Monster or human?

For almost 14 days in 2000, Frank Schmokel dominated the headlines: as a murderer and rapist. Can such a man be "converted"? This question was the starting point of the SWR film "For the Life of a Murderer," in which perpetrators and victims have their say.

After Schmokel died on 25. After he had critically injured his own mother and the accompanying caretaker during a day out in October 2000, he fled. A few days later, he killed a sleeping pensioner and stole his car. The police feverishly searched for him, it was feared that the sex offender, who had been sentenced to 14 years in prison for child abuse and attempted murder, would commit further crimes. All of Germany breathed a sigh of relief when Schmokel, on 7. November 2000 was arrested near Bautzen. Since then, he has been housed in the high-security wing of a special clinic. As for most people who grew up in Brandenburg, for Kristof Kannegieber the name Schmokel was synonymous with evil itself. He was surprised to learn in a conversation that the perpetrator had been "converted". This story interested the young filmmaker. He visited the free-church pastor Eberhard Bockmann, who cares for young people, the unemployed and prisoners in Brandenburg, including Frank Schmokel. Bockmann invited Kannegiesser to accompany him on a visit. This is how work began on the film "For the Life of a Murderer," which Kannegiesser shot as part of his studies at the Ludwigshafen Film Academy. SWR television will show the production in the series "Young Documentary" on Monday at 23.00 o'clock. Long telephone conversations The director visited Schmokel several times and had long telephone conversations with him. He tried to get a picture of the man many consider a monster who didn't deserve to live on. He spoke to the people who are still involved with the convict today and made efforts to contact the victims and their relatives. Many have refused to talk. Manfred Schafer finally agreed to go in front of the camera. He was fatally wounded by Schmokel with seven knife wounds and still suffers from the consequences of the violent act today. Schafer is convinced that his tormentor forfeited the right to life long ago. Pastor Bockmann counters that despite all the guilt a person has brought upon himself, no one has the right to judge definitively. The committed Christian believes that there is no such thing as a man who is only bad. Also Helga angel visits Frank, as she calls him, again and again. He thanks the volunteer inmate counselor with small gifts. Hard to imagine that this man is still dangerous to others. No final judgment Kristof Kannegiesser also appeared normal during the visits. It was casual, pleasant conversation with a man who was not very educated but still intelligent, Kannegiesser says. Since the clinic had forbidden any kind of recording, the documentary filmmaker recorded telephone conversations with Schmokel and inserted them as audio documents. This trick was good for the film. On the one hand this avoids that the prisoner can present himself. On the other hand, in these telephone conversations, the filmmaker has succeeded in capturing the other, dark side of the man, who is hard to fathom even for the psychiatric experts. It is hard to bear to hear Schmokel describe how he had his way with a girl and almost strangled her. He speaks without sympathy for the victim, and it sounds as if he is talking about the problems of building a garden shed. Kristof Kannegiesser does not make it easy for the viewer, for he refrains from passing a final judgment on Schmokel. But he stands firmly behind the people who care for him, although they abhor his actions. Kannegiesser: "I know that there must be people who do just that, not only for the perpetrators, but also for the basic values of our society." Note: "For the life of a murderer", film by Kristof Kannegiesser, SWR television, Mo 23.11., 23.00-0.00 o'clock.

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