Sunday, December 02, 2018

Jan Winter: Dieters bok. Flykting hos familjen Bergman / [Dieter's Book. A Refugee in the Bergman Family] (a book)

Jan Winter: Dieters bok. Flykting hos familjen Bergman / [Dieter's Book. A Refugee in the Bergman Family]. ISBN 978-91-633-0174-2. Hard cover. Illustrated. 289 p. Uppsala: Förlaget Tongång, 2018.

Jan Winter (born 1950) is the son of Dieter Winter who was born in 1921 in Berlin-Lichterfelde and died in 2010 in Bålberga, Borensberg, Sweden. Dieter's mother Elisabeth, née Goldstein, was Jewish.

In 1939 Erik and Karin Bergman invited Dieter Winter to live in their home at Storgatan / Jungfrugatan where he stayed for almost seven years. Erik Bergman was the vicar of the Hedvig Eleonora congregation in the Östermalm district of Stockholm. There he also provided Dieter Winter with employment, securing all conditions of Dieter's permit to stay in Sweden.

Dieter's father, Captain Erwin Müller-Winter, died in Berlin on 9 September 1939 when Dieter was already at the Bergman family. Erik Bergman arranged a private memorial service for his father at the Hedvig Eleonora church, complete with the death knell.

Erik and Karin became quasi foster parents to Dieter although they also rescued Dieter's mother Elisabeth Müller-Winter to Stockholm. The German official in charge of Elisabeth was SS-Obersturmführer Adolf Eichmann. Erik and Karin helped Jewish and Norwegian refugees also in general.

Dieter's story proves that Ingmar Bergman's account of his family having been Nazi-oriented was not only a fabrication. It was in fact a defamation.

Jan Winter also confirms that Ingmar's self-accusation of having been a Nazi sympathizer is another fabrication, a masochistic invention. There was but one Nazi in the family: the eldest son, Dag Bergman.

Most aggravatingly, Jan Winter writes that in March 1941 Karin Lannby, with whom Ingmar Bergman lived at the time, informed on Dieter Winter to the Swedish military information service claiming that Dieter was in Sweden on false premises. The purpose of Lannby's report was to have Dieter Winter classified as an illegal alien. Had the report been taken seriously it would have meant his deportation back to Germany.

On 6 September 1939 there was a clash at the Bergman home, and Ingmar moved out. In contrast to the habitual version Jan Winter reports that the clash was not between Ingmar and father Erik but with mother Karin. Dieter Winter had been living in the same room with Ingmar. There Dieter now remained alone except when Ingmar returned time and again.

In an interesting chapter Jan Winter discusses Dieter Winter and Ingmar Bergman studying a set of Die Dreigroschenoper records together in February 1941. Dieter helped Ingmar make sense of the lyrics. Ingmar may have seen the Riksteatern production of Die Dreigroschenoper in Stockholm in 1938. When Ingmar directed the play himself in 1950 he wrote in the handbill that he remembered having heard "Seeräuberjenny" for the first time in the summer of 1933. Anyway, Ingmar infected Dieter with a Bertolt Brecht bug.

Ingmar's accounts of his stay as an exchange student in Nazi Germany are full of discrepancies. To Jörn Donner and Peter Cowie he told he had fallen in love with a Jewish girl called Renata; in Laterna magica she is called Clara/Clärchen; for Mikael Timm he is Rebecka. Ingmar claimed that he was in Germany in 1934 when in fact he was there in 1936. He claimed to have met the girl at a prosperous Jewish banker's family where they listened to forbidden Die Dreigroschenoper records, but such a family situation would have been impossible in 1934 or 1936.

In Ingmar Bergman's memoirs Dieter Winter is absent. He does not exist. The Winter family interpretation is that it was a case of jealousy; jealousy for Karin Bergman's affection.

Undoubtedly Ingmar had a guilty conscience for something bad that happened during the Third Reich. He claimed to have left "Rebecka's" letters unanswered. But perhaps in 1941 he wanted to denounce Dieter Winter one month after having listened to Die Dreigroschenoper records with him.

At its most gripping Jan Winter's book is in the account of daily Jewish existence in the Third Reich, such as Elisabeth's humiliations during her husband's hospital stay and funeral in Berlin in 1939.

There is a honest, consistent and transparent current of contempt towards Ingmar Bergman in this book. The reader has to struggle to separate and redeem the wealth of valuable insights from common Swedish anti-Bergmanianism.

A lasting contribution of this book to Bergman studies is that we can here perhaps discover the source for his "cinema of bad conscience" in films such as Törst, Sånt händer inte här, Tystnaden and Skammen.

Certainly the model for Ingmar Bergman's authoritarian and anti-semitic tyrant figures, from Caligula (Hets, 1944) to Bishop Vergérus (Fanny and Alexander, 1982) was not Erik Bergman.

PS. 16 Oct 2020. In Esa Saarinen's book Jörn Donner (1987), Donner tells about his friendship with Dieter Winter. Donner did not believe a word about Bergman's Nazi fabrications. Donner comments that in bourgeois Sweden it was extremely unusual to give shelter to a Jewish refugee. But the Erik Bergman family did so.


En annan historia...

Behövs det verkligen ännu en bok om Ingmar Bergman? Är vi inte ganska mätta på Bergmanböcker, Bergmanpoddar, Bergmanveckor, Bergmanseminarier?

Kultursverige tycks i alla fall ha en omätlig hunger på allt som rör Bergman detta jubileumsår. För den stora allmänheten är det möjligen mera tveksamt.

Så bra då att det finns alternativ.

Dieters bok av Jan Winter handlar bara delvis om konstnären, desto mer om hans familj. 

Boken är en dokumentärroman om den halvjudiske tyske flyktingen Dieter Müller-Winters liv hos Bergmans 1939-1945. Parallellt skymtar historien om prästsonen som blev vår främste film- och teaterkonstnär, just under de år när Bergman faktiskt blev Bergman.

På de här sidorna berättas om varför boken behövde skrivas. Och om det som teater- och litteraturkritikern Leif Zern en gång skrev:

Dagens Nyheter

Leif Zern:

"Ingmar Bergman äger inte sanningen, inte ens den om sig själv, och varje gång vi talar om honom borde vi tala om Dieter Winter."

Idé & Kritik sid. 5

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