correctness...
Finally, Wiesenthal received a hint that Mller
reportedly had moved to the German Democratic
Republic,
where he met his wife on regular basis.
Meanwhile, to most of the Soviet people the name of Heinrich Mller did not become known
until 1973, when the state television aired a 12-episode serial titled Seventeen Moments of
Spring, directed by a former KGB officer, Tamara Lioznova. The success of the serial was
preceded by similar success of the original novel (which became the basis for its script),
written by Yulian Semenov, also a former intelligence and KGB officer. Interestingly enough,
before the serial was aired in the USSR, it was first aired in the GDR, where it became an
overnight success. But what is really sensational, is the way it portrays one of the main, and
beyond any doubts most bloody, war criminals. The Gestapo chief looks there like a quite
humane, if not a sympathetic, person. Strange enough too, that with the obsessive tendency to
observe a strict historic accuracy, typical to the Soviet cinema, and the serial's characters in
particular, the character of Heinrich Mller demonstrates a number of historical errors.

All the actors playing roles of the historic characters had a striking resemblance to the
persons they played: Nikolai Prokopovich to Heinrich Himmler, Mikhail Zharkovskiy to Ernst
Kaltenbrunner, etc. The role of the unforgettable Schellenberg was given to Oleg Tabakov,
previously known mostly from comedies. For the rather episodic role of Hitler was invited the
German actor Fritz Ditz. The role of Martin Bormann was played by a singer, not an actor,
the late Yuri Vizbor. And a lot of effort was put to recreate the image of the little known SS-
Gruppenfhrer Karl Wolff, eventually played by Vasiliy Lanovoy.

For short, everything was there as it should be in the professional cinema. The only character
that had nothing in common with the original was the Gestapo chief Heinrich Mller in a
brilliant interpretation of Leonid Bronevoy. Moreover, anybody, who had a chance to see a
photograph of the real Mller, could not help experiencing a shock after figuring out whom it
resembled and whom it did not. The historic Mller had a beautiful hair without a trace of
gray colour, while Mller/Bronevoy seems to rub in audience's face his bald head with the
remnants of snow-white hair. Also the Gestapo chief is the only character, who constantly
stresses his old age. In the final scenes of the film he even complains with regret: In 1965 you,
Stirlitz, will be less than 70, and I will be older than 80! In fact Heinrich Mller was born in
1900, so in the beginning of 1945, when the action of the Seventeen Moments is placed, he
was 44. Too early to consider anybody old. Would it be the age of the actor? Not at all.

At the time when the film was shot, Vyacheslav Tikhonov - Max von Stirlitz - was 44. Exactly
as old as the real Mller in 1945. And this is how he is portrayed: a tall, masculine and
handsome man in his prime. And Leonid Bronevoy, also 44 years old, looks like a grumpy old
grandpa, with puffy cheeks and big bags under his eyes, tired of the war, of life and generally
of everything. He does not hesitate to demonstrate his hatred for the top of the Nazi
leadership. He hates Himmler, he abhores the once powerful Gring, he cannot stand
Gbbels, and even about Bormann, the second figure of the Nazi system, he speaks with
contempt (although very carefully). But Hitler is whom he hates most! Hitler is a dickhead.
He has brought Germany to disaster, says Mller in the beginning of his final monologue.
Look, who is talking! Is it an ardent anti-fascist? No, it is Heinrich Mller, who in 1920's and
1930's used to scatter the Nazi scum in the streets and pubs of Munich.

Perhaps it is not by chance that Mller in the Seventeen Moments looks like some dissident
loner, since long bracing for the inevitable Germany's defeat and refusing to compromise with
the top leaders of the Third Reich. The only man in whom he looks for, and seemingly finds an
ally is Stirlitz - an agent of the Soviet intelligence, Colonel Maxim Maximovich Isayev. It is
absolutely impossible that Semenov and Lioznova, who had access to the top secret archives,
could not know how old was one of the key figures of their captivating story, and what he
looked like. Yet to someone it was extremely important to alter the image of this particular
character. There is a saying that if the stars are lit up that means someone needs it. Who
needed to alter the image of the Gestapo chief Heinrich Mller beyond recognition?

And first of all - why?

Before offering you an explanation, I will take the liberty to make yet another volte-face and
quote... Who, do you think? A notorious distorter of the historic truth, the journalist Eugene
Kiselev. In the program devoted to smearing of the 30th anniversary of the Seventeen
Moments he stated with autority: Alas, a spy, who would penetrate the Reich's Chief Security
Office of the fascist Germany so high, didn't exist! On the other hand we know beyond doubts
that the Soviet leadership did know about a Nazis' attempt to open peace talks with the
Americans. It is mentioned in the memoirs of Georgiy Zhukov, Sergei Shtemenko, Ivan
Maisky, Kim Philby, Harold MacMillan and many others. Such an information could be
leaked only from Berlin, and only from its top lite. So, who did it? Kiselev claims that such
an agent did not exist. Schellenberg was convinced that Mller, at least at the end of the war,
was a Soviet agent. If that was so, then the mysterious radio-signals from the Gestapo, as well
as the information about Wolf's mission, were sent not by the fictitious Stirlitz, but his
prototype - Mller. That would explain why Bronevoy does not resemble the real Mller at all,
while Stirlitz/Isayev is, or at least looks like, his exact copy. He is even in the same age. And
he has the same rank.
Radio-transmissions, Berlin, Moscow, Stirlitz, Mller, Isayev, Schellenberg... Are these
matching pieces of a sensational puzzle?

