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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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The Man Who Crossed Hitler – interview with producer Susan Horth

Ed Stoppard and Ian Hart

Towering figures of history are rarely cross-examined. By the time they've reached the peak of their power they're untouchable. Before they've achieved success, few choose to interrogate their ambitions.

But sometimes, true events take place which are so unexpected, so extraordinary and so controversial, their outcome might even have been buried for generations. That's the case with Hans Litten and Adolf Hitler.

As dramatists and historians, we found the chance to tell this rare and almost completely forgotten true story, about the man who literally put the Fuhrer in the dock, at a time when Hitler was still in the process of "becoming Hitler". It was also fraught with creative risk. No-one takes on Hitler without trepidation.

Like Littten himself, if we were to make this infamous character account for his political beliefs, our most valuable weapon would be preparation.

Scouring the archives in Berlin to trace any remaining official records of the trial, we discovered a lot of these records were destroyed either by the Nazis during the Thirties, or by the armies of the Second World War. But we did manage to find some interesting information about how the trial was conducted, and newspapers from the time offered contemporary journalists' transcriptions of the key exchanges between Litten and Hitler.

We traced surviving members of Litten’s family to find out about his personality and his background and we interviewed Max and Margot Furst's daughter (the baby girl in the drama) about her memories of Hans – "the big man in the glasses" – and their life together in Weimar Berlin.

It was essential that our treatment of Hitler was not prejudiced by too much retrospective hindsight, so we researched a lot of contemporary accounts, illustrating how Hitler appeared to people just before he gained power – and basing our treatment of him on original intelligence assessments and profiles of the Twenties and Thirties.

The script was then written with all of this original research in mind. Some exchanges in the courtroom are verbatim, but most of the drama is Mark's imaginative and richly informed recreation of these remarkable true events.

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