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Poignant and Superb Films about Jewish and German Atrocities

Movies have an uncanny ability, when done well, to take you inside a time period and characters' lives. I've seen a wealth of movies over the last year, all foreign creations, dealing with issues relating to Jewish and German struggles.

The Lives of Others

The Lives of Others focuses on an East Berlin Stasi (State Security) official's spying on an artistic couple's lives and his personal transformation. It sensitively portrays a realistic character's life-changing experience through tragedy and the equally powerful concept that art cannot be suppressed any more than love can be, regardless of tyrannical ruling forces. One of the best movies I've ever seen. Lead actor Ulrich Müre is mesmerizing. The extraordinary major motion picture debut by director and screenwriter Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck.

Black Book

Blackbook is a blockbuster style movie in cinematic beauty and effects while telling the story of an invincible young Jewish woman caught in Holland during World War II and forced to flee for her life. She subsequently takes on several identities and ends up working as a spy. She moves to Israel after the war; one of the only movies I've ever seen that shows an inside vantage point as to the huge modern-day significance of Israel for many Jews. Great acting, particularly by the astonishing Carice Van Houten.

Nowhere in Africa

Nowhere in Africa follows the true story of a family where the husband realizes that Germany is becoming unsafe for Jews in the late 1930s so they move to Africa, one of the only relatively safe options at the time. The daughter (real life author, Stefanie Zweig) grows up with an unusually varied cultural view. The wife struggles with Africa's difficulties and deprivations. Their whole family back in Germany is killed. And life in Africa is still unsettling for Jews, not to mention that an intellectual lawyer has to learn to work a farm. Powerful and moving.

Aimee and Jaguar

Aimee and Jaguar centers around a wealthy married woman with young children and a gutsy Jewish woman who meet and eventually fall in love (the married woman's husband is a lout). Stylish, believable and emotional, it's a very different take on World War II tales, based on the real life experience of the married woman (Lilly Wust as told to writer Erica Fischer). Another in-depth and beautifully done portrait of a scary time in history.

Aurevoir Les EnfantsAu Revoir Les Enfants is based on director Louis Malle's own life story about a Jewish boy who was hidden in his boarding school during the time of World War II. Criticisms have found this film cold but I found it poetic in its spareness; the story of children told simply. The talented young Jewish boy is eventually found by German soldiers and killed. Very sad.

These movies passionately portray gut-wrenching cruelties committed during the time of World War II primarily and have made me feel as if I know what it felt like to live at that time and with such conflicts and pain. However, perhaps my favorite in this exemplary bunch is The Lives of Others, focusing on the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is astounding to me that Germans created the situation of the East German Stasi and the Berlin Wall after having gone through World War II. It's almost as if they wanted to punish themselves and their own country.

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