It is hard to say whether we will ever have the answer, whether will ever be declassified any
documents that will shed light on this, in my opinion, quite a logical story. Most likely not.
Legends have it that they live longer than reality. The evil Mller will never replace the
handsome Stirlitz.

Say impossible? Not at all. Why would the intelligence service of any country refuse to
collaborate with the Gestapo chief? For ideology? As a professional and sinister figure,
Mller was admired, and he himself admired his rivals too. For moral reasons? No shit! It
was pure interest. And mutual too. Mller bet on would-be winners, and they in their turn
were acquiring priceless information directly from the Gestapo chief. That simply leaves no
room for ideology. During the Second World War Stalin walked over many an ideological
barriers, just to beat the enemy - why not walk over yet another one and turn an enemy into a
friend? Having recruited Mller as his agent, Stalin immediately subscribed for exclusive and
unique information of strategic importance, and acquired a professional and influential mole
in the enemy country. The more so, a controllable mole, which had a lot of reasons to fear the
outcome of the war. And here comes to mind Mller's revelation from the conversation with
Stirlitz, which Semenov places at the end of March 1945: There is no need to hurry to move to
a little farm with a swimming pool. Many a Fhrer's stooges will do it soon and meet their
fate. But when the Russian canonade roars in the streets of Berlin, and our soldiers fight for
every single house, then will be time to leave without slamming the door. To leave and to take
the secret with us...

Regardless of whether Mller was or was not a Soviet agent, nobody can deny that the real
Heinrich Mller did exactly that. He left. And he took the secret with him.

Leonid Bronevoy as Heinrich Mller was the only On the other hand, Vyacheslav Tikhonov
character that had nothing common with his real displayed striking resemblance to the real
prototype.
Mller in the role of the fictitious Stirlitz.
LEONID BRONEVOY: I PLAYED MLLER IN THE SEVENTEEN MOMENTS OF
SPRING
Igor Tufeld
Leonid Bronevoy as Heinrich Mller (left) was the only character that had nothing
common with his real prototype. On the other hand, Vyacheslav Tikhonov (right)
displayed striking resemblance to the real Mller in the role of the fictitious Stirlitz.
Excerpt from Leonid Bronevoy's interview on the 30th anniversary of the Seventeen Moments of Spring.
Ogonyok magazine. Moscow, 16 March 1998

Tatyana Lioznova, the chief director of that film, completely surprised me when she suggested I could try the role of
Mller. But actually a regular rehearsal was never staged. The deadlines were very tough. (...)

I was never shown an archive portrait of my character. I still have no clue what he looked like. Amidst the fuss of the
shootings, rehearsals, costume fittings and travels, it simply did not come to my mind to ask anybody: find and show
me a photograph of the real Mller.

I played my role by the script, as it was in the screen-play, purely intuitively. I never heard before that my character,
Heinrich Mller, resembled Vyacheslav Tikhonov's Stirlitz. To me that's news. I just read the screen-play written by
Yulian Semenov, and that was the end of my work with the documentary material, because nobody introduced us into
the archive materials, and I don't even know how much I or anybody of my colleagues outwardly matched the image
of their characters.

Yulian Semenov himself showed up several times at the film-studios, but he practically did not socialize with us, the
actors. As a rule, he limited his contacts to several gray-clad men from the KGB, who were constantly present at the
studios.

Our team was already ready for shooting, but Lioznova till the last moment hesitated to confirm my assignment to the
role of Mller. They even suggested I would play Hitler. But then they found a good German actor Fritz Ditz. According
to Lioznova, Mller should have been outwardly stiffer, not as charming as, she said, I was. There were more than
enough volunteers to play the role of Heinrich Mller. And they all were quite famous actors. And suddenly there I
came. An actor like me, not quite famous, had to play one of the key roles. Originally I even wanted to give up. But
after all, what does it matter? The audience has been watching the film since long, and perceiving its characters the
way they see them in this film.

In general, I am not disappointed with my performance in the Seventeen Moments. And I am glad that even today
people watch it with interest, and they know Heinrich Mller the way I have played him.

Heinrich Himmler (left) got berserk when Mller was not Martin Bormann (left) did not show resemblance to any
admitted to the Nazi party. Nikolai Prokopovich (right) Soviet actor, so eventually a singer, Yuri Vizbor (right),
displayed a striking resemblance to Himmler. was taken to play his role.

Walter Schellenberg (left) was the youngest and the


Karl Wolf (left) was a little known figure of the Second
brightest German General. Since long he suspected that
World War, so it cost a lot of effort to match his image with
Mller was a Soviet spy. His role was played by Oleg
Vasiliy Lanovoy (right)
Tabakov (right).