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Poland, 1943. Four young characters are connected through a series of unusual events: ROMEK, a Polish boy from the village in which action takes place; GUIDO, a German soldier serving in the village during occupation; FRANKA, the daughter of a well-to-do local farmer; and BUNIA, a Jewish girl that escaped from a train on its way to a death camp. Each of them come across something that at the time is simultaneously a danger to and escape from their harsh reality: love. Will they be able to hold on to their dreams while facing the horrors of their day and uncertainty of future?
The movie opens in a small town of Southeastern Poland in 1943, under German occupation. The German soldiers apparently live in bucolic harmony with the locals and are depicted as rather nice fellows; in their first scene they devoutly thank the Lord for the meal they are about to receive. Some are bumbling, cute incompetents in the mold of the TV Nazis in Hogan's Heroes. There are no Jews around, of course; this is explained away as follows: they were taken care of by the Einsatzgruppen (the SS death squads). This implicitly perpetuates the canard that only the SS death squads, not the Wehrmacht itself were responsible for atrocities against civilians in Poland and other Eastern European countries. This myth was exploded in many sources, among them the documentary The Unknown Soldier (2006) by Michael Verhoeven.
Partisans are depicted as murderous psychopathic interlopers and such nagging questions as summary execution of civilians for partisan actions (or for any other reason) are glossed over or attributed to a single Nazi officer straight out of Hollywood Central Casting, Department Bad Nazis. In one of the first scenes a Pole voices his approval of the murder of Jews. Yes, there were many antisemitic Poles, but there were also many that protected, assisted and in many cases saved fugitive Jews. And, at any rate, Polish Jews were murdered by Germans, not by Poles. Auschwitz was planned, staffed and run by Germans.
There have been German movies where Nazi crimes during WWII are discreetly swept under the rug. At least, there is an element of self-interest here. However, it is disturbing to see this in a Polish movie, since six million Poles died in a war that began with the totally unprovoked invasion of Poland by Germany. Its even more disturbing (but a lot more understandable) if one takes into account that this is a Polish - German coproduction.
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