The Berlin International Film Festival has suspended a prize named after its founding director after a German newspaper reported he was a senior figure in the Nazis’ movie-making bureaucracy.

Alfred Bauer led the Berlinale from 1951 to 1976, building the festival into a major draw for then-West Berlin. It is now one of the major European film festivals.

After he died in 1986, the festival inaugurated an Alfred Bauer Prize, which has been awarded to “a feature film that opens up new perspectives in the field of cinematic art”.

It is one of several Silver Bear awards, including for best actor and director, that have been bestowed alongside the main prize, the Golden Bear.

The weekly Die Zeit reported that research indicated Bauer held a senior post in a film directorate set up in 1942 by Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels.

The festival reacted swiftly with a statement which said the report “cast new light” on Bauer’s role in Nazi film politics, and it was not previously aware of him having had an important position during the Nazi era.

It said that, in view of the new findings, it was suspending the Alfred Bauer Prize with immediate effect.

“We welcome the research and its publication in Die Zeit and will seize the opportunity to begin a deeper research on the festival history with the support of external experts,” it said.

The directors of the Berlinale film festival, Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian
The directors of the Berlinale film festival, Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian (Britta Pedersen/dpa/AP)

Germany’s culture minister backed festival directors’ handling of the case.

“If these findings that are new to us all are substantiated, it is obvious that the name Alfred Bauer will no longer be used this way in connection with the Berlinale,” Monika Gruetters told news agency dpa on Friday. “Then there will no longer be a prize named after Alfred Bauer in the future.”

This year’s Berlinale, the festival’s 70th edition, runs from February 20 to March 1.