Hannah Weinstein (Schrader), a 20-something Jew in present-day New York, is determined to learn about her cold and secretive mother's past. She knows her mother was rescued as a young girl from the Holocaust by a German woman in Berlin, and sent to cousins in America after the war. Hannah goes to Berlin and meets kindly, elderly Lena Fischer (played by Schade in her 90s, Riemann in her 30s), who helps her reconstruct the story. Lena was a pianist, an Aryan blonde baroness (her playboy brother got sucked into the German Army and maimed on the Russian front shortly before the central events of the story), who married a Jewish violinist named Fabian (Feifel). Although Jews married to Aryans were supposed to be safe under the law, they were rounded up and detained in Berlin in a building on the street called Rosenstrasse in early 1943. Day after day, week by week, their spouses (mostly women) stood outside the building and tried to get their loved ones released. Ruth was an 8-year-old girl waiting for her mother; her father was already gone. Lena takes her home while they both wait and scheme to free their family members. This 2003 film by German director and actress Margarethe von Trotta is subtle, stately, shows good Germans trying to do the right thing in terrible circumstances, and tells a solid if unspectacular story based on true events at Rosenstrasse.
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The review of this Movie prepared by David Loftus
This German cinematic triumph by Margarethe von Trotta examines a glitch in Nazi Germany's evil master plan: How to deal with the Aryan wives of Jewish Husbands. According to the film, these protected Jewish husbands were at first sheltered from deportation to the concentration camps. In the winter of 1943, this unwritten edict was suddenly expunged and many were placed in a detention center in Berlin, on a street called Rosenstrasse. This location served as a holding tank prior to final deportation to the death chambers. During a fervent fortnight of vehement protest, their wives stood steadfast as soldier-like statues, planted outside the cold guarded doors. Day and night in chilling surroundings they stared at the windows, hoping to glance at a loved one. A husband, a father, a brother, a son.
In a classical fashion of fantastic story telling, this dramatic tale spans three generations, and unfolds as a flashback. The film begins in present day New York City. While sitting Shiva for her husband, Ruth undergoes an epiphanic metamorphosis from genetic Jew to observant Jew. Her daughter Hannah (Maria Shrader) who, to her mother's conversion, is engaged to marry a non-Jew, witnesses her mother's transition with intense bewilderment. This perplexity transforms itself into unquenchable curiosity. Hannah discovers that her mother spent her youth in Nazi Germany being first sheltered, and then adopted by an Aryan woman. A woman whose husband was detained at Rosenstrasse, along with Ruth's father. (i.e., Hannah's grandfather). A woman whose aristocratic Anti-Semitic father looked down at her with disgust and disgrace. Now, 60 years later, Hannah goes to Berlin to find this woman.
The review of this Movie prepared by Gary Branfman, MD