In Heaven Underground, a documentary film by Britta Wauer


Britta Wauer is an award winning Berlin based filmmaker with a number of noteworthy documentaries to her credit. These include her 2008 feature documentary Gerda’s Silence  about the life and times of Holocaust survivor Gerda Schrage; the 2005 TV documentary Berlin: A Square, a Murder and a Famous Communist, about Berlin’s famous theater Die Volksbuehne; her collaboration with Sissi Huetlin titled The Rapoports – Our Three Lives, about the German Jewish émigré family who went to live in East Germany after being prosecuted during the McCarthy era in the US; and her 2001 debut documentary A Hero’s Death, in which she reveals the truth around East Germany’s national hero Egon Schulz, a border controller who, instead of being killed in action, actually died from friendly fire.

In all her documentaries, Wauer meticulously retraces the past with carefully researched archival footage and returns it to the present to embed it into a contemporary context. Her masterful technique is evident throughout her latest work, In Heaven Underground (Im Himmel unter der Erde, 2011), a portrait about the Weissensee Cemetery, the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe. Srangely enough, even though it is located in Berlin, it was never destroyed, confiscated, or expropriated during the Third Reich.

Craftily, Wauer weaves together historical facts with personal stories alongside the day-to-day activities to present the cemetery as a green oasis which serves as a refuge for wildlife, a historical research ground as well as for what is was meant to be: a place to remember the departed. With cameraman Kasper Koepke contributing beautiful images, the Weissensee Cemetery is featured at different seasons, different times of day, in gorgeous establishing shots, as well as intimate close ups.

The result is a multifaceted kaleidoscope of narratives and impressions about a historically rich, yet little-known Jewish cemetery.

One memorable scene is a short interview with a police officer patrolling the cemetery who remarks: 
“There are more than 150,000 dead people here, and they are fairly harmless—so it’s pretty peaceful here.”

In Heaven Underground premiered at this year’s Berlinale and received the Panorama Audience Award. The documentray will have its North American premiere at the upcoming Hot Docs Documentary Film Festival in Toronto, Canada and will be theatrically released in Germany later this year. 

For further information on In Heaven Underground, please visit:


About Author

Tanja Meding

Tanja Meding :Since moving to New York from Germany in 2003, Tanja Meding has worked as a producer for Maysles Films and other independent production companies. Amongst others, she produced SALLY GROSS-THE PLEASURE OF STILLNESS by Albert Maysles and Kristen Nutile which aired on WNET/Thirteen and Channel 25 and is now available on DVD from Since 2007, Tanja has been producing short films by Rosane Chamecki, Andrea Lerner and Phil Harder: JACKIE & JUDY premiered at DANCE ON CAMERA at LINCOLN CENTER was awarded with a PEARL at the POOL 2010 Festival in Berlin. Upcoming this September is a video installation of two new shorts: BOXING and THE COLLECTION at NY's newly opened New York Live Arts building in Chelsea. In addition, Tanja is the co-producer of Gabriella Bier's LOVE DURING WARTIME, a documentary about an Israeli dancer and her Palestinian husband. The film had its US premiere at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival and is distributed in the US through 7th Art Releasing. Furthermore, she is the US co-producer of Pascale Obolo's documentary CALYPSO ROSE, LIONESS OF THE JUNGLE. Currently in development with Claudia Brazzale is RETRACING STEPS, a portrait documentary about a group of international dancers and choreographers and their lives 20 years after they first met in NYC.

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