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A film by Niko von Glasow
Screenplay Andrew Emerson · Kiki von Glasow
Niko von Glasow
Director Niko von Glasow
Editor Mechthild Barth · Mathias Dombrink
Camera Ania Dabrowska · Andreas Köhler
Sound & Sound Design Claas Berger
Photography Ania Dabrowska · Niko von Glasow
Executive Producer Ewa Borowski
Facilities Henrike Müller
Make up Nancy Friedrich · Claudia Reiter
Assistant to the Director Stephen Kennedy
Production Niko von Glasow · Anne-Sophie Quancard
Production Assistants Jens Kaulen · Julian Kazmierczak
Film Administration Jürgen Brock Mildenberger
Photographic Studio Fotostudio StempellSchulz
Digital Image Editing Jenny Cremer
Mixing Falk Möller
Reproduction CinePostproduction – Geyer Köln
Editorial Staff, WDR Jutta Krug · Katja De Bock
Many thanks to Jola Dylewska · Rafal Wroblewski
Kurt Steinhausen · Daniela Pukropski
Sybille Hofter · Tielmann Hahn
Dennis Todorovic · Andrea Gärtner
The book of the film is published by Elisabeth Sandmann Verlag
Supported by Filmstiftung NRW und DFFF
A co-production Palladio Film / WDR MMVIII
Niko von Glasow
Mandel von Glasow
D 2008, 84 Min., Colour, 35mm & digital. 1:1,85, Dolby-Stereo
“I’m a filmmaker who has short arms due to the effects of the drug Thalidomide. The
first thing people react to when they meet me is how I look. Even if they don’t say any-
thing, they either stare or look away. They show that they’re uncomfortable around me.
I can hardly blame them; I’m very uncomfortable about it myself. All my life I’ve tried
not to think about my disability, tried to ignore the truth. Many disabled people find it
hard to deal with the disgusted, confused or pitying stares they receive when they’re
out in public.
Society needs to get used to the way we look, and stop seeing us as beings from another
planet. Of course we look different, but it is possible to see beyond that. I’ve found a way
to help make that happen.”
Director Niko von Glasow, whose short arms identify him as
follows Niko von Glasow as he looks for
a grown-up “child of Thalidomide”, looks for eleven other
eleven people who, like him, were born disabled due to the
people affected by Thalidomide to join him in posing naked
disastrous side-effects of Thalidomide, and who are prepared
for a book of photographs. With humour and a surprising
to pose for a book of photos. And to pose naked – to allow
lightness of touch, NoBody’s Perfect
is a portrait of twelve
those who regularly throw furtive glances at Thalidomiders
extraordinary characters, from childhood to today. These are
and other physically disabled people, to take a good, long
people who have got used to furtive glances from passers-by,
look. In the process Niko discovers many fascinating char-
but now they have to stand completely unprotected in front
acters who work in such diverse areas as politics, the media,
of a camera, and look at their own bodies in a new light.
sport, astrophysics and acting. Characters who have learnedto live with their disability to an impressive level of “nor-mality”.
With a darkly humorous touch, and no deference to political
correctness, NoBody’s Perfect
explores the specific problems
which these twelve extraordinary people have faced during
childhood, adolescence and adulthood, and shows them re-
acting with curiosity, enthusiasm or (like Niko himself) hor-
ror towards the photography project. The final results of the
photoshoot – in itself a frightening ordeal – give the models
entirely new perspectives on themselves. A public exhibition
of large-scale prints of the photos provokes surprising reac-
tions from passers-by.
Niko tries to confront the company responsible for Thalido-mide – Chemie Grünenthal
– and its owners the Wirtz fam-ily, with his photos. These attempts are not met with anyresponse at all. Half a century after the Thalidomide scandal,one of Germany’s most affluent families is still able to closeits eyes to the images in front of them …
Childhood and Thalidomide
A Crazy Project
During my childhood my parents did everything they could
What has possessed me – a balding, big-bellied German
to banish the dark side of my disability from our lives. Within
Thalidomide man – to want to become a nude photographic
the family it wasn’t an issue – there I was normal. And I went
to a wonderful, tolerant, anti-authoritarian school, wheremost pupils had short arms or legs, and our few non-disabled
I look like a pink, tubby, bespectacled penguin, and because
classmates were the “different” ones. So my life in Germany,
of my little arms I can’t even bring myself to take my shirt off
at home and at school, protected me from having to confront
on the beach. And yet I’ve persuaded myself and eleven other
first-time models, who share my disability, to strip naked andpose for me.
