The Holocaust: Europa
A Jewish boy, separated from his family in the early days of WWII, poses as a German orphan and is thereafter taken into the heart of the Nazi world as a 'war hero' and eventually made a Hitler Youth. Although improbabilities and happenstance are cornerstones of the film, it is based upon a true story.The film met with a lukewarm reception in its native Germany, with the local media being less than complementary about it. The German Oscar selection committee did not even include it as a submission for that year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Much embarrassment ensued when it went on to become one of the most successful German films ever released in the US, winning a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
For those who haven't seen it before, Europa Europa is based on the true story of how a German Jewish teenager named Solomon "Sally" Perel (Marco Hofschneider) survived the Holocaust. In a twist of fate that makes a typical episode of The Twilight Zone seem mundane, Perel fled Germany and Poland for the Soviet Union. When Nazi soldiers captured him, he told them he was an ethnic German and wound up attending an elite Hitler Youth school. Perel maintained the deception until the end of World War II and now lives in Tel Aviv. Europa Europa still startles me 30 years later because it was the first movie from the Good War, other than Das Boot, I had seen where the Germans were not monolithic monsters. Pretending to be Josef Peters, Perel discovers Nazis who are kind and generous but whose love would turn to homicidal animosity if they discovered his identity. Their conditional affection is as scary as the atrocities they would also commit. Much of the discomfort of watching Europa Europa comes from the fact that many of the Germans whom Perel deals with are so blinded by their ideology that they ignore glaringly obvious facts. One Nazi party official tells Perel that the drubbing the Third Reich is receiving from Soviet troops is merely a prelude to German victory. In class, Perel's teachers demonstrate how to spot a Jew, oblivious to his own presence. As a result, the absurdity in Europa Europa sometimes leads to high, if unsettling, comedy. The movie depicts Perel almost falling for the toxic vision of Nazism, but Perel's own body prevented him from embracing the ideology that had duped his classmates and their parents. Because of one small but undeniable difference, Perel in the movie and in real life constantly worried about inadvertently giving himself away. "It's terrible how people are able to believe the bulls*** only because they believe it makes them gods," she says. "Solomon Perel ... was very close to believing it ... . He wanted to be one of them. He really felt this kind of emotion based on very fake ideology." One factor that might have helped make Perel's story easier to follow was Holland's choice of whom to portray him. German actor Hofschneider landed the role even though his older brother Rene was considered for it. Both brothers play siblings in the movie. "He was a teenager himself. He was in the last class of his high school. He was very young, which made this character more touching and believable," Holland recalls. "(Perel) was a very lonely teenager who went through very difficult experiences and choices, and he needed to belong. It is somehow the story of someone who cannot belong and at the same time is belonging and has this inner fight with his identity."
Europa Europa is a 1990 movie outlining the autobiography of Solomon Perel, a Jew who lived in Germany during the reign of Hitler and managed to survive the persecutions of the Nazis. Directed by Agnieszka Holland in German language, this chef-d’oeuvre portrays Solomon as a Hitler boy though he was a Jew. In 1938 when Solomon was 13 years old, his family lived in Germany when the Nazis attacked them, killed his sister, and forced his parents and two brothers to flee to Poland in search of safety (Hughes Para. 3). In Poland, the Germans attacked them again and he escaped into the Soviet orphanage where he stayed for two years to avoid confrontation with the German soldiers since he was a Jew. When the Germans attacked the Soviet orphanage, they captured Solomon and used him as an interpreter for he pretended to be a German called Josef Peters. The Nazis recruited Solomon Perel as one of the Hitler youths for they considered him a hero. During the Russian attack, Solomon Perel surrendered to them and his brother rescued him and eventually became a happy emigration to Israel.Solomon and his brother headed towards the Soviet where he separated with his brother. Having no option, Solomon stayed in a Soviet orphanage for a period of two years wondering where his parents had gone (Hughes Para. 3). To come back to Germany, he pretended to be one of a minority ethnic group of German and they recruited him as one of the Hitler’s youths to attack other Jews. These were the experiences of the many Jews during the reign of Hitler.
In short, Solomon winds up in an orphanage operated by Stalinist forces; when German forces storm Poland, Solomon's fluent German allows him to join the Nazis as a translator, posing as Josef Peters, an ethnic German. In time, "Peters" is made a member of the elite Hitler Youth, but since Solomon is circumcised, he can be easily revealed as a Jew, and he lives in constant fear that his secret will be discovered. Solomon's close calls include an attempted seduction by Robert Kellerman (André Wilms), a homosexual officer, and his relationship with Leni (Julie Delpy), a beautiful but violently anti-Semitic woman who wants to bear his child for the glory of the master race. Europa, Europa (shown in Europe as Hitlerjunge Salomon) also features the real Solomon Perel, who appears briefly as himself.
Holland, Agnieszka, dir. Europa Europa. Central Cinema Company Film, 1990. Film.
Hughes, Anthony. “Europa Europa.” International Movie Database. 2011. Web.