Contract with the Devil?

For seven months, businessman Sam Cohen did all he could do to sign a deal with the devil: immediately after Hitler came to power, he initiated an agreement that would allow German Jews to immigrate to Palestine with part of their money. Surprisingly, the Nazis were good partners: they were happy to get rid of Jews, to take control of part of their money and to break the world’s economic boycott. But the American Jews, the right-wing parties in Israel, the Zionist leaders (who wanted to close the deal themselves) and especially Sam’s wife Anita did everything to disrupt the plan, which to this day is considered one of the most controversial events in the history of the Jewish people.


Using rare archival footage, testimonies, and interviews with relatives, historians and psychiatrists, the film charts the trajectory of Edwin Katzen-Ellenbogen’s life, from a small town in Galicia, through his career as a pathbreaking researcher and psychiatrist in the US, his life as a hypnotist, a crook, a spy between two world wars, his crimes in Buchenwald, and up to the circumstances that led to him to prison for Nazi war crimes.

Using the original audio recordings of Katzen-Ellenbogen’s testimony before the court, the film allows a unique outlook on the Shoah, offering a glimpse into the soul of a man who participated in one of the most heinous crimes in history, and the ideology that guided him. His psychiatric researches are still being quoted in esteemed scientific journals, and his experiments on epileptics are used by the US space program to this day.

Katzen-Ellenbogen’s story is not just a unique case of a man whose every action was interlocked with evil, but a fable for the way people adapt to moral darkness, and learn to use it for their personal ends.

About the Director

Born in London, Avida Livny is a graduate of the Tel Aviv university film school. He is an award-winning director whose films and tv series include “Murder at cinema North” – Israel’s film critic forum best documentary of 2020 and the Israeli academy award winner “Shir Ahava Standarti – Arik Einstein” (2017). He directed 3 episodes of the Israeli academy award winner “Bimdinat Hayehudim – the history of jewish humor” (2004), “Looking for Moshe Guez” (2011), “There and Here” (2014) and “The Pianist from Ramallah” (2021).”  

Livny wrote and directed the drama “Max baer’s Last Right Hook” (2006), the short film “Moishe Adolph” (2003) and was the Scriptwriter of “Mother V” (best drama in the Jerusalem film festival 2001). Between 2015 to 2020 Livny was the Head director and media consultant of Anu – the Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv. 

Artist Statement

What motivated official representatives of Zionist Jewry to negotiate with the Nazis, at a time when they were already shutting down Jewish businesses and burning books? What led the Nazis to offer aid to the future Jewish state despite their public anti-Jewish stance? 

How did these negotiations affect the assassination of the Zionist leader Chaim Arlozorov, an event that became one of the most significant national traumas in the history of Israel? 

And what would I do if I were the one supposed to sign a deal with the devil?  

With the help of animation, archives, rare documents and also documentation of the never-ending impact of the agreements on the State of Israel, I hope to be able to a

In Production

Avida Livny

Shai Lahav

Morris Ben Mayor and Tommy Shafrir

Hagit Ben Yaakov

Sohini Tal