Stealing the Fire

Directed by Eric Nadler and John Friedman

95 minutes / Color
Release: 2015
Copyright: 2001

In 1996, the German nuclear engineer Karl-Heinz Schaab was accused of selling secret information to Iraq. With this data, which had been stolen by Schaab, about the nuclear centrifuge, Saddam Hussein obtained an indispensable link in the process of the production of nuclear arms. But was Schaab a shrewd traitor or a simple pawn in a much more extensive network?

In STEALING THE FIRE, famous film and TV programme makers John S. Friedman (HOTEL TERMINUS: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF KLAUS BARBIE) and Eric Nadler (Frontline) travel across half the world in search of the origin of the centrifuge scandal. Via Brazil, where Schaab sought temporary asylum and made shady deals with the government, the filmmakers arrive in Germany, where they make a shocking discovery: not only did German (and other European) companies conclude lucrative deals with Iraqi purchasers for years—knowing full well that by doing so they supported the Iraqi nuclear programme—but the roots of these firms, like those of the crucial centrifuge, lie in Nazi Germany. Friedman and Nadler also follow the trial against Schaab, who makes a strikingly naive impression. Without this money-eager engineer, the documentary demonstrates, Saddam's nuclear heads would have been made anyway. (—IDFA)

"Takes on the exotic coloration of a postwar espionage thriller."The New York Times

"Conveys the price of war."PopMatters

"What is fascinating about Stealing the Fire is the picture it paints of international arms deals, which are brokered with surprising ease, and with the complicity of elected officials."Film Journal International

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Select Accolades

  • International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA)
  • Human RIghts Watch Film Festival


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