When I was 10 we went on holiday to Italy, where my par-ents were no longer able to predict and prevent other peo-
The idea was to take a series of honest, beautiful photo-
ple’s reactions to my short arms. Children pointed, stared
graphs which I could exhibit, and put into a film and a book.
and asked questions. A few were spiteful, most were just cu-
So I had to find my unwitting victims and use my non-exis-
rious. It didn’t matter which they were; their interest showed
tent charm to persuade them to take part in this crazy proj-
me I was different, and I didn’t like it at all.
ect. And I had to find the courage to expose myself, look atmyself, and accept the truth that NoBody’s Perfect.
Even today it’s mostly children who remark on my appear-ance, and often children of liberal upper-middle-class par-
Up till the point in my life where the film starts, I’d been
ents. Perhaps they’re just not brought up to respect the
happy to avoid confronting my disability and body image. I
privacy of others – their Mummies and Daddies are proud of
hadn’t addressed disability in my filmmaking, and I’d been
their Little Darlings’ curiosity, delighted that they show an
determined not to think of myself as different from every-
interest in everything, and that they’re so self-confident in
one around me. So what if I can’t do press-ups, tie my
their dealings with adults. It doesn’t occur to them to teach
shoelaces or carry pianos up flights of stairs? The missionary
their children that sometimes it’s better to keep one’s
position isn’t the only way to make love. I could get through
life just fine without these things.
I have a daughter and a son, and having my own children
But a fact I couldn’t deny is that when people see me, the
has allowed me to see that their interest in my disability is en-
first thing they respond to is the way I look. Even if they
tirely natural. They’ve asked me questions and I’ve explained
don’t say anything, they react. Some stare, but most look
everything. Nowadays they forget that I’m disabled, as long
away politely, determined not to show they’ve noticed, or
as I forget about it too. The issue arises maybe once a day,
hide their embarrassment by violently scratching imaginary
when their old dad gets an itch in some embarrassing place
itches on their noses. And I could hardly blame them. I’ve al-
which he can’t scratch discreetly. Otherwise they see me as
ways been deeply uncomfortable about it myself. At least my
a complete, unique person. Of course they know I have flaws,
younger days of cape-wearing self-consciousness are far be-
but these don’t have anything to do with my short arms. I’m
hind me now, and I and my short arms are a familiar sight
their father, and our love for each other is unconditional.
on the film festival circuit and on the streets near my home.
But I know many disabled people who are reluctant or un-able to go out in public, for fear of the disgusted, confused,amused or pitying stares they’ll encounter. And these are thepeople I want to turn into nude models!
Many years ago, I had the idea of taking a series of beautiful
The Search for Models
nude photos of disabled people. My psychiatrist advised meonly to do it if I was prepared to strip for the camera myself.
I started my search among my former classmates from my
This horrified me into dropping the idea, and it might have
school for disabled children in Cologne. I was amazed that
stayed dropped forever except that the German TV company
only two turned me down. Everyone seemed to understand
WDR invited me to make a personal, original and funny doc-
the importance of the project from a personal perspective,
umentary about people affected by Thalidomide. I was far
and as an aesthetic and political statement. My years of film-
from enthusiastic. I’m a serious (by which I mean grumpy,
making must have made me good at persuading others to do
temperamental and unpredictable) filmmaker who values his
brave and foolhardy things for no money – within a week I
privacy and does his best to forget his disability. Why should
had all my models. I met them, got to know them, and tried
I want to make a film about Thalidomide, and how the hell
to help them over their uncertainty and nervousness. And I
encouraged each model to choose a person, animal or objectto accompany them in their photos.
But the invitation must have come at a point in my life whereI was realising I couldn’t – or shouldn’t – keep denying my
This is a story told in pictures. The pictures in the exhibi-
disability and distancing myself from those who share it. If
tion, and on the cinema screen, portray people who’ve suc-
I want people to stop staring, maybe I have to let them get it
ceeded in a hostile world. Living proof that beauty can lie in
out of their systems and give them something to stare at. And
imperfection. These pictures speak of strength, integrity and
force myself to do some good hard staring too.
dignity, which often contrast with the harsh reality of thelives, struggles, doubts and fears behind the images.
It wasn’t just a question of taking the photos. I had to ex-
I show each of my models as an individual hero, and bring
hibit them, and record the reactions of the art world and the
them together into a group which, at the end of the film,
general public, as well as of the models themselves. Then I
presents a strong, triumphant and unified statement to the
wanted to produce a book of the photos – but would anyone
world. The film and its images should provoke exploration of
buy it? Anyway, first things first – I needed my models.
the notion that nobody is perfect, and that by looking withhonesty at our own imperfections and idiosyncrasies we get
Thalidomide was sold in almost every country of the world.
to know ourselves better, and allow room for spiritual
At least 10,000 babies were affected worldwide, of whom
4000 died before reaching their first birthdays. The drugwas made by a German company, Chemie Grünenthal, andaround 5000 German Thalidomide babies were born – I’mone of the surviving 2,800. As Germany and the UK weretwo of the highest-affected countries, and as I live and workin both, these are the places where I based the project.
