Is it safe?
~ Szell's most infamous quote

Dr. Christian Szell, or simply "Szell" (also known as The White Angel of Auschwitz), is the primary antagonist of the novel Marathon Man and its 1976 film adaptation. He is an international terrorist, a diamond dealer, a war criminal and a Nazi scientist who used to torture the prisoners of Auschwitz by dental surgeries. He is intent on gaining luxury diamonds that he retrieved from an international deal.

He was portrayed by the late Laurence Olivier, who later won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.


Christian Szell, also known as The White Angel of Auschwitz was once a dentist. When World War II started and the Jews were taken into the camps, Szell was taken by the Nazis to work as a dentist in order to check the Jewish workers who used to be sick. He had done this job, but however, he developed an unexplained desire to torture the prisoners in the camps, especially the prisoners of Auschwitz. Some of his tortures caused to the deaths of hundreds of prisoners, and ever since, Szell won the nickname The White Angel of Auschwitz, because of him being a doctor. During this time, he also obtained a significant amount of gold. He would remove and extract dental fillings from the prisoners' mouths. At the time, dental fillings were usually made from gold.

As the war ended, Szell arrived to many countries, as well as an unknown country. In that very country, he succeeded to escape from the hands of the FBI services who wanted to arrest him for his war crimes. With it, Szell arrived to USA, and started to be both an international terrorist as he continued in his twisted tradition and became an international dealer of diamonds. In one of his deals, he meets with the film's hero's brother Henry Levy, also known as "Doc", whom a secret governmental agent that determined to capture Szell and his own elaborate network of couriers who transport diamonds stolen during World War II from wealthy Jews seeking to flee Germany. The diamonds are sold for the benefit of Szell himself. Henry presents himself as an owner of an oil company and makes the deal.

After the deal, Szell hears of his brother Klaus's death, which lives outside NYC and serves as the  the initial diamond courier, but is killed in a Manhattan road rage incident. Although Klaus' death was accidental, Christian suspects foul play and immediately puts everyone in the courier network under suspicion (anyone who obtains one of the two keys to the safe deposit box would immediately have access to a fortune in diamonds). Deducing this from hearing about the incident from his boss Peter Janeway, Henry himself finds out that Szell is about to go to NYC in order to retrieve the diamonds.

After discovering the deaths of many couriers, Henry returns to his hotel room, where Doc is nearly killed by Szell's assassin who was hidden inside his room's closet. After a fierce fight, Doc kills the assassin. He then meets with Babe and his girlfriend Elsa and takes them both to a French restaurant, where Henry suspects that she is connected somehow to Szell. In order to prove it, Henry tricks her into revealing that she has lied about her own background and warns Babe from her, as he reveals before him that she isn't care about him.

After a police investigation of Babe, he is abducted by Szell and his men, including Henry's boss, Peter Janeaway whose revealed to be a double agent. Babe is then taken into a warehouse, where he finally meets Szell, who tortures him violently by using his dental skills. After the infamous torture scene, Babe flees.

The Final Confrontation and Death

While attempting to determine the value of his diamonds, Szell is recognized by the shop assistant, who is also a Holocaust survivor. After Szell hurriedly leaves the shop, an elderly Jewish woman also recognizes him. Trying to cross the street to get closer to Szell, the woman is hit by a taxi, causing a crowd to assemble to aid her. Amid the confusion, the shop assistant follows and confronts Szell, who slits the man's throat.

Szell retrieves his diamonds from the bank, but as he is leaving, Babe appears behind him and tells him, "It isn't safe" and forces him at gunpoint to walk to a water treatment plant in Central Park (where Babe regularly runs). Szell, in an attempt to negotiate his escape, offers Babe a portion of the diamonds; Babe declines, telling Szell he can keep as many diamonds as he can swallow. Szell initially refuses, so Babe taunts Szell taking his briefcase and throwing handfuls of diamonds at him, which fall through the grating platform they're standing on and into the water below. Szell, aghast at Babe's actions, relents and swallows one diamond, but then refuses to cooperate further.

Szell tries to get close to Babe to stab him, accusing his late father and brother of being as weak and predictable as Babe is, and spits at him; Babe strikes Szell, but loses his grip on his gun. Szell then reveals his dagger and lunges at him, but Babe manages to avoid it and throw the open briefcase with the remaining diamonds down a stairwell towards the water. Szell dives towards the diamonds, but stumbles and rolls down the steps, fatally falling on his own knife blade and Szell dies for good eventually. 


Christian Szell was nothing more or less than a pure Nazi. He was a completely psychopathic, sociopathic, emotionally cold, dark, brutal, violent, intelligent, sophisticated, cunning, ruthless and sadistic man. His main personal hobby which he developed when he was in the days of WWII was to torture the prisoners in the camps via his dental skills. However, when he arrived to many countries as well as USA, he became too much obsessed with this hobby as well as obtaining his diamonds, which means that he is also a greedy man.

Szell is highly sophisticated. When a Holocaust survivor sees him after he buys some diamonds from a shop, she starts to yell his name and he starts to escape in response, in a harsh attempt to hide who he truly is. When the survivor is attempting to make citizens to stop Szell from escaping, she nearly dies when she's being run over by a nearby car.


  • Christian Szell is actually loosely based on the real-life war criminal and Nazi scientist known as Dr. Josef Mengele.