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Kurt Dussander is a villain character from Apt Pupil.


Dussander was born in Germany in the early 20th century, and joined the Schutzstaffel (SS) in the 1930s, receiving an officer's commission. During the war he was one of the many members of the SS tasked with carrying out the "Final Solution," the elimination of Jews and all other enemies of the Nazi state. Before, during, or sometime after the Third Reich's defeat in May 1945, Dussander escaped Germany and moved to the United States, taking the name Arthur Denker.

Apt Pupil: Novel

Dussander is living in Los Angeles in 1974, pretending to be no more than an elderly German immigrant, but he is confronted by a local teenager, Todd Bowden, who has been watching him for some time and correctly deduced that "Denker" is not who he says he is. Rather than expose Dussander, however, Bowden wants to hear firsthand tales of his days in the SS, as Bowden has become fascinated with the Holocaust.

Though he is unwilling to indulge Bowden, Dussander soon lives under the constant threat of having his real identity revealed if he doesn't cooperate. He begins to share the requested stories during the numerous visits Bowden makes to his house, beginning a relationship where Bowden becomes increasingly enamored with the brutal and merciless mass killings that Dussander was a part of, and Dussander regresses steadily back into the mentality and behavior of his murderous past. As Bowden's grades slip due to his fading interest in anything besides more of Dussander's stories, Dussander attempts to correct Bowden and even poses as his grandfather during a meeting with a teacher to help shore up his academics, but ends up covering for Bowden as the youth starts forging his report cards to stay out of trouble as his grades continue to fall.

As the two grow resentful of each other, Dussander blackmails Bowden into actually working to improve his grades; he now has knowledge that Bowden has doctored his report cards and associated with a Nazi war criminal to counter Bowden's knowledge of his real name. Bowden successfully improves his schoolwork, but resolves to kill Dussander to get him out of the way. Dussander and Bowden each bluff the other with a claim that they have written a letter revealing the truth about the other that is kept in a safe deposit box, forcing each of them to back down. Suffering from nightmares of his past, Dussander begins murdering homeless people in the area, hiding the bodies in his basement, initially unaware that Bowden is also committing similar murders.

One night, Dussander has a non-fatal heart attack while digging a grave for his latest victim and calls Bowden, who finishes the job and cleans up the scene before calling an ambulance. At the hospital, Dussander informs Bowden that he lied about the letter he claimed to have written, and that he knows Bowden lied about his own letter. He further states that he knows about Bowden's murders, having read about them in the papers, and warns Bowden not to get careless. He tells Bowden that "we are quits."

Dussander's years of hiding come to an end when an elderly Holocaust survivor, a former inmate at the camp where Dussander worked, recognizes him. An Israeli Nazi hunter named Weiskopf is summoned, and he visits Dussander to tell him that he has been found out and will be taken to Israel to stand trial for his crimes. Trapped but unwilling to surrender, Dussander steals some drugs from the hospital dispensary and commits suicide.

Apt Pupil: Film


  • Apt Pupil (novel)
  • Apt Pupil (film)
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