First, there’s STEFAN FRICKE
, who as a child
is in the middle of a di-
he thought he was a lion. Instead, he grew up to be an as-
vorce. She smokes and drinks too much, but inside she’s a
trophysicist. We visit the planetarium together and talk
true lady. Her pose has a sculptural elegance as she holds a
about time and space. Stefan has very short arms and legs,
wine glass thoughtfully between the toes of her left foot.
and is almost spherical; his appearance and mine make ourdiscussion with some of our fellow models about the conceptof beauty especially unusual. Stefan’s Vietnamese wife left
is an intellectual, a Conter-
him, leaving only some origami birds behind. Of all the
gan activist whom I find rather stiff at first, but he has all the
Thalidomiders I’ve met so far, he seems to be most accepting
facts and figures of the Contergan scandal at his fingertips.
of, and at peace with, his situation. Sitting serenely among
He says that Grünenthal’s head chemist started his career
the paper birds, he comes across to me like a little ball-
experimenting on Jews in the concentration camp at Krakow.
After sharing a few beers, Andreas and I become very closeand together we plan to found an underground Conterganterrorist movement. The morning after, heads pounding, it
is a lesbian tango dance in- doesn’t look like we’ll do this after all – or will we….?
structor who lives in Berlin and paints in oils. This would be
a peculiar enough CV for any woman, let alone one with very
short arms. Sigrid is very active in the field of women’s
was a social worker, and was unem-
rights, especially for disabled women.
ployed for many years. She dreams of being an actress, andof flying. In the build-up to her shoot, worrying about her ap-pearance, she comments that gravity has taken its toll on all
is a British actor and writer who of us now that we’re middle-aged. So for her photo, I ask her
toured the UK with his show “Thalidomide!! – a musical”.
to jump, so I can show her in mid-flight, defying gravity.
Some of my models are uncertain, reluctant – Mat can’t waitto thrust his genitals and his political views at me. He chal-lenges and bickers with me constantly, and makes no secretof giving himself a helping hand right before his shoot sothat everything looks as big as possible for the camera.
is a gardener, a man of na- Then came FRED DOVE
, a broadcaster and pre-
ture, with a face like an ancient oak tree. Shy and reserved,
senter on the BBC World Service and one of the loveliest
he hides behind a rose bush for his photo.
, from Belfast, has been a profes- PETRA UTTENWEI LER,
sional singer, author, and Mayor of her district council. She
veiled herself secretively for her photo. Her great charm and
staged a hunger strike, which won higher compensation for
talent for flirting left me almost speechless. Just as well I’ve
British victims of Thalidomide – three to four times as much
been happily married for twenty eight years!
as her German counterparts. She brings a photo of her sonto keep her company in her session – he’s a soldier inAfghanistan. She’s one of six sisters, and they’ve never seen
And now it’s my turn: NIKO VON GLASOW
each other topless, let alone naked. Despite her personal and
My prop is indeed something very dear to me – my lively,
political strength, posing naked for me is an intimidating
cheeky son Mandel. He has no interest at all in my little
arms; he’s far more amused by being asked to pose alongsidehis naked father. Like a happy little Oedipus, he points andlaughs at my willy, and makes the ordeal a whole lot more
World-class dressage rider BIANCA VOGEL
bearable than it would otherwise have been.
exactly what her prop will be – her beloved 800 kilo horse,Roquefort. I can’t say no to this beautiful, intelligent lady,
When the photo shoots were finished I invited everyone to a
but how the hell are we going to squeeze the huge beast into
big party, a short-limbed Last Supper, where we relaxed, ex-
the studio? In the end I had to compromise the searing hon-
changed stories and got happily drunk together.
esty of the photos and resort to digital trickery.
Has the experience changed me at all? When it was over, Iwent with Mandel to Dover Beach, where I took off my T-shirt and we ran into the sea. In the past, I would have beenbothered by people gawping at my short arms – now, I wasonly worried about the chilly English drizzle which fell ontothe waves, and onto my skin.
A Conversation with the director Niko von Glasow
Overcoming fear is always a great triumph.
How did you get into filmmaking?
I always wanted to make films. When I was five I used to
make my cuddly toys fight each other so I could photograph
I live in London with my wife Kiki, who is a writer and film-
the action. I made loads of Super-8 films. Straight after
maker, and our children Juli and Mandel, who are 12 and 10.
school I worked with Fassbinder, and spent ten years as an as-
We have two cats and two guinea pigs.
sistant to several directors including Alexander Kluge andPeter Zadek. Then I studied film at New York University and
at the Film School in Łódˇz. Poland. That’s where I made my
I spend half my time in Cologne, where I come from. Ever
since school I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Germany.
I’m always happy to go back there, and happy to leave.
To what extent has your disability influenced your life?
In many respects it has, of course. Positively too. For exam-
ple, I’ve been with my wife Kiki for 28 years. This fidelity
It probably has something to do with my disability. In proper
and this strong relationship are thanks to my short arms, be-
world cities like London or New York, I don’t get stared at so
cause women don’t come onto me so much, and I can’t just
leap into bed with some woman every time I’m at a party. So
My family background plays a part too, because my Jewish fa-
ther always wanted to emigrate. He didn’t achieve this. SoI’ve become a sort of half-emigrant. But I love Cologne. Eng-
When did you become aware that you were disabled?
land is both far enough away, and close enough. And of
As a child, I was barely aware of it. That only really happened
course, I dream of making English-language films. But it’s
when I hit puberty, when at first I didn’t get on with girls as
probably just that I like travelling.
well as the other boys did. In the end, I always had very nice,very pretty girlfriends. It was always difficult at parties, where
Did you also want to get away from the pressure of your fam-
I was forced to recognise that I was different. But that only
ily, who are very well known in Cologne?
lasted a couple of hours each time. I don’t feel disabled all
There’s the Jewish-melancholy side of my father, ErnstBrücher. His sister is Hildegard Hamm-Brücher. She became
What effect does your disability have on your wife?
a politician and he became a publisher. Hildegard Hamm-
I think it’s normal for her. She probably has more problems
Brücher is a wonderful woman; she’s not just my aunt and
with my personality than with my physical disability. If she
godmother, she’s my friend too. My father was the publisher
pitied me, we would have separated a long time ago.
of DuMont Art Books, which was one of the best publishing
Love and pity don’t go together, because pity requires dom-
houses in its field during the 60s and 70s. And on my
inance – you only pity those who are worse off than your-
mother’s side is the creative-capitalist strand of the family.
self. In an equal partnership, you can’t pity each other.
One of my great-grandfathers was Franz von Lenbach, acount and artist from Munich. And my mother comes from
When and how did your children first realise that you were
the newspaper and book publishing dynasty, Neven DuMont.
There are also a couple of nice diplomats, among others.
When they were three or four they noticed it, wondered what
That’s a lot of family. As individuals they’re all interesting
it was, and became slightly physically distant from me. I
and likeable, but as a clan they can be a bit much.
spoke to them, explained everything, and their discomfortquickly disappeared.
Sometimes it amazes me how my son quite naturally holdsmy hand when we’re out walking. He wants to hold my hand.
It draws attention to us, but he does it anyway because helikes it and it’s completely normal.
Did you go to a special school?
I went to a school for disabled children in Cologne. It wasthe 60s, and it was a very anti-authoritarian school. Like“Summer Hill for Disabled People”. Our teachers wereyoung, and treated us with an incredible amount of love.
A Conversation with the director Niko von Glasow
There were a few non-disabled children too, and you really
didn’t notice that you were disabled because everyone looked
I wanted to overcome my greatest fear, the fear of acknowl-
edging my disability. And to present to people a funny, in-
Nowadays, when I’m out and about and I look around, I feel
teresting film, to demonstrate my theory that if you spend a
that, in comparison to the “normal” people around me, I
longer period of time – like the 90 minutes of the film – with
disabled people, you get used to them, see them as quite nor-
If you look closely, most people look odd.
mal, even become friends with the concept of “disability”.
The joy, the humour, the love for life which this film shows
Thanks to your family, didn’t you have a rather privileged
I didn’t have a “Thalidomide childhood” at all, because I
You feel the same about the photos?
grew up relatively isolated, in a wonderful big garden sur-
Yes. The film is the story of a Thalidomide film director who
rounded by nice people. So I never had to confront reality.
exposes himself in order to persuade other people affected byThalidomide to expose themselves for a series of nude pho-
When strangers meet, they usually greet each other by shaking
tos. It’s the story of this journey.
hands. How do people greet you?
I notice straight away if people shy away. Then I shy away
too, and two shy people stand looking at each other. We both
The photo of Kim Morton is hanging in the National Por-
notice it and get even more uncomfortable. The discomfort
trait Gallery in London. There are lots of exhibitions in pub-
is very pronounced with children and young people. Inci-
lic spaces in Germany – in Cologne, Berlin, Frankfurt and
dentally, women just shake my hand, much more matter-of-
other cities. We want them to be hung in museums and gal-
factly than men. If I can tell that someone is simply unsure
leries, and we want to show them to as many people as pos-
what to do, I remove that uncertainty by making a joke, or
patting them on the back. You can hide your uncertainty bypatting me on the back or taking a bow. But the uncertainty
is there and you have to deal with it. You can’t pretend it
The book has the same title as the film, Nobody’s Perfect
isn’t there – that’s pointless.
and it’s being published by Sandmann Verlag. The 12 mod-els write about their lives, so you can see the photos and read
our stories from our perspectives. I think it’s a very moving,
There are some who are lucky, who’ve found a partner and
enjoy a very good sex life. But for many it doesn’t happen, be-cause it’s so hard to overcome the physical timidity. If we ap-
In the 60s, Thalidomide children were a part of everyday life.
pear intelligent and happy, we can find partners. But if
Now they’ve grown up into disabled adults. How are they
depression and malcontent set in, it will always be very dif-
They’re doing as differently as you would expect from 2,800different people. Even though I myself am disabled due to
How did you come to make this film?
Thalidomide, it was only through working on this film that
The TV company WDR approached me to make it. At first I
I fully realised that everyone is different. Even the difference
didn’t want to do it at all, but my wife said: “Niko, it’s time
between having no arms, 10-cm-long or 40-cm-long arms can
you confronted this subject.” So I made the film.
change everything. But the most crucial difference is howyou deal with these disabilities spiritually, as well as how eachperson is shaped by their individual childhood experiences.
If your parents raised you with love and honesty, you’re prob-ably better able to cope than if you were shoved into a hos-pital or just given away.
A Conversation with the director Niko von Glasow
What dealings did your family have with Grünenthal, the com-
What differentiates you from many other disabled people is
that we can name the cause of your disability. The company,
Kurt Neven DuMont, my grandfather and former publisher
of the Koelner Stadtanzeiger newspaper, very quickly took a
Worldwide, roughly 10,000 children were born disabled be-
vehement stand against Grünenthal
and supported the needs
cause of Thalidomide, and around half of them survived.
of the victims of Thalidomide. He spoke out with great
Roughly 5,000 were born in Germany, and around 2,800
strength against the company. He cared about the fate of all
survived. We don’t have any more accurate figures than that
Thalidomide children, not just about my fate.
refuse to publish them.Grünenthal
belongs to the Wirtz family. This company and its
We still talk about Thalidomide children, even though they’re
proprietors caused our disability. They are not only respon-
now approaching the age of 50. We don’t talk much about the
sible for our disabilities, but also for the deaths of countless
children. They have tried by all possible means to evade this
You could say that Thalidomide children looked very funny.
responsibility. After the settlement of the trial in the 70s,
As children we were living “demonstration models” of dis-
they paid 100 million DM into a trust – tax-deductible of
ability. Now the situation has changed, and only those of us
course, so the state reimbursed half of it.
who have become top sportsmen and women, singers like
The 100 million DM ran out in 1987. Now we get a pension
Thomas Quasthoff, or directors like me, are presented as
from the German state which was recently doubled, from a
“demonstration models”. But many, many of us are unem-
maximum of € 545 to a maximum of € 1090. But with €
ployed and will never find work. The fear of employing dis-
1090 you can’t, for example, cover the costs of care. You have
abled people is too widespread, and everyone – including me
to imagine what it’s like to wake up in the morning and be
– is afraid of contact with disabled people. Everyone thinks
unable to get out of bed by yourself, because you have no
that getting involved with disabled people makes life more
legs. Even if you just want to scratch your own backside, you
need help. Most Thalidomiders need care, and care is very ex-pensive.
That reminds me of the scene in the film where a black boymakes fun of disabled people.
The same is true for all physically disabled people.
Most children leave us in peace, especially if they’ve been
Yes, but the difference in our case is that specific people are
well brought up. But there are two types of children who are
responsible for causing our disability.
particularly annoying: Firstly, the children of liberal,
I have great sympathy for other disabled people, but in our
“muesli”-type parents, who are so proud of the interest their
case, someone caused it. Basic morality states that, if you
kids take in everything. These parents send their children
hurt someone, you must be held responsible and make
over to us: “Ask him what’s wrong with him”. I find that ig-
norant. You shouldn’t do it, even children know that. But
Since the TV film was shown, Grünenthal
“muesli-children” have no boundaries. And then there are
to pay a further 50 million, half of which is of course once
under-privileged children, who often get stared at them-
again tax-deductible. A ridiculous amount: if we enjoy only
selves, who’ve had no real upbringing, and who also have no
the average German life-expectancy and reach the age of 81,
boundaries. These children will point and say: “Look, he’s
that means I’ll live another 35 years which works out as €
got short arms”. And that just hurts.
1.50 a day. That wouldn’t buy me an ice cream.
A sincere apology from the Wirtz family would be very help-
Do you feel differently in the company of people like you, than
ful. The new head of the company, Sebastian Wirtz, is in his
when you’re with non-disabled people?
mid-30s, so he was born into his situation. And in fact, he
Until now I used to discreetly cross the street if I saw another
himself is very much a victim of Thalidomide, because the
Thalidomider approaching. I was scared of them, because
issue will pursue him throughout his life, as it will the rest
they were a reflection of myself: “Oh God, that’s what I look
of his family. I can imagine them taking on Thalidomide vic-
like too”. I’m not scared of disabled people, and I have many
tims as shareholders in the company. It would cost them a
disabled friends. But I’ve always avoided Thalidomide vic-
lot, but it would gain them so much publicity and cause such
tims. It’s only through making the film that I’ve become
a sensation for them and their company, that their problems
would be alleviated and this awful shadow would be liftedfrom the family.
A Conversation with the director Niko von Glasow
Victims of Thalidomide as shareholders in Grünenthal?
Do Thalidomide victims only have defects to their limbs and
They make billions upon billions of profit. Why don’t they
extremities, or are there other defects?
just give us some of it? Even a member of the Wirtz family
It’s not just the recognisable external defects. All other or-
can only sleep in one bed and eat from one plate.
gans can be affected: ears, eyes, heart, liver, everything. Theonly organ which isn’t affected is the brain. Well, indirectly
Have you suggested this to Grünenthal?
People treat us kindly, but day by day we are ostracized or
They’re scared of us. They’re really frightened of coming in
hidden. Society has always hidden disabled people away, be-
contact with us. During all the attention surrounding the
cause people don’t like to deal with cripples. But it’s not just
Adolf Winkelmann film (“Thalidomide – One Single Pill”)
society that hides us – many of us hide ourselves away be-
Sebastian Wirtz met some Thalidomide victims. But it was-
cause it’s simply too stressful to keep confronting this hos-
n’t a genuine, committed meeting, it was a pure PR exercise
tility. It’s a subtle kind of hostility which isn’t limited to any
which completely backfired. The tokenistic offer of 50 mil-
particular section of society, but which appears across the
lion can only be a tiny plaster, where a huge bandage is re-
board as a fear of contact with disability.
quired. They don’t really want to help the people affected by
Thalidomide. One fact remains. The huge suffering of
This is another reason why so many victims of Thalidomide
Thalidomide will persist, even after we’re all dead, and I just
are so spiritually damaged that they no longer want to live.
hope that industry and politicians draw conclusions from
The suicide rate among Thalidomiders is much higher than
what has happened. The laws are already better than they
the state average. Depression is a significant collateral dam-
were. But I also hope that my children don’t inherit this suf-
age caused by society’s hostility.
fering. That’s another reason why it’s so important for me
Of course there are other Thalidomiders who are doing very
to talk honestly with my children, and with the public at
well, because they make good money as, for example, lawyers.
large, about my disability and my life.
But those are exceptions.
Life as a disabled person is simply more expensive than a
We’ve just heard that Mäurer & Wirtz have obtained a tem-
porary injunction against the Thalidomide victims who havecalled for a boycott of their luxury products. What is your po-
What are your next plans and projects?
sition regarding the call for a boycott?
Definitely the Tibetan Film School which we founded last
There should certainly not be a boycott of Grünenthal
Autumn, and of which I’m the director.
ical products. But I will obviously not buy any luxury or cos-
For now it’s a nomadic film school, which operates where Ti-
metic products made by the company Mäurer & Wirtz,
betans are currently living; both in Tibet, and in exile in
products such as 4711, Tabac, Nonchalance, Tosca, Sir Irish
India. We’ve started to raise money, we’re holding the first
Moos and whatever the others are. Not until the Wirtz fam-
seminars and making short films. We hope to buy premises
ily or Grünenthal
have paid adequate compensation. People
in the next two or three years and to set up a proper film
can do whatever they want, but I myself won’t use any of
these products. I’m not allowed to call for a boycott, and
It’s all financed by donation, and operated on a voluntary
that’s not what I’m doing. But everyone has a brain to think
with and a heart to feel with. And who doesn’t enjoy soli-
The lecturers and professors are friends and contacts from
the industry and from companies involved in filmmaking.
There are Thalidomide victims who are so badly off that they
They volunteer to deliver the training and they pay for their
go hungry at the end of the month because they simply have
own flights – the Tibetans just provide accommodation.
nothing left to eat. Or who are trapped indoors for at least amonth if the electric wheelchair on which they are depend-
And what projects is your company Palladio Film working on?
ent breaks down, because the repairs take so long and they
We have three feature films in development, including a mu-
sical and a horror film. It’s getting ever harder to finance a
film, so for now I’m enjoying working on smaller produc-
tions such as Nobody’s Perfect
, just because you can make
and realise them more quickly. It’s a bit boring to make one
film every five years.
Niko von Glasow: biography
Niko von Glasow (né Brücher), producer and director for Pal-
Niko von Glasow lives in London with his wife Kiki and their
ladio Film, began his training with Rainer Werner Fassbin -
children Juli and Mandel. He runs his company Palladio
and Theater of the world)
. He then worked for a
number of film directors including George Stefan Troller,Hellmuth Costard, Alexander Kluge, Peter Zadek and Jean-
Niko von Glasow: filmography (as director)
Jacques Annaud. Niko has also worked for film distributors,film studios, and the first European Low-Budget Film Festi-
2008 NoBody’s Perfect
val in Hamburg. He studied drama coaching with John Cost -
Int. Filmfestival Locarno 2008: Semaine de la Critique
o poulos and film directing with Jack Garfine. Niko studied
2007 Look At Me (Schau mich an)
film at New York University and at the Film Academy of Lódz
2004 Edelweiss Pirates
in Poland. This is where he made his first feature film in
Chamizal Independent Film Festival 2005 (US):
1990, Wedding Guests
, which won several awards including
the German Film Critics Award and the Grand Prix Lino
Cine-Jeune de l’Aisne (Frankreich) 2006:
Ventura. In 1994 Niko wrote, directed and produced Marie’s
starring Sylvie Testud. This film also received several
1994 Marie’s Song (Maries Lied)
awards at renowned international film festivals. In 2004 he
Nominated for German Film Prize for Best Film;
directed and produced Edelweiss Pirates
starring Ivan Ste-
German Film Prize: Best Camera Direction & Best
bunov, Bela B., Jan Decleir and Anna Thalbach. In 2007
Music; IFF Kiev: Best Film, Best Décor, Best Costume
Niko’s TV film Look At Me
was broadcast in WDR’s “Men-
1990 Wedding Guests (Hochzeitsgäste)
schen Hautnah” series. This is a personal portrait of his life
Festival Premiers Plans: Grand Prix Lino Ventura;
as a filmmaker born with short arms due to Thalidomide.
Berlin Film Festival: German Film Critics Prize;
In 2007 he began filming his cinema documentary No-
Dresden Film Festival: Dresdner Film Prize;
. Current projects are the foundation of the
Tibetian Film School
(www.tibetianfilmschool.com) and the
development of three feature films: Pig, a girl from Tibet
and Touching Bluebell
The Wirtz Family’s Business Concerns
The company Chemie Grünenthal GmbH
, founded in 1946 in
The perfume manufacturer Mäurer & Wirtz GmbH & Co.
Stolberg in the Rheinland, is now called Grünenthal GmbH
(House of Perfumes) in Stolberg is a daughter concern of
and is based in Aachen. Its sole partner is Grünenthal
-Werke, and its daughter concerns include Cosmeurop
Pharma GmbH & Co. KG
whose shares are owned by the
Parfums, Théany Cosmetic, and NewYorker Cosmetics.
works primarily on the research, development
Main Product Lines:
and production of medication for the alleviation of pain.
4711 · Tabac Original · Nonchalance · Betty Barclay
The active agent Tramadol
(private brand Tramal
) which was
4711 ICE · TNT · Carlo Colucci · Pussy Deluxe · Tosca
developed by Grünenthal
, is the most widely sold painkiller
S. Oliver · Gin Tonic Fragrances · Otto Kern · Sir Irish
has further research and business operations inthe fields of gynaecology, anti-infectives and dermatology,
According to Manager Magazine
(2/2005), the Wirtz
and in the manufacture and marketing of the contraceptive
of companies generated a turnover of around € 1.3 billion in
pill Belara and the pain relief plaster Transtec.
2003, and had around 7,000 employees. Until 1969 Grü-
The Wirtz family also owns Dalli-Werke GmbH & Co. KG
was run by Hermann Wirtz
, followed by (among oth-
former soap factory founded by Andreas August Wirtz in
ers) his son Michael Wirtz
until 2005. Since 2005 his son
1845 in Stolberg. The company makes the well-known Dalli
has been a shareholding member of the man-
brand products, as well as countless trademarks
stores (soaps, crèmes, hair care products, household cleanersetc). Tandil
washing powers, stocked by Aldi, are probablythe best-known example.
The Thalidomide Scandal – Key Points
From October 1st 1957 until November 27th 1961, Chemie
Widukind Lenz’s findings were in existence on 16th Novem-
(as the company was then called) produced and
ber 1961, but the drug was not taken off the market until
marketed the active agent Thalidomide
under the brand
the day after the publication of an article in the Welt am
. The drug was especially effective against
Sonntag newspaper on 26th November 1961.
morning sickness, and was also released as a tested and non-addictive sedative and sleeping pill for pregnant women.
The figures are inexact:Roughly 10,000 damaged children were born, around 4,000
In 1957 Thalidomide
came onto the market under the brand
of them in Germany. Up to 50% of them survive to this day.
. The drug quickly became Germany’s most
It is not known how many affected babies died before birth.
popular sleeping pill and sedative, and also enjoyed great
was not released in the USA, following a trial
commercial success abroad. Products containing Thalido-
phase during which several children were born with disabil-
were soon being sold by licensing partners in 46 coun-
ities. Following a warning from the Swedish biochemist
tries. The targeted advertising of the product played a key
Robert Nilsson, East Germany did not even begin the li-
role in this success, guaranteeing that the active ingredient
But just two years after it appeared on the market, a neurol-
The main proceedings lasted from 18th January 1968 until
ogist warned of the danger of damage to the nervous system
18th December 1970. Standing against the three public pros-
posed by long-term use of Contergan
. These warnings in-
ecutors and the chief prosecuting counsel (RA Karl-Her-
creased in number, demonstrating that the non-toxicity of
mann Schulte-Hillen) for the 312 joint plaintiffs, were 20
the agent could not be scientifically substantiated.
defence lawyers acting on behalf of the 9 (latterly 5) defen-dants. They were charged with premeditated or negligent
So, in May 1961, Chemie Grünenthal
applied to the regula-
physical injury and causing death by negligence.
tory agency responsible within the Nordrhein-Westfalia in-terior ministry, for a prescription requirement for Thali -
, which came into force in August 1961. However this
They waived their claim for billions of marks’ worth of dam-
only applied in Nordrhein-Westfalia, Hessen and Baden-
ages, and accepted compensation of 100 million marks. And
Württemberg; in all other parts of Germany Contergan
they also agreed not to pursue further claims against Grü-
tinued to be freely available in pharmacies.
From 1959 onwards, doctors and clinics noticed an accu-
On 18th December 1970, the 283rd day of the trial, the crim-
mulation of terrible deformities in newborn babies. But as
inal proceedings against Grünenthal
were brought to an end
there was no legal requirement to report birth defects, the
due to insufficient evidence of liability and lack of public in-
true extent of the catastrophe did not immediately come to
light. Nevertheless several scientists began looking for thecause of this increase. Initial speculation concentrated on
The sum of money paid into the compensation trust ran out
the side-effects of the testing of atom bombs, which at the
time was the subject of much discussion. But when it becameclear that neither East Germany, Belgium nor Switzerland
All compensation is now paid by the German state.
was affected by a similar wave of birth defects, atomic radi-ation was ruled out as a cause.
Widukind Lenz, a doctor in Hamburg, was the first todemonstrate the connection with Contergan
– independentlyfrom his research, the same connection was demonstratedin Britain and Australia. By 1961 Grünenthal
had been pre-sented with 1600 warnings concerning defects which hadbeen observed in new-born babies. But the medication re-mained on the market.
Production & World Sales
DTR03-covtabs Production Final 5/19/04 4:15 PM Page 13 AGE AND GENDER APPENDIX 5 AGE AND GENDERAPPENDIX E X P R E S S S C R I P T S D R U G T R E N D R E P O R T drugtrend-agegen5rev2 5/19/04 4:30 PM Page 143 AGE AND GENDER APPENDIX Drug Prevalence by Age and Gender This appendix to the 2003 Drug Trend Report presents the prevalence ofuse by age and gender for the top 25 t
Abstracts TAGUNG ZEICHEN DER KRAFT. WISSENSFORMATIONEN 1800–1900 Christoph Asendorf „Die Dynamomaschine und die hl. Jungfrau“ – Schauspiele der Energie um 1900 Sieht man auf die Kunst der Jahre um 1900, vor allem auf Werke, die dem Art Nouveau bzw. Jugendstil zuzurechnen sind, so fällt ein Zug ins Dynamische auf, der den Gedanken einer Ikonographie der Energie